Tuesday, January 06, 2009

My Self-Improvement Goal for the New Year

New Year’s is a time of resolutions and new beginnings. For many of us, our resolutions revolve around health, fitness, and self-improvement. (Notice how all the stores have their exercise equipment on sale right now!) As for me, something keeps nudging me to take up yoga. I’ve never been the athletic type, so I don’t want to join a sports team. I’ve tried going to the gym, but I just don’t feel comfortable there. And I don’t have enough self-discipline to exercise or run regularly on my own. But, for some reason, yoga keeps calling my name.

Of course, making the resolution is one thing; actually following through is another. I’m an expert at coming up with all sorts of reasons why I can’t do this. I don’t like groups. We don’t have the money. I’m not that flexible (anymore). I have too much work to do. So, I decided to ask a yoga expert to convince me why I should take yoga.

Katie Holley is a yoga teacher and the owner of the Swami Baby Boutique (www.swamibabyboutique.com), which sells yoga-inspired infant and adult clothing. (Please check out her site. Her baby shirts are especially adorable!) I was also surprised and pleased to learn that she initially had the same reservations about yoga that I had. Here’s what she told me:

I have been teaching yoga for the past five years. I have been practicing yoga for the past ten. I decided I wanted to teach yoga because I realized I was telling everyone I knew to try it. It was something I felt passionate about and wanted to share. The first time I took a class, it was not love at first sight. I felt like I was in a room full of people who knew what they were doing and I did not. The moves were not that hard, but I just didn’t have the muscle memory yet. It was hard for me to relax when I just kept trying to hear the teacher and remember to breathe at the right times. I am not naturally a very flexible person, and some of the moves looked a little beyond me. However, when I got home, I felt good. I was proud of what I had done, and I did feel relaxed. I thought I would give it another try. The second time I felt a little more confident, and by the third class I was hooked. I was too shy to talk to the teacher, but I wish I would have. I now frequently tell new students that even though we often practice in a group, yoga is a very individual practice. All of our bodies are different. We have all been through different things, and yoga is NOT a competition. We need to respect where we are, which is a very fluid thing.

In my own life, I had developed a very strong yoga practice, and then was met with the challenges of dealing with infertility. I had to learn to modify my practice. The infertility issues sometimes caused me to look at my body as “defective.” My yoga practice helped me look at my body as strong and capable. We all face health issues in life, and yoga can be modified to fit almost any situation. It helps us to have a positive body image in light of various health issues when we may be tempted to see fault with our bodies rather than the strength and beauty of them. When I finally did conceive, I relied on yoga as well. It helped to ease my back pain, encourage me to relax, and bring awareness to my changing body. Post-natal yoga helped to bring strength to my core and gave me a place to take a little time for myself.

Benefits of a regular yoga practice include fewer injuries, improved focus, balance, sleep, increased energy level, decreased blood pressure, decreased depression, improved posture, improved core strength and much more.

I would definitely say give it a shot (maybe two or three). It is SO worth it. Now, more than ever, our bodies need a way to reduce stress. When we encounter a stressful situation, certain things happen to our bodies that help us deal with this perceived threat. Our bodies kick into the “fight or flight” mode. Blood rushes to the major muscle groups to help us to act quickly. Digestion slows; the heart rate increases; reproductive functions slow. Our bodies are ready for action. This is natural and normal, but it is not healthy to stay in this state. We need to find a way to initiate the relaxation response and let our bodies begin to function more efficiently again. If we stayed in that state, we could have problems with circulation, heart disease, digestion, reproduction and more.

Yoga helps us relax and brings us to a place where can work more efficiently again. When we use yoga as a way to reduce stress, we are less likely to find other ways to self-medicate. Chocolate cake was a favorite of mine. Others use drinking, shopping, gambling etc. We all need a release, and yoga is, in my opinion, the perfect one!

We received our quarterly catalog of courses from our local parks and recreation department this week. I noticed that they offer yoga classes for beginners, and the first one is even free! Now I just need to get my hand over to the phone… Katie’s advice, though, has really given me the confidence to give yoga a try.

I hope you’ll consider doing something for yourself this New Year’s. What are you being called to try? Is it yoga, swimming, or martial arts? Perhaps it’s just taking a walk several days a week or resuming weekly tennis games with a friend. Whatever you feel comfortable with, just do it! You’ll not only feel better physically, but you’ll be in better shape mentally and emotionally. Make the time and the resolution to take care of YOU.

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  1. Hey Susan! I found you through the Twittermoms blog widget!! I'm also working on my fitness this year (yep definitely one of the top resolutions for the new year!) and am incorporating yoga. A class is a great idea, although for now I'm going the at home route, using videos and my new Wii fit! Good luck with your program!

  2. Hi Susan!

    I have been to yoga last October 2008 and really it helps a lot. posture and self-improvement.

    read my blog about my experience http://ondiamondmum.blogspot.com/2008/11/other-class.html

    wish all of moms can have time to do something for themselves!

  3. Thanks to both of you for your comments. I'm happy to hear that yoga has been beneficial for you, as well as enjoyable. I'm determined to give it a try. I have nothing to lose (except maybe a little weight!).

  4. Good luck with the fitness regime! I have just started ballet and tap, in an effort to become more of a yummy mummy, than a scummy mummy...


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