Thursday, February 24, 2011

Downward Dog ... and Breathe

Recently I started doing some yoga as part of my morning exercise routine.

Translation:  A few weeks ago I got the crazy notion that one morning a week I should torture myself while being told to "just relax."  :)

The first morning that I tried it, I spent most of my thirty minutes in the child's pose with one eye on the computer monitor trying to figure out what exactly I was supposed to be doing.  ("This is a beginner's class?!?")  The rest of the time I was attempting to follow the instructions from the yoga pro and not get a cramp.  Strangely enough, even my haphazard efforts to breathe and relax and stretch and stand actually energized me.  I felt like I had gotten quite a work-out (and not just from laughing at myself) and I was charged and ready when the little wildebeests came downstairs at 7 am.  "Hmmm ... maybe I should try that again next week."

The next week I did the same routine and was surprised at how much easier it was.  Not because I was really any more fluid or controlled (insert image of me falling on my face here), but because I had an itty-bitty amount of experience in my belt and I could almost follow along.  I found myself better in synch with the breathing of the instructor in place of huffing and puffing and holding my breath.  I also found myself a tad bit surprised when I reached the end of the program.  "What?!  Done already?  Huh."

By the third morning, I could remember the rhythm and patterns of the movements and found myself actually enjoying the flow.  I still had trouble with getting my body down from the plank position and back up to downward dog (pathetic, little, weak arms ...) and I still had to manually pull my leg up to get into warrior pose (pathetic, little, weak legs ...), but I could keep in pace with the instructor and found myself actually enjoying it.  Especially that last part, the corpse pose. :)  "Hey!  I did it!  Boo-yeah!"

So the next week, I thought I'd try the next little step up.  Something about "Yoga for the hips and thighs". Little did I know that I was in for some fun!  At about the time I found myself in some crazy, deep knee bend squat position, I had second thoughts about this particular routine.  When he had us go back to that thigh burning position two more times while telling us to, "breathe, relax and let go", I knew I was really in trouble.  By the time we moved on to the endless chair poses (over and over and over, again) my hips and thighs were done ... and so was I.  I tried to finish strong, but I know my efforts were half-hearted.  I was relieved when he said, "Namaste".  "Whew ... that kicked my, uh ... hips and thighs!"

But again ... I felt a little charged.  A little empowered at having challenged myself.  A little stronger for my efforts.  I went back and did that routine again, and found that the second time through was easier.  I knew what to expect, I felt more confident, and I even managed to relax a bit when we "rested" in half-moon pose two for 45 minutes. :)  Surprisingly enough ... I looked forward to my next yoga morning ... my next 30 minutes of muscle burning, deep breathing torture. :)

Apart from the traditional advantages of yoga, I have been surprised by a few more benefits to this exercise:

  • Looking Thinner:  With my posture improving due to actually having core muscles, I find that I am standing up straighter and as a result looking a bit thinner.  That right there is worth standing in warrior one for 10 minutes!
  • Surviving Bleacher Seats:  We all find ourselves having to endure those dreadful metal bleachers when watching our kids in sports.  With my improved core muscles, I have found myself sitting better, too.  That means less hiney pain, less fatigue in my back and more of a smile on my face.
  • Being More Limber:  The stretching and toning of a yoga work-out means that when my little person calls from the waaaaay back seat that she can't get her seatbelt around her bulky, lumpy coat, I am able to reach over the middle seat, across the van and buckle her while balancing on one leg.  I think they call that the mini-van mamma pose.
  • Enduring the Perma-Squat:  That insane deep knee bend I mentioned before has been great conditioning for me in this era of "perfecting our potty training".  When we head to the bathroom at City Market for the 3rd false alarm of our shopping trip and I find myself once again squatted in front of the toilet helping my little peanut balance, I have what's-his-name to thank for my endurance.
  • Remaining Calm:  In each and every yoga position, the instructor encourages us to relax and breathe ... even if your arms are shaking and your thighs are burning.  This translates well to the need to breathe and relax when faced with parenting challenges.  So, when Ashley is sucking her thumb for the 10th time in 10 seconds ... relax and breathe.  When Lydia screams and shoves her milk across the table and onto the floor (the one not in a sippy cup) ... relax and breathe.  When Norah doesn't get enough sleep and is an Oscar-winning drama queen in the hour before school ... relax and breathe.  And when Aaron asks for the umpteenth time if he can play on the iPod after just having played Wii for over an hour ... you got it ... relax and breathe.
  • Feeling Stronger:  Being a mom is hard work and it's easy to feel ambushed by the kids, the daily schedule and surprise demands.  After a few hard knocks by our kids, it's natural to feel a bit defeated.  But ... if that morning I endured the eagle pose for an entire minute! ... Well then, I totally can take on whatever my kids (or the day) might throw at me!
Thank you to YogaJournal for today's links.  Just a reminder that I don't look like any of those people ... and I have no clue how I would ever get into (and then out of) the eight-angled pose.  I'd keep the phone nearby, just in case! :)


  1. I find yoga to be very challenging! Good for you for sticking with it to see some good benefits!

  2. Sounds like I need to try this. Would love those results (not so much the pain though!).

  3. Aaah yes, yoga. It's very relaxing. I purchased a 'Beginners' video tape and thought I would review it first before doing it. So I popped it in the player and the next thing I knew the VCR was 'clicking' off & it woke me up!

    You go girl!

  4. I got a "beginner" yoga video once and almost brained myself. lol Yoga is one of the things I'm hoping to get more into, especially once the new baby is here!


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