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smarter than the average workout
a lazy man's journey into yoga
by jeffrey d. walker
7.13.11
general

“Fit” can mean different things. It could mean (1) that someone is having a tantrum, (2) because their clothing is not the right size, and also because (3) their Honda vehicle is too small.

“Fit” can also mean that someone is not overweight - and this fit, I am, without gyms, workouts, running, sports, or anything really. But “fit” also is short for physical fitness. And this “fit,” I probably am not. What with no gyms, workouts, running, sports, or anything.

I mean, working out sucks. I learned this back in school (the only time in life working out was mandatory). I’m usually one of the smallest males at the gym, but I'm also pretty competitive. So, when you have something that can be quantified (i.e., amount of weight, or, number of reps), and a bunch of other dudes who are doing it, what I end up with is arms and legs I can’t move for days at a time because I tried to lift way more than I should have.

And even if I maintained some self control, I still won’t like it: Ripped dudes sweating on the machines, dance music, body odor permeated into every piece of gym equipment, and pretty much everything else that I don’t want to have anything to do with is what I expect at the gym.

But recently, I learned that working out doesn’t have to that way. Two male friends of mine urged me to try yoga. “It changed my life”, one said.

I naturally resisted. Then, when I was griping to one of these same friends about coping with daily stress (being an attorney + new baby at home), and he again suggested yoga. This guy was also a dad who I had asked for advice before I became a dad (See: “A message to the reluctant would be father: part 1”), and he's someone I've come to trust. So, it was hard to turn down his suggestion of yoga, now twice offered. I agreed to give yoga a try.

The local yoga studio my friend prefers offered 3 classes for beginners for the cost of 1 regular class. I just finished my 3rd class this past weekend. So how was it?

The first class was the most difficult. It was a “power hour” during a Thursday over lunch. I was nervous and frazzled, and didn’t even bring any water to drink. I am not very flexible, so, some of the poses were hard for me. In the simple “downward dog” pose, my heels would not stay flat on the floor like they should yet. Other moves had to be modified for me to hold the poses, but the instructor was good about telling the class how one could modify appropriately if they were having trouble (without embarrassingly pointing out whom it was that needed such accommodation). I sweated more during that class than just about any time I can recall ever sweating - At one point, I was pretty sure I was going to have to stop and just lay on the floor to not die. Luckily, that was just before a break in the action, so I manage to make it through.

Despite my apprehensions, yoga was fantastic. I wasn’t thinking about “reps” or weight or sets. I was just following the moves. The classes are mostly women, which does improve the scenery over muscle dudes, but also increased my tension to be doing this physical activity amongst them (each of whom I was pretty sure knew what they were doing, where I did not), but this passed quickly as I focused on what I was doing. You can bring your own mat and towel, so I was able to avoid others' body funk pretty much entirely. It wasn’t an obvious workout (i.e., doing curls clearly works your biceps), but I felt like every major muscle group was well worked over afterwards and in the following days – only, in a good way, not in a “why did you lift that much you dummy?” way. My wife noticed bulging in my arms and shoulders after the first session (not hard to notice improvement when you only have 124 pounds to start with). Also, yoga includes elements of relaxation and meditation, and so I felt mentally “fit” after the session ended also (an unexpected bonus). The music played during the session was tuned accordingly to softer music, which is generally not my bag, but it was appreciated for the moment.

My second and third sessions were not during a lunch hour, and their length was 1 hour 15 minutes. That 15 extra minutes seemed like a lot longer, let me tell you. But I managed to make it through both of those, too, and with the same beneficial results of improved mental clarity afterwards, as well as the visible bulging of muscles. The mental clarity, especially, is a benefit I’ve found lasting long after the bulging and soreness goes away. I’ve found everyday work stresses a little more manageable since starting yoga. I've even found myself accepting relaxing music with a welcome ear (where such music formerly irritated my rock sensibilities).

As I started looking for it, it turned out that many male athletes are fans of Yoga. This book has short blurbs from Heisman trophy winner, Eddie George, and NBA star, Kevin Garnett, on their yoga practices. Former pro wrestler, Diamond Dallas Page, now markets his own workout program, YRG, that relies heavily on yoga techniques. If the master of the Diamond Cutter relies on yoga, why wouldn't I?

Bottom line, if you've been wanting to improve your physical and mental fitness, but weren't sure how to do it, do yourself a favor and give yoga a shot. You might be, like me, surprised and delighted at how much you like it.




ABOUT JEFFREY D. WALKER

A practicing attorney and semi-professional musician, Walker writes for his own amusement, for the sake of opinion, to garner a couple of laughs, and to perhaps provoke a question or two, but otherwise, he doesn't think it'll amount to much.

more about jeffrey d. walker

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COMMENTS

tracey kelley
7.13.11 @ 7:34a

A man after my own heart. :D You are the perfect example of a yoga practitioner.

My yoga teaching instructor likes to tell his tale that, as a former Marine, he was bulked up and completely without movement when he first started yoga. He's not as slender as you, but he's slight, so I think he felt the same about gym workouts as you.

But now, he's in amazing shape : James Miller He moves with such graceful power that it's incredible to think of how he started.

I have students who, as beginners, could barely bend forward because they were so stiff and inflexible. Their shoulders and hips weren't open, so many poses are inaccessible to them at first. I launched a beginner's Hatha Yoga class with a foundation in Ashtanga Vinyasa in late March, and let me tell you -- those students are moving in ways they never thought possible. Why? Consistency and repetition. They'be seen their bodies transform and know how much better they feel because of yoga, so they keep at it. As an instructor, it is so gratifying to watch this happen for them.

alex b
7.13.11 @ 6:42p

Yoga is wonderful. Though I don't practice as much as I'd like to, I've never forgotten my introductory class. It was great to have a type of fitness that doesn't revel in competition, and it was deceptively easy. Every part of my body ached from a 2-hour Vinyasa/Restorative class, and it was worth it.

Next up for you: a Bikram class. Really.



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