A couple of years ago I decided to add a fitness class to the schedule of the yoga studio. Because It's All Yoga is known for the highest caliber of yoga teaching around, people were curious, to say the least, about why I would add a gym-type cardio class to the line up.
Sometimes life surprises us, right?
Losing a mid-term baby affected every layer of my being. It took time to physically heal, I had lost faith in life and I was a good way down the tunnel of depression.
Given my vocation and familiar practices, one might think I would get on my yoga mat. Not so. Asana practice was a landmine for a long time — too slow, too much “feeling,” too many associations. So I had to find something else.
Additionally, my therapist prescribed endorphins as antidepressants, which meant making myself do aerobic workouts for at least 30 minutes, 4-5 times a week.
In desperation, off I went to the gym. Group fitness classes, no less. It was not love at first sight, and it didn’t work immediately. But after about four months, it became one of my most important self-care practices.
And something else started to happen — the chemical rush was good for my brain, but feeling strong in my body (well, not at first) was also a key piece. It reminded me of the importance of basic cardiovascular fitness.
Lastly, these classes and this type of exercise forced me to look at my scripts around “exercise:”
- “I’m not fit in that way.”
- “I could never do that kind of class.”
- “I’m not that type of person.”
- “I’m not strong enough.”
And looking at our scripts is always a good thing.
Because here’s an important fact — we need both cardiovascular work and rest.
We all have our preferred end of the spectrum. I like stretching and lying about. Type A’ers like Crossfit and power flow in 90 degree heat.
But we all need movement and a variety of ranges of motion, as well as stillness and rest.
Heart rate variability, nervous system restoration, regulating hormones, healthy circulation, effective digestion and much more happen when you have both — not just one or the other.
So where can you get this range?
- Well, yoga asana can be aerobic. Sun Salutations (commonly referred to as Vinyasa or flow) are active and dynamic. Be aware and purposeful through the transitions, go at a pace that is realistic for you and rest when your alignment starts to crumble.
- Go for a brisk walk, a jog or a bike ride...then go home and put your legs up the wall.
- If you belong to a fitness gym, try a group class! Yes, it might smell weird, the music will be loud, you might look or feel silly...just go with it.
- You can pretend jump rope, do squats, push ups or lunge dips at home -- anything that appropriately challenges you and gets the heart rate up for at least 10 minutes at a time. Then sit or lie down and do a few stretches. Don't make it complicated.
Always great to rally a friend to do it with you -- more fun and accountability.
Challenge the things you tell yourself -- I'm too this, I'm not enough this, I can't, I always. Yoga practice is in part about purification, refinement and self-knowledge. Use discomfort zone experiments as a way to deepen on all levels.