Yoga: It’s not all about the stretch

The second full week of Eating Clean is down and so am I –by two pounds!  Not bad since last week I somehow managed to gain three pounds. Water? Stress? Who knows.  But I wasn’t worried. I know my body and I know how LONG it takes to lose a simple pound.  Besides, this is for my health not just to lose weight (although that will help with that pesky diabetes risk).  Still, it was nice to see the scale drop for the first time in EONS.

I’ve been very good about sticking with the clean plan but I have a feeling another key piece here is getting back on the mat.

A lot of people wave off yoga as if it’s not worthy of their time.  They would rather spend that time running or at the gym.  More bang for their buck.  But what they don’t understand is that your body needs that down time.  It needs the hour-long focus you give while you stretch out on your yoga mat.  Yoga is much more than being able to touch your toes or stay in down-dog without your arms shaking like jello.  It’s about tuning in to what your body has to say.  It’s about listening to your hips, your shoulders, your neck, your back and understanding why they are tense.  It also makes you appreciate your body and all it does for you each and every day.  And by the way, yoga makes you strong. It tones your muscles by using your body weight so if you must, consider it a toning day.

But more importantly, yoga gives you focus.  You begin to pay more attention not only to how you feel, but how you treat your body in the first place.  You question what you put in it.  I haven’t met a lot of fellow yoga mat-mates that come to the 9am Saturday class hungover or who smell of cigarette smoke.  Not that there aren’t people out there that drink a lot and smoke, but after two years I haven’t met them yet.  I’m not trying to pass judgement; I’m just stating what I’ve found.  Yoga seems to keep you grounded and aware of your body–and keeping it healthy.

If you really want to take control of your body, take up yoga.  Give it a month or two (or longer) and see how you feel. I’d suggest a class rather than a tape just so you build the connection with other people and your yogi, but if you have to do a tape it’s better than nothing.  Don’t rush through the poses!  This isn’t a competitive sport!  It’s time to slow down and listen to the muscles in your body, to learn to breath again.  Just be in the moment and don’t think about everything you need to do the rest of the day or the next.  Think about how your arms feel in down-dog, how your back feels in the twist, how your feet feel as you root them into the mat.  Be there.  It’s a hard thing to master, I’ll admit, but it’s a wonderful feeling! You’ll find the hardest pose to be shavasna, or Corpse Pose, where you lie still on your mat at the end of the practice. The goal is the clear your mind completely and focus only on your breath.  Try it sometime.

I know my practice makes me more grounded and helps me make healthier food decisions.  I see my body in a less judgmental way and see what it can do rather than focus on what it looks like in the mirror.  It reminds me that I am strong but more importantly, that I am in control of how I feel.  It’s up to me to keep my body healthy by being aware of what I’m doing. No more mindless meals just to fill my stomach.  Why would I put unhealthy, processed foods into my body when it does so much for me?

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