Hot Yoga Session 4: Your Body is a Vehicle

This was originally posted in January 2012 to document my 30 days of hot yoga. I was recently inspired to be more self-reflective after a terrible flu season which sent me to the ER twice. Doctor’s orders were simple: start taking care of yourself (again) or you’ll need surgery. Well, that’s all I needed to propel me into living a healthier, more personally sustainable life amidst balancing a busy career, volunteering, and figuring things out with our new baby.

Join me here, on Sundays, where I re-blog reflections from 30 days of hot yoga and hopefully inspire you to embrace change positively with passion and find opportunities for personal growth wherever you can find it.

How I’m doing

Session 4 came and past with a surprising amount of optimism. I’m definitely achy, but was able to do at least a few sun salutations before hiding in my ball again (a version of child’s pose that is more about hiding than resting). I left the class feeling fortunate to have made this commitment to myself and quite energized. Of course I’m sure that was at least in part due to the fact that my favorite instructor hosted the class.

Inspiration

To me, the yoga experience is best shepherded by someone that not only “gets it” (direct quote from Chris) – i.e. understands how each posture translates into the next so the workout has a flow to it – but also adds some life lessons throughout the practice. Tonight there were several lessons, but the one that really stood out to me was ‘your body is a vehicle for experience’ and that your ‘physical condition is not permanent, but always changing.’ And when you hear it in class you think about how it’s not only true, but beautiful. The transient body helps you to breathe through tough postures and give yourself a break when you can’t, because the work you do today will help you be stronger tomorrow.

After class – the reality check

But then you leave class and normal girl-mind takes over and you think – if my body was a vehicle, it would be an old, out-of-tune, oversized boat and, really, I would prefer it to be a slick sport model. And, frankly, I’m not going to have fantastic abs tomorrow, I’m going to be grouchy and tired and swollen from the 100 ounces of water (ya, that’s actually true!) which I have to drink in order to make it through the day. So, with that, I wanted to spend a few moments reflecting on the girl mind how shapes can be deceiving.

Vehicle Upgrade and why Skinny is not Healthy

Full disclosure: After Chris and I were engaged in spring 2011 my regular gym routine was replaced with all things wedding planning. That is to be expected, as planning a wedding (especially when you get engaged and married in 4 months) can be intense, as it takes a lot of time to plan. But reducing (or, in my case, eliminating) your exercise routine has its costs. And even if you’re a regular pedestrian like me (I walk 3 miles roundtrip every day to/from work), you still need resistance training to maintain a healthy percentage of muscle (yes, it’s a good thing, more muscle = higher metabolism and lots of other good things) which leads to a healthier body (vehicle upgrade), improved physical fitness, higher energy levels, and basically you look better naked (definitely recommend the LBN workout through Women’s Health Magazine).

When you first stop working out, you actually lose weight (i.e. muscle) by doing nothing. You appear to be in better shape. People compliment you on the hard work you must have done to get there. And you feel a sense of totally undeserved accomplishment for it. The reality? You’re entering the world of skinny-fat.

I’ll post specifically about skinny-fat soon {it’s difficult to reference with a quick online search, most sources are crappy blogs (whoops) and muscle building is an industry in itself}. But here’s the short of it: you can have a very low body fat percentage and have an equal likelihood of developing the same health-related illnesses (diabetes, fatty liver, etc.) that overweight and obese bodies are commonly associated with. And without getting on a podium and preaching, I’ll just say that it’s really time to drop the scale and weight-loss mentality and start focusing on body fat percentage. {Since you won’t believe me without a photo, check out this blog post (by CrossFit Gym in CA). The article itself gives a few very descriptive pictures and a somewhat distracted overview of skinny-fat, but it’s not a bad place to start.}

So I will fully confess that part of my motivation for doing this (a small, small percent) is honestly to hit the restart button on  my health from the very beginning of the year/decade. And, let’s face it, cardio routines, exercise machines (also something to avoid, btw), running (which, folks, can also lead to skinny-fat), and free weights are not inspiring enough to deserve 30 days in a row. Besides, yoga can bring you closer to enlightenment.. and if I happen to be able to move into a headstand at the end of it, I won’t complain.