To help myself sort through some of the issues with this yoga thing, I thought I’d think out loud a bit about exercise in my life.
As regular readers will know, I’ve more or less given up on goals. I don’t find them helpful. Goals keep you focused on the future rather than the present. And there is always a tendency to focus on how much further you have to go than how far you’ve come. I prefer to focus on the road and let the destination take care of itself.
I have been trying to incorporate more physical exercise into my life. And succeeding, I think. When I first moved back to Canada and was living alone, I started playing basketball in a women’s recreational league. I did that for 3 or 4 years but last fall I couldn’t join because we were away and several of my teammates weren’t playing for various reasons so the team collapsed. I could rejoin that league as in individual and they would find me a team but I haven’t.
I have also been doing an aquafitness class at the local rec centre for a few years. I just decided to try it one year and I really like it. Doing aerobic exercise in the pool is just more pleasant for me than doing it on land. I like the other women in the class. I do it in the daytime so most of the others are older than I am (some much older) but that means there is no sense of competition either around fitness levels or body image or anything. (In fact, sometimes I wonder what the little kids who have swimming lessons after us think about the variety of naked bodies in the shower.)
The effect of that class has been noticeable in the ease of doing the exercises and in the shape of my body. My abs are firmer (under the beer gut). I think my cardiac fitness is better. I feel good. I am conscious of strengthening particular muscle groups and focusing on my posture, which is also greatly improved.
Last year, I decided to branch out and add a session in the weight room. I’m in a session you have to register for, with a trainer and the same group of women at the same time every week. Again, I am one of the youngest in the class. Because I know that posture is important to my general well-being (after an incident 3 years ago that a massage therapist managed to correct and then explain to me), I have had as one goal in that class to ensure that my upper back muscles are strong. And the trainer has been good at giving me a balanced program. Again, I can see my progress in the changes in the difficulty of the exercises and my ability to increase the weight on several of them.
I’ve been trying to add in more walking. We were trying to have one hike a week this fall. That didn’t quite work out but we did do more hiking than we have in the past. I also identified a 20 minute brisk walk around the neighbourhood. Tigger and I were starting to do that regularly. But now we have snow and are in that interim season when it still melts and refreezes thus leading to ice. It is harder to get out and we haven’t been going.
I know that one reason the classes work for me is that I am motivated by the social aspect. If others are expecting me, even if there is no impact on their experience by my not turning up, I am more likely to get myself there no matter what my mood. But I am not that keen on scheduling fitness classes several times a week. And although our finances could probably cope, I’m also not keen on paying that much for fitness. Just those two classes cost me over $200 a term. Walking around the neighbourhood is free.
I have tried to institute a regular exercise practice at home in the past, using a 10-minute a day plan I cut out of an old Oprah magazine. Tigger and I did it together and it worked quite well, but it was one of the things that fell off the agenda when we went to Europe. I bought that yoga DVD as an attempt to reinstitute that kind of daily routine again. I didn’t just go back to the routine we used before as it was too repetitive of what was happening in the paid-for classes but at a level that I thought probably wasn’t as helpful. I’m not sure it would really add anything useful.
I think that one of my goals for the yoga practice will be to diversify my exercise practice. But I know that I also just need to increase it. Getting a 1-hour cardio workout in the pool each week just isn’t enough, so I think I need some of the more vigorous practice that is also included in this video (though not the main course). But mostly, I need to add in things that will deepen and extend what I’m doing. I’m not sure exactly how that will work. Maybe I just need to try some things and see what seems to fit.
If it isn’t clear by now, my goals are not to lose weight (and certainly not to lose a specific amount), be able to run a marathon or otherwise compete in some exercise related event, or to make my body a specific shape or dress size. I don’t even own scales and am never quite sure what I weigh. My doctor is not concerned so I’m not either. My body shape has changed as a result of exercise and that has had an impact on the size of clothes I can buy. But my posture is better, and strength helps that. And I feel better, generally. So I’m happy. Like I said, goals tend to take your focus off the present and off of the positive gains.