Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fitness - a thought driven process

Fitness - many visualise it as a final state. I like to call it a process driven by thought and awareness.

After childbirth, I have had issues with physical fitness. For 2 years, I spent my nights and days time being tired and enduring muscle pains.

Not one day, I woke up without one part of my body or the other hurting and not one evening I went to bed without tossing and turning, trying to adjust this muscle or that so I wake up fresh and rested. One day, after my vacation at my brother and sister-in-law’s place, I saw some women in my society doing yoga in the multipurpose hall. Overcoming my inhibitions for the first time in my life, thanks to that educational trip, I enrolled. The teacher, who is now a friend, told me that initial days of yoga will cause body aches, but, in my case, the aches were no worse than my regular aches and pains. As I continued with exercise and yoga, my body pains went down until one day I woke up with no pains at all and all this in less than two months. Weight loss is a different ball game altogether. In the following paragraphs, I will share what I learned in this short span of 4 months doing yoga three times a week.

Yoga starts with toning your muscles. You will see instantaneous change in your figure. Your body weight may or may not go down. Body weight is not always the outcome of gluttony or careless eating. For many women after childbirth, it is a result of physiological changes. I wanted to say hormones but truth be told, I never really understood hormones. So, let us just say, to those of you who haven’t lost weight even while being careful with food, it is not entirely your fault. Your best bet is to see a gynecologist. Having said that, if you are a man reading this post, I am sorry man, I can’t help you, yet!

Not having lost any weight with just three-days-a-week yoga, I decided to lend a helping hand and started using the stationary cycle at the gym. I am on a break right now because of influenza-induced weakness, but will start again next week. I could bicycle for 20 minutes without fatigue at a random pace and come back home feeling light.  That is where I heard from the gym instructor that Yoga is just for flexibility and not for strength. Strength comes from sweating it out. Suffice it to say, the statement made by the instructor is not true. Yoga builds muscles, strengthens internal body organs, helps stabilize breathing and increases metabolism. I won’t take sides arguing yoga is better and gym is bad. I, quite honestly, believe each practice has its pros and cons and each individual must choose what suits his or her lifestyle and physical body needs best. Having said that, one must experiment with all that is available and feasible. In my yoga class, our teacher stresses on posture. When I was at the gym cycling, I caught myself looking in the mirror and adjusting my back and legs to fit in an imaginary box. In the class though, I never understood what she meant. Now, thanks to that mirror and my body’s response to what that mirror reflected, I understand better what my teacher means and I strive better.

When we start on a certain regimen, it is easy to lose track because it is still not a part of our lifestyle. We miss classes because of other higher priority activities like work, children, getting dinner or breakfast on the table on time. The key is to not fall back but to march again like a tired solider back to class or the gym even after missing for two weeks straight, or in my case missing gym 4 weeks due to my son’s flu, my menses and my flu.

Another important lesson I learned is to never ignore your body. No aches and pains are arbitrary. It does not mean thar your mind is rationalising your lazy intent to get out of work. My constant body aches were perhaps a result of improper body posture and lack of regular and regulated exercise. I used to have muscle cramps in the calves in my sleep. They first started when I was 17 or 18 (during my cousin’s wedding). We all thought it was because of tiresomeness. And they occurred every time I exerted myself at functions or at work. The frequency increased after marriage but I never saw a doctor. After I started going to yoga, I started getting cramps in weird places like my hip, and the inside of my throat. I was scared! So, I went off to see a GP and the cause was a deficiency of Vitamin D3 and B12. One blood test and 14 years of suffering ended! Well, not quite. I am still careful while doing new poses or twisting poses in class and take D3 and B12 supplements.

In conclusion, work out, try different approaches, listen to your body and stay happy.