Physical Fitness

Lessons From Yoga!

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A few weeks ago, one of my long-distance buddies contacted me about a yoga program that she was interested in. After chatting about it for a bit, we decided to team up and complete the program together as virtual workout partners. Each day we completed the day’s workout and checked in with one another. The accountability was amazing and really helped me to stay on track, and it was a great way to get back in touch with someone that I’d not spoken to in a while.

I’ve been interested in yoga for a few years and have taken yoga classes before, but for some reason I never felt like I had a grasp on yoga. I always left classes feeling as though I didn’t really understand it or connect with it. This program, however, has completely changed my outlook on yoga.

The instructors were all so good at explaining each posture, not only how to replicate it, but what each posture meant and what it did for the body. Despite being a program that I completed in my living room, it felt like each instructor was right there with me. I definitely have a new appreciation for yoga.

Here are some of my top take-aways!

Breathing into the Space

Every single yoga instructor I’ve ever come across always talks about “breathing into the space,” of things. I hear it so much that honestly it just seems to be something trendy that yoga teachers say because it sounds cool and relaxing. But this phrase has both literal and metaphoric meaning. Yoga requires you to stretch into some postures that may be challenging, and you use your breath to gently go deeper into these challenging poses, awakening your body, and building strength, stamina, and flexibility. In the same way, life often has a way of putting us in challenging situations. If we learn to lean in and gently “breathe into” those challenging spaces in life – with kindness, love, and patience –  we will find ourselves building strength, stamina, and flexibility to our character.

Savasana

Savasana (pronounced “shaVAsana”) is something of a corpse pose. You basically lay there and play dead. One of the instructors recalled learning about savasana for the first time and thinking it to be too morbid for her tastes. Then, she realized that this pose is about letting old things fall away and being re-awakened into the new. As a believer in Christ, I immediately connected this with the call for believers to die to ourselves. In the Bible, there is a verse that says, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation.” Whenever I went into the savasana pose, I asked God to continue to show me ways in which I could die to myself and become more like Christ.

It’s Not About How You Look

There was one class in which we did a downward dog split, a pose I’m not particularly good at. For this pose, you start in downward dog position, and then you bring up one of your legs into the air behind you. I can get my leg about three-fourths of the way up to where it is supposed to be. All the while, my plumber crack is showing and my t-shirt falls down over my head, and the extra flab from having been pregnant two years ago drops down and swings around. Its not sexy, and I don’t look anything like the instructor on my TV screen.

But it’s not about how you look, it’s about the subtle growth.

Although I have not yet reached the level of the instructors, I definitely felt strong during this program! There was a time that I would not have been able to do any of this. I’d been hospitalized, I was out of shape, I could barely walk without having trouble breathing – much less be working out every day. If we get caught up in our appearance (or the appearance of our situations) and allow what we see to discourage us – we will never win. We have to keep showing up, every day, and bring all of that un-sexy with us.

It’s in the mess that the transformation happens.

I used to do the side-eye when people took pictures of themselves doing yoga and would caption their picture with some life lesson or semi profound nugget of wisdom. But I am beginning to see how the physical lessons in yoga can transfer over into our every day lives.

If you’re into yoga, what are your biggest takeaways from your yoga practice?

If you need help getting started on a fitness journey, I would love to partner with you to make sure that you have the support you need to achieve your goals! You can contact me @wholeheartblog on Instagram or find me on Whole Heart Blog on Facebook!

It’s amazing what a little love and accountability can do!

 

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Diet and Nutrition, Physical Fitness

On Becoming a Vegetarian

My husband and I recently decided to become vegetarians. For years, I’d been considering this change, but felt gun-shy because I didn’t think it was a choice that I would be able to actually follow through with. It’s only been a month since we made this decision, and it hasn’t been without its challenges, but it’s been a lot easier to follow through with than I thought it’d be! I wanted to share the reasons I made this choice, some of the challenges it brings, and some of the things I am learning as a result of doing this.

I’ve always found it interesting that, at least according to the Biblical account of creation, God originally only gave humans and animals permission to eat things that grow out of the ground (Genesis 1:29-30). We weren’t permitted by God to consume animals until after the flood (perhaps all the vegetation had been drowned out?). The fact that, in God’s original design of the human body, we only needed fruit and vegetables for sustenance speaks volumes to me about why we are not currently thriving in terms of the state of our collective health. Disease is rampant, and yet often times preventable simply through diet. I know we can’t control most of the things that happen to us in life, but if I can do my best to take care of this body that God gave me, to be around longer and to be healthy enough to do whatever it is that God might have me to do, I’d like to get on board with that!

Another concept that I’ve felt personally convicted of over the years is the concept of Ahimsa – or non-injury – to all sentient beings. This concept is adhered to in the Jain, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions. The basic idea is that we (humans, animals, and insects/bugs) are all in this together. These traditions go beyond showing love to your fellow man, but also showing love and care to anything that lives. I love the compassion in that, and I think it echoes what God intended when he told us that we were to be stewards over the earth (Genesis 1:28). Full disclosure, I am still working on letting bugs live when I find them in my house or my classroom– but I’m getting there!

Finally, it just isn’t healthy to eat the meat that is mass produced here in the United States. Our animals aren’t raised humanely, are fed products that are inconsistent with what’s healthiest for them, and then killed in (often times) tortuous fashion, and brought right to our dinner tables. I often wonder what is happening to our bodies when we are eating sick, traumatized, and depressed animals?

The challenge for us, in being vegetarians, is that it can be hard to plan and execute good meals. I work full time, we are both involved in activities outside of work, and we have a lot of things currently happening in the life of our family. In the past, when we were too tired to cook or plan dinner – we’d just go out and grab something quick and easy. That’s a lot harder to do when you are a vegetarian! Though I haven’t craved meat, I do suspect that abstaining from seafood will be a bit of a challenge for me. I love my lobster and crab legs in the summer! But I’ll just take it one day at a time and cross that bridge when I get there.

One of the things I am learning is how to cook differently, making vegetables as the main portion of the meal as opposed to them being a side dish. I am also learning to detach from food. A friend of mine who went paleo mentioned that she was learning this, too. And I have a better understanding of what she meant now, than I did when she first said it. Not that it’s bad to enjoy the food we eat, but I am learning that food is primarily for sustenance. In the past, the enjoyment of food (for me) took precedence over whether or not a particular food item was beneficial for my body. This realization surprised me, because I am not a foodie by any strtch of the imagination! But, by refocusing my purpose for eating (sustenance and not enjoyment), I am finding that I am not as attached to food as I previously had been. Which, I think, is a good thing!

A final thing that I am learning has to do with the difference between saying, “I’m a vegetarian,” and actually eating a plant based diet. Just because a person is a vegetarian doesn’t mean they are eating healthily! There was one day where all I ate was cheese pizza, popcorn, fruit snacks, and a Dr. Pepper. Those things are all technically “vegetarian” in the sense that I didn’t have any meat – but none of it is plant based! (And, I felt horrible at the end of that day).

Ultimately, I think being a vegetarian is the healthiest dietary choice for my body, and I want to do whatever will allow me to experience my body to its fullest potential!

Have you ever significantly changed your diet? And if you’re a vegetarian, send me your recipes!

Thanks for reading!