Results of my yoga challenge: stronger core, more peace

fOr as someone who likes to engage in deep, audible sighs all day, you’d think a breath-focused workout like yoga would be right up my alley. You would be wrong. I am a self-proclaimed yoga hater. As a group HIIT trainer, I love all things fast-paced, loud music and extra intensity. I really struggle with slowing down. In general, I’m a go, go, go girl, and I don’t take a ton of time to stop and smell the roses, so to speak.

So whenever I’ve tried yoga or meditation in the past, I’ve been incredibly frustrated because I’d spend the entire time thinking about what I need to do later and my grocery list in my head.

But there’s a reason they call yoga a “practice”: it can take time to adjust. Yoga is not only about building physical fitness, it is also about your mental strength. (The poses are actually only one of the eight pillars of yoga.) “When you do yoga, it’s about relating to the body as a workout, and I think that’s the first level,” says Bria Lee, a studio coordinator and instructor at CorePower Yoga. “With me, after I saw the difference with my body, the difference came in changing my mind.” Lee shares that the word yoga literally means “to bring together,” so in your practice you are bringing body and mind together.

Knowing that I have a hard time slowing down, I decided that I would embark on a month-long yoga journey to see if I could challenge myself for a change of pace. The rule was to have four-five classes a week for a month. (I never recommend doing any type of workout seven days a week, even something low-impact.)

I began my journey at my local CorePower Yoga, which offers an athletic-oriented flow in an often-heated studio. Oh yeah, did I mention that I hate being hot? I’m a Colorado girl, so I don’t have heat in my blood.

I got out of the gate hard with their Yoga Sculpture class. These include yoga, cardio and strength training to help boost your metabolism and build muscle. It seemed like the closest thing to a HIIT class I could get while doing yoga, so I thought I’d give it the best. Spoiler alert: I didn’t. I spent most of the class cursing myself under my breath, and the rest lying in a pool of my own sweat (or was it tears?) taking deep breaths until I could get back into movement.

I decided that sculpture would probably not be my favorite. I have to say though, I was incredibly impressed by the instructor who not only coached but did most of the movements with us—I think yoga instructors can be the strongest people on earth.

The next class I attended was C2. The CorePower website describes C2 as a “challenging vinyasa flow” involving more difficult postures. I was surprised that even though it was slow and deliberate, it became my very favorite type of class. What I found I enjoyed the most was the pose where we balanced on one leg. Although I placed first in state in gymnastics in seventh grade, that part of me was long gone. So I enjoyed seeing if I could still balance on one leg or if I had any flexibility left. (Obviously, I’m very competitive with myself—I’m an Enneagram Three, achiever. If you know, you know.)

On the fourth day, I don’t know what happened, but let me tell you, I was feeling myself. I walked past a mirror and said, “Damn, you look hot.” Were there any physical changes during this time? no But the reflection I saw looking back at me in the mirror was great.

Even though I know I wasn’t actually seeing physical results, by the end of the challenge, I definitely was. I saw a visual difference in my triceps and I loved it. My upper body is pretty muscular, yet I’ve always struggled to get defined triceps. No more! I’m too cold to wear sleeveless shirts, because I’m ready to show them off. I noticed higher core strength. I’m not sure saw My abs, but I could definitely feel them. I noticed that some of the abdominal exercises that were challenging for me in the past were now exercises that I could do comfortably, which was a cool feeling.

For the rest of the month-long challenge, I alternated between, “When does this month end?” and “Oh wow, I feel really great after this class.” There were days when the heat in the studio was unbearable. I always had my eye on the thermostat. The classes I took ranged from 95 degrees to 108 degrees, and they made me realize that I would be happier if I practiced yoga outside of the temperature I wanted to be in. What am I.)

I attended a few online videos that CorePower offers, because I was curious about how motivated I would be to practice yoga at home. The answer is: not much. The classes were good, but I was someone who needed to be part of a team to be motivated.

When I first committed to this challenge, I asked myself, “Why?!” And took one of those deep audible sighs that I love so much. It felt like something I was adding to my already long list.

But after I was done, I found myself missing yoga a bit. I never thought I would say this. What I miss most is taking an hour out of my day to tune in with my mind and body. Although I have seen visual results, and specifically gained super core strength, the thing I’ve noticed the most is how much I like me. Doing yoga forced me to spend time with myself, and I found out that I’m pretty amazing, if I do say so myself.

Doing yoga forced me to spend time with myself, and I found that I was pretty amazing.

Every time I left the class, I felt a sense of peace that I don’t get after taking a HIIT class. I feel great and energized after HIIT, but not calm. Both types of workouts make me feel like I’m ready to take on the world, but in different ways. I now see the benefits of both types of training. Lee puts it simply, “For someone with an athletic mind, you have to do something else to compliment what you’re already doing.”

Yoga is that replica activity for me. Since finishing my month of yoga, I’ve been more intentional about taking time for myself, but that’s not the same as actually practicing yoga. Mostly it involves me lying on my sofa for 10 minutes every day. It’s not savasana, but it’s not no savasana

I’ll go on the record and say, I’m no longer a yoga hater. I am now a yoga appreciator! While I don’t see myself doing yoga four to five times a week, I will add yoga to my fitness programming at least once a week. I love the peace I feel after each class and my body could use a stretch too.

Lee’s advice when deciding whether to add yoga to your fitness routine: “The last thing you should think about is changing your body. Your body is going to change no matter what. You must be willing to open your mind. Be willing to listen, and don’t say anything for a second. Really just go inward.”

That’s what I’m going to take away from this experience. I will remember to take time to slow down and reconnect with myself. Changes will always come, but they start from within.

Want to find your own peace through yoga? Start with this flow:

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