I've always had this notion of what exercise is. There are narrowly defined categories in my world and if an activity doesn't fit into one of those categories, well then it's just not exercise in my book.

The first category of exercise was cardio. Into this category fell a limited number of activities: (1) running, (2) the elliptical, (3) swimming, and (4) biking, whether on the road or in spin class. That's it. That's cardio.

The second category consisted of circuit training and strength training (either with free weights or weight machines or body weight). That's it. Nothing more, nothing less.

Occasionally I'd make exceptions for things that "felt" like exercise but didn't quite fit into one my categories, such as kickboxing.

Back in college Mom worked as an office manager for a local pilates and yoga studio. One day, she talked me into taking a yoga class. So I did.

It was love at first down dog. I felt alive. I felt beautiful. I felt powerful. I felt good.

But there was a problem: yoga doesn't fit into one of my categories. For years I practiced yoga anyways. I limited my yoga to once a week though. After all, if I was going to lose weight I would have to do real exercise most days. I'd never get there doing yoga.

Right before I left a friend and I were talking. She mentioned a gentleman that had suffered with diabetes and all manner of illness associated with being obese. Every illness has left him and he's a normal weight. The only thing he did for exercise was yoga. At that moment, a seed was planted in my brain.

Since coming home from Baltimore I've been practicing yoga for an hour a day a minimum of 5 days a week.

Each day I got down on my mat I began to feel more and more strongly that I had been wrong. Maybe, just maybe, there were other options for exercise. My body started responding. More of my jawbone emerged. Muscles have begun to show in my legs and arms. Pants are a smidge looser in the waist band. After three weeks my interest has not wained in the least (after two weeks of anything else I began to struggle to stay motivated and interested).

And you know what? I learned something from all this yoga.

Exercise is more than just burning calories. You know how people tell you all the time to find what you love and do that? Challenge your definition of exercise. Maybe there's something you love, like hiking, that doesn't burn as many calories as a kickboxing class. That's okay. Because exercise should make you feel alive. That's what matters: how do you feel after exercising? Do you feel invigorated? Beautiful? Powerful? If you do, then keep doing what you're doing! The important thing is to keep pushing your boundaries with whatever you do. Hike a little further. Learn a new pose or a new move. Add more weights. Run a little faster or a little farther. Because eventually that feeling of power will fade if you just do the exact same thing over and over again.

Each and every person has something that makes them feel alive. Kara loves to run. Mom and Rachel love to lift weights. Daniella loves to do Zumba. I love to practice yoga.

Of course you can should still do other things. When the weather's nice I'll go for a run or take the dogs for a long walk. Burning calories is still important. Exercise should challenge you physically. But the principle remains: expand your view of exercise. Find what makes your body and soul sing. Don't forget about your soul--you're more likely to stick with something if your soul sings too.

If you've found your yoga, add more into your daily life. If you haven't, I challenge you to try something new this week.

I shouldn't be surprised to be honest; scrolling through old blog posts, I noticed that every time I felt stressed I turned to yoga. And every time, my world view turned around. And to me, that's a major point of exercising.

All photos mine. 

No comments:

Post a Comment