What Does It Really Mean "To Be In Shape?"
"Do you do anything else besides yoga?"
Several times a month, someone new will walk in for information about our yoga classes and ask me this question. They don't believe yoga can keep you in shape.
Then they ask: "Will I lose weight?"
I say, "You bet you will!" More than you'll ever imagine.
In my 20s to early 30s, I was working out at the gym 6 days a week, lifting weights, practically looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger in a sundress. Then that wasn't enough, so I taught aerobics, spin, step and sculpt and ran 6 miles a few times a week until I was 35.
Then I found yoga. In my mid-30s, I was getting up at 5:30am and heading off to a hot, vigorous yoga class 6 mornings a week for 2 hours.
I worked out so much, before yoga came into my life, that at one point I could hardly walk from plantar fasciitis. A condition that, with every step I took, it felt like I was walking on knives. It was so painful and debilitating. If I didn't get off my feet, I was looking at each foot being casted and possible surgery.
What was I "running" from, really?
I loved feeling light and fit, but there was more lurking beneath the surface of course. It was a way I thought I could feel good about myself and most importantly when I got honest, more than anything, I wanted others to approve of me.
My self-love wasn't in good shape. That's the part of me that was the most severely out of shape.
I had to get off my feet and find other ways to exercise that were non-weight-bearing. Into the pool I went and onto the stationary bike I rode. Of course, I couldn't take a break and rest!
Due to the injury, I couldn't exercise as much as usual. I learned very quickly that 1) I didn't have to workout so hard to stay in shape and 2) I didn't have to workout nearly as often. Wow. That was a huge awakening.
There's a saying: God does for us what we can't do for ourselves. He was saying: "I'll get you off your feet if I have to, to prove a point!"
Down the road through some larger life lessons, I also learned that although I did a great job of taking care of myself physically, I had done a poor job of taking care of myself emotionally.
What emotions? What feelings? I didn't even know I was avoiding them.
I often see this play out in the yoga world. I, too, did it in the beginning. I thought I had to do all the hot, sweaty, fast flowing classes to stay in shape. Well of course, don't you? Same mindset. I hadn't gotten the new "operating system" through yoga just yet. I needed more time on the mat.
Most of the time we hold on to extra weight or get caught in the illusion of I have to work out a lot to stay in shape; we're missing the emotional piece. The body holds on to weight as a protection mechanism to make sure we have enough larder in our closet for a rainy day because it's alerted that the "system" is under a lot of stress and may need backup calories to stay alive, so to speak.
Stress can make us fat.
My practice has shifted and evolved so much over the years along my yoga journey as my emotional body healed and my connection to Spirit began to awaken. I'm no longer taking any hot, depleting classes or spending endless hours in arm balances.
I love a more balanced practice that nurtures and sustains me day to day. Some days more active, others more restorative.
And my spiritual muscle is so strong and supportive now. It carries me across the waves of this world ocean better than my physical body ever could swim it on its own.
When I got stronger inside, my body got stronger.
And actually the more I SAT, stopped running away from everything and meditated, the "lighter" I got, too.
When our emotional body gets nurtured, listened to, released, healed and back in shape, the physical body mirrors it. Many struggle with every diet and gimmick, but once they start yoga & meditation, the "weight" falls off. "All" of it.
Mind, body, spirit work together. To stay in shape, all 3 parts need a "workout."
Really, more of a "work in."
Owner, Karma Yoga Inc