WHY DO YOU EXERCISE?
Just finished eating a giant piece of chocolate cake? Hmmm that’s x calories. Time to hit the gym and do x hours of cardio to burn all those cake calories off. Does this sound familiar? Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and ask yourself why you’re exercising. If it’s because you enjoy the movement than awesome. However, if the purpose of exercise is to alleviate guilt-how does that make you feel?
Nobody is here to judge any exercise habits. Sometimes it’s a good mental exercise to look at the “why.” Personally, I used to feel the need to exercise immediately after a large meal as a sort of penance. My decision to exercise was made out guilt for eating. Which is SO silly because you need to eat to stay alive, it’s a basic bodily function. Also, exercise used to feel like a punishment because my motivation was based on guilt and shame. Movement is more enjoyable when your motivation is to have fun or to feel good.
Why do you exercise?
I struggle with the desire to post authentic workout content because I want to encourage people to move. I want someone to see a yoga picture on my instagram and think that yoga and movement is accessible. None of my instagram yoga pictures are aspirational. Generally, they’re all beginner poses done by a tired mommy doing her best. The spirit of the photo is that movement of any kind can give you peace and joy regardless of skill level or appearance.
I’m guilty of staging cute workout pictures for my social media. Who wants to post a picture of messy hair and smeared mascara while you lie on your mat with your eyes closed? But maybe we need more of those pictures. Because that’s a happy moment for me. At the end of a yoga class I feel proud of my body and happy. The vain part of me also loves wearing cute workout clothes and expressing myself.
You don’t have to be a yoga teacher or a size 2 to benefit from yoga poses. Do what you can! I’m still working on ALL my yoga basics. It is, after all, a lifetime study. There are loads of benefits you can get from each pose. Here, I’m working on Eagle pose to improve my strength, balance and focus.
My lower half is stronger than my top half. However, I need both halves to do eagle pose. My core and arms struggle to hold this pose even though my legs stand strong. The challenge of yoga is to use all your muscles in symbiotic motion to hold a pose. This engagement of multiple muscles has improved my posture and reduced my shoulder pain.
How can Eagle Pose reduce shoulder pain you ask? Well my shoulders are always extra tight from hunching up to my ears though out the day. I also spend a lot of time typing and texting which tightens shoulders. Eagle pose is a shoulder opener which requires you to lower your shoulders and open the joints in order to get a good stretch. Sometimes all you need to cure an ache is a good stretch.
WHAT MOVEMENT SPARKS JOY?
Everyone is obsessed with Marie Kondo and her whole “thing” is to look at your possessions and ask yourself “does this spark joy?” If the object doesn’t spark joy than you get rid of it. The Marie Kondo mindset can also be applied to movement and exercise. What exercise sparks joy? I used to favor punishing exercises. The more sweaty and painful the exercise, the more effective! As a result, I suffered a lot of pulled muscles. Also, it was dreadful and boring to go to the gym 2 hours a day. So, it was time to explore what movements were fun.
I learned that I enjoy a good cardio sweat if the music is on point. However, some days if I have low energy or my back feels tight I love a Hatha Yoga class. While we’re talking about yoga, I discovered that I have awesome back flexibility and love showing off my backbends. It feels really empowering to move your body in a way that feels good but is also challenging. Lastly, it’s ok to have rest days so your body can heal.
It’s been fun to explore exercise and movement with a new perspective. Instead of worrying about perfect abs and defined arms the focus is on what feels good. The combination of yoga and cardio has significantly reduced my chronic back pain, that’s joyful AF!
WARRIOR 1- Literally one of the hardest poses for me! Nearly every single yoga class I have attended the yoga instructor has corrected my form to narrow my stance. However, whenever I step my feet closer together I feel wobbly and I can’t align my hips. Doing warrior one with my legs closer together feels uncomfortable and almost hurts because I’m twisting my body at an awkward angle.
After learning more about yoga, I discovered that most poses were created by–GASP a man. Men have narrower hips and stand differently than women. My Warrior One looks different. I step my foot out to the side a bit and keep my legs apart so I can straighten out my hips. I’m not doing the pose “wrong.”
Now, I know enough about my body to ignore certain corrections from instructors. All bodies are good bodies with different shapes and capacities for movement. The world would be less interesting if it was only filled with narrow hipped people. Love your body, notice how it moves in a unique way and adjust your stance, in yoga and in life.
ANYONE CAN DO YOGA!
One of my DEAR friends said she wanted to try yoga but had to start working out first. I was shocked because yoga is such an accommodating movement for people of all fitness levels. The yoga studios I frequent are all extremely inclusive. Some yogis have disabilities, illness, prosthetic arms or legs. Yoga instructors are trained to give modifications so that all yogis can participate in class. For example, yoga studios offer chair classes for people with limited mobility.
I loved going to yoga classes when I was pregnant. During the prenatal classes we focused on easy stretches and breathing exercises. Some classes we sat around and talked about our pregnancy experiences. It was the only exercise that my doctor approved during pregnancy. During my pregnancy is when I truly feel in love with yoga.
The inclusivity of yoga is one of the best parts of the practice. Most yoga studios will point you towards classes appropriate to your fitness needs, all you have to do is show up…. So show up. Try a yoga class, there are so many options. You don’t have to practice at home or at a gym to be good at yoga. You just have to be you.