Monday, March 21, 2011

Unintended Outcome: Yoga Week Creates Ripple Effect

Photo courtesy of
Yoga week is officially over.  And it was hard.  Not so much the yoga as scheduling the yoga.  I didn’t make it.  I completed four days in a row, before waiting early on a Saturday morning on the subway platform for a train that never came.  I wasn’t the only one.  After 25 minutes to half an hour,  everyone left the station, forfeiting the $2.50 for a return above ground, each of us changing our plans, returning to bed, stopping into a café for a now leisurely breakfast. 
I even saw another disgruntled girl with a yoga mat slung over her shoulder.  She paced nervously back and forth on the platform, back and forth, back and forth, before finally giving up like the rest of us.
My streak was broken, but I did manage five out of seven days.  That’s not bad.  And four days in a row is enough to change the way my body felt.  After the first class, I felt nothing, completely normal.  After the second class, I was so sore - my shoulders and thighs, even my abs - that I didn’t think I could complete another back to back class.  Even before the beginning of the third class, I sat on my mat wondering if I had the stamina to participate, telling myself that all I had to do was stick it out.  But after that class, I wasn’t sore.  In fact, I began to feel great.  I had more energy, felt leaner, longer, taller.  I felt better.  My whole body was functioning in unison, all muscles harmonizing and functioning at their highest level.  I felt thin and taught.  And this feeling continued into and after the fourth class.
I started to make better decisions about the food I was eating, opting for lighter, healthier meals and snacks.  White flour pasta?  That’s not good enough.  Whole wheat bagel with cream cheese?  No, I’m substituting all natural peanut butter.  Dessert?  No, I think an apple will be more satisfying.
Just going to yoga everyday made me want to do better elsewhere.  The humming, harmonizing feeling in my body made me want to contribute to that body and eat better.  I even slept better.
Was I longer and leaner, thinner?  Maybe, but I doubt it.  But who cares?  I felt better.  Yoga gave me something new.  I generally see yoga as a necessary component of lifting weights.  I don’t want my muscles to get tight, stalky, so I stretch them out.  Doing yoga everyday really felt like achieving some harmony between mind and body.  Usually treating it as merely a workout, I found myself actually using the quiet moments, meditating, really quieting my mind.  During the meditation part of the class, I generally make a list of things I need to do when class is over.  Or I take inventory of the class, was it a good workout?  How many calories do I think I burned?  What am I going to eat now that it’s over?  Calming my mind was an amazing relief.
My flexibility is greatly improved and that is staying with me.  The classes feel more natural due to this increase.  Even if I take a few days in between classes, I still maintain the extra bendiness I picked up during that week.
But it came with a consequence.  During the two days I didn’t go, I felt horrible.  I felt fat and lazy and tense.  I missed it.  When I lift weights at the gym, I feel stronger, and it lasts.  If I work out really hard and then take a day off, I can still feel the benefits of that workout.  I still feel sore, strong, my energy used.  Perhaps yoga doesn’t build as much muscle as weight training does, so I don’t continue to burn calories after I’ve finished the class.  Or perhaps yoga is just more addictive, and without my fix, I didn’t feel the same.
I’m now trying to keep it going.  I managed three days last week and a nice long run.  The class directly after the run felt amazing, even if my legs were exhausted.  This week I hope to do better.
My little pledge had a ripple effect and inspired a number of other such acts, prompting my mom to try to attend the gym every day that week as well.  My brother texted me after his first yoga class, ever, “Wow just finished at Yoga to the People.  Feel like day one of boot camp.”  Even my boyfriend, who’s fundamentally opposed to yoga offered to join me for a class.  Perhaps fitness is contagious.  Perhaps Zen is contagious too.

1 comment:

  1. I am still inspired, still going to gym more frequently, and reaping benefits - which can't be "all in my mind" although as you say that in itself a big benefit! Thank you again Evil Dictator of Taste!!!