Is Yoga “real exercise”? — You Bet it is!

I had a wonderful yoga class today, and wanted to try to express some feelings, but other than say, wow, yoga feels sooo wonderful, I turned to my daughter who has been practicing longer  and asked her to write a guest post about her experiences with yoga.  Enjoy!

Pulling is the object of stretching

by Kelsey Duke

If you aren’t practicing yoga regularly then you are probably just like I was. Hear me out:

I started running when I was fairly young, about 6 or 7,  which isn’t to say I was health conscious at an early age, just that I was born to health conscious parents who back then were probably considered “exercise freaks.” Running became my favorite and only form of exercise outside of team sports. Running was so ingrained in my routine that I could not fathom burning calories any other way. If I wasn’t running, it wasn’t exercise. Period.

As I got a little older I realized that running, though it was great for my mental health and wellness, wasn’t changing my body the way I wanted it to. At the end of college I found myself about 20 pounds overweight (or more, but I feared the scale that would give me an accurate measurement) and unhappy with my body. Not to mention running had become a chore for me. I wanted to  go running like I wanted to take a 5 hour final exam; I didn’t.

While I was sitting around beating myself up about not wanting to run, something I’d always taken pleasure in, I decided to try hot yoga. Not because I thought it would be a good form of exercise (because as a runner I thought yoga was in the same category as sitting down for an hour)  but because I was bored and it was only $20 for a whole week. What I expected was some relaxing stretching, maybe a nap, what I got was the biggest ass kicking. And the funniest thing was yoga was a totally zen ass kicking. No grunting, no yelling, no loud music. So by the end of it my body was completely exhausted but my mind was calm, awake and alert. This is the real benefit of yoga.

Bikram Yoga is a form of hot yoga that reaches all the major muscles, joints, and organs of the body in a 90 minute class. The heat provides exercise for the largest organ of all, the epidermis (or the skin). While you sweat out toxins you use muscle strength and to go deeper and deeper into each posture, thereby gaining muscle and flexibility while improving balance. The heat also provides a mental challenge similar to that you experience while running. You have to force yourself to focus on the work out, not let your body be talked out of it and attempt to calm your mind.

Yoga not only can improve your body but it can improve your mind-body connection. This is the hardest thing to sell people on because if you’ve never been in tune with your body, it’s hard to imagine what that feels like. But as a reformed runner (I can run for fun again! what a treat!) and still a relatively new yogi, I can tell you the mind-body connection is worth the effort and will improve every aspect of your life.

A Good Week!

I’ve had a good week this week both in terms of my eating and exercising.  I’ve been really concentrating on eliminating dairy products from my diet (you can read this post for the back story on that), and on eating a lot of greens and mushrooms, With the exception of last night, I’ve done well!

Last night I had a wonderful dinner at Grissini Italian Bistro in Kennebunkport, Maine.  It was very rich (butter) and wasn’t within my new diet plan, but it was good, it included mushrooms (in the butter sauce) and I didn’t eat too much nor did I have dessert!

I also managed to get in two runs and two yoga classes this week.  The runs were great.  It is a bit painful to get back into running, but it feels good.  Running makes me feel strong and I feel like I am strengthening my heart and increasing my lung capacity.

Yoga makes me feel powerful.  It strengthens my body and calms my “inner voice” — you know that annoying internal dialogue that holds us back.  Plus the physical stretching of yoga is a great compliment to running.   It stretches out all the things that  running tightens — hamstrings, hip flexors, lower back and glutes!

I’m Grace, and I have an exercise problem…

I have exercise feast or famine syndrome.  I either do nothing, or try to do it all in one day.  For the last 3 days all I managed to do was take a leisurely walk on Tuesday and then walk briskly for a half an hour yesterday.  Today I walked, went to yoga (actually I walked to and from yoga), and later went for a 5 mile run.

I think I am a binge exerciser!  Is there such a thing?  I hope it isn’t bad…..

A Tremendous Yoga Class

I’ve had a great week of yoga.  Since the Yoga Mala, I’ve been to class 3 times this week.  The first time was OK, I was a bit tender in the shoulders and legs so I took it easy.  Yesterday’s class was tough as  my shoulders and wrists were really feeling every Down Dog, Plank and Chaturanga.  I had to modify every move!

Today I was thinking maybe I should just rest (one of my favorite  mantras), but I really like Marla, the instructor who leads the Friday morning  class at 3 Bridges Yoga so I went — and it  was wonderful!  I was in the groove; my breathing was good, and my shoulders and wrists felt fine.  My big accomplishment is that I was able to get up into a forearm stand!

Seacoast Yoga Mala

This morning I participated in the 4th annual Seacoast Yoga Mala.  A Yoga Mala is a 2-3 hour practice of 108 Sun Salutations designed to encourage as many people to participate in a collective ritual by bringing together a variety of yoga styles.  Here is an example of a Sun Salutation.

The Seacoast Yoga Mala was a fundraiser for (H)EAT heat-eat, and between the fee for the class and donations, it raised  

over $11,000 that will go directly back into the local community for meals and heating fuel for needy families.  A very worthy cause!

The Yoga Mala was led by 12 teachers from the various studios throughout the seacoast, from the spiritual to the more athletic styles.  Each teacher lead us in 9 sun salutations from their style (for a total of 108).  Luckily, they also encouraged us to rest whenever we felt the need.

While 3 hours of 108 sun salutations sounded impossible, it really wasn’t.  I don’t know if it was the energy generated by so many yogis in the room, the motivation to do something for those in need, or the variety of the practice due to the many styles but I was able to get through the class with a minimal amount of resting.  It was a great experience and I look forward to participating again next year.