Shyly venturing into yoga

Hood Ornament: 1948 (via Shorpy)

While recently enjoying a lovely weekend with my parents and sisters, I was struck again by my exclusion from the family way of fitness. My mom and sisters look like Athleta models. They are tall, toned, strong, and have impeccable posture. I am also tall, but I am weak and stiff. When I have joined them in yoga classes, I am the inflexible duckling, and they are perfect yoga swans. (Grace is particularly intimidating, as she is a licensed yoga instructor, and just about everyone looks like a toad next to her.) On Saturday morning, the three of them went to an intensive yoga class and cajoled me to join them, but I went with Dad and Dublin, the neighbor’s dog, to drop off stuff at the dump instead (because I will always choose dogs and dumps over fitness).

My sister the yoga instructor, practicing in Thailand. (c) Grace Farson.
My sister the yoga instructor, practicing in Thailand. (c) Grace Farson.

But I started thinking about yoga again. And feeling like I should try it, even though I am so intimidated and so weak. (I can’t even touch my toes, something I have always blamed on my extra-long legs, but which I now accept as a cop-out.) I asked my friend James, a yoga instructor in town, for advice, and he wrote such a forthright and gracious response that it nearly brought tears to my eyes.

Yoga appeals to me because it isn’t supposed to be aggressive or competitive — qualities which have always made me despise the American mentality toward exercise, weight loss, and gym culture. I am not trying to “get jacked,” lose 30 pounds, or strain my body to meet a cultural objective. Rather, I’d like to get to know my body better. To be strong. To be confident.

I have shyly started practicing yoga at home, and thanks to James’s advice, I have scouted some studios I’d like to visit for classes and instruction. I fully recognize that I’m at least 20 years late to the yoga bandwagon, but I hope it’s not too late for me on the whole, to gradually become flexible and strong.

Have you ventured into yoga? What have you found?

Exercise for the person who hates exercise

If I’m being honest with you, the most physical activity I get during a week is when I walk the dog.

Rivanna Trail hike
With Pyrrha by the Rivanna River.

Clearly, this is not sufficient, and I need to do more. I’d say that we eat quite healthy (meat only once a week, lots of vegetables and fruits, no desserts, no soft drinks) — although I’m sure we could eat less cheese, which is not really something I’m really willing to sacrifice, owing to the immeasurable joy that it brings to my life. That aside: I need to get moving.

I have a standing desk at work, which is already something in my favor, according to every fifth article you see these days. But aside from taking P-dog for strolls, that’s about it.

I’m also the athletic black sheep of my family. My dad plays hockey or some other strenuous sport almost daily. My mother has a six-pack and goes to these super-intense workout classes every other day. Kelsey (and her husband) are impeccable physical specimens; Kelsey is a champion hockey player and Alex is a titled martial arts master and surfer. Grace, as I mention below, is a certified yoga instructor and all-around badass. And Sam is also a champion hockey player and possessor of generally remarkable abs.

And then there’s me. The one who doesn’t even LIKE exercising, much less is trying to fit it into her life. So, personal assessment time.

hikers
Hiking with Christa in some beautiful park, July 2009.

Favorite forms of exercise that I’ve tried:

  • Walking. I love walking; I really do. People laugh when I say that, but it’s such a pleasant, mind-clearing activity. I’m looking forward to walking to work soon and continuing to walk around the neighborhood and to the Downtown Mall. We’re lucky to live in a very walkable place. And having a dog as a walking companion is the best possible thing.
  • Hiking. The fittest I’ve been in my life is when I spent a summer living in Denver and went hiking multiple times a week. I actually had muscles! I hardly ever go hiking in Charlottesville (like, once a year), which is a real shame.
  • Ballet. I took two ballet classes this year and loved them, even though I’m a wretched dancer.
  • Cycling. I love biking around town, but I need to get a bike first. Goal for next year!

Things I’ve tried that don’t work for me:

  • Yoga. I really like the IDEA of doing yoga. It appeals to me so much: breathing and twisting your body around in a quiet room with a bunch of sexy women. But I am TERRIBLE at yoga. So terrible. Even though my little sister is a certified yoga instructor, I have a wildly different body type. Where she is muscular and compact, I am long and weak. My legs are disproportionately long, my arms are spindly, and I am the least flexible person I know. I’m always the person in the room who needs “special help” from the teacher. So I don’t practice yoga. Because it makes me feel bad about myself.
  • Swimming. Ever since my parents forced me to join the neighborhood swim team when I was young, I’ve despised the pool. My coaches told me that I had lovely strokes, but that I was just way too slow. Just the slowest. I hate smelling like a pool and I hate the notion of swimming laps.
  • Zumba. No. Just no. This is my personal hell.
  • Running. My father was a champion professional runner, and he likes to tell me that I was “built to run,” but I just cannot make myself do it. Again, I like the idea of being great at running, but I lack so much motivation. I think part of me is also reactionary to the prolific running culture in Charlottesville. Not participating makes me feel like a curmudgeonly rebel. (“You ran 10 miles this morning? Well, I sat on the couch and looked at my dog.”) Also, everyone I know who runs all the time is constantly in and out of physical therapy, which is not something I’m particularly interested in trying. I think I could make myself run in moderation in temperate weather.

I’m generally quite lazy, and so partner accountability and public shaming do wonders for me. Also being a part of a class. Having paid for a class (as with ballet) where I’m expected to show up each week and where my friends are counting on me (to at least give them rides) is helpful.

Based on this information, what do you think would help me? What is your weekly fitness regimen, and why does it work for you?