This is not a post about why you should do yoga. We all know yoga is good for us, you certainly don’t need me to tell you that. This is a post about how powerful your mindset is and why mastering it is the key to lose weight and become your healthiest self.
I’ve been doing yoga on and off for the last 20 years. I “discovered” it back in grad school in my 20s. I was living in a college town where the only yoga you could find was taught in a church basement on Friday nights. My instructor was a 70+ year old harem-wearing yogi who started each class chanting OM. Yoga for me back then was about learning to use my breath as I flowed through a pose and clearing my mind in order to have a better life.
It’s such an abstract thing to say that yoga can contribute to “having a better life,” but there was something about sitting there on the floor of that church, listening to this old guy chant that kept me going back. Right from the beginning, yoga was about centering myself through the challenge of a pose and clearing my mind. It was never about getting exercise.
Since then, I’ve dabbled in various types of yoga and experienced different instructors and their philosophies. It’s hard to find a class these days that isn’t all about getting a workout. Now the rooms are super hot and you do the same series of repetitive movements over and over and over again. This type of yoga is how I picked up a wrist and shoulder injury that got so bad I couldn’t do yoga anymore.
Fast forward to today. A somewhat healed me is excited about a yoga studio that opened near my house. I solicited a friend and decided to take a couple of classes. It’s important to remember at this point that I am not new to yoga. I know all the poses (even their Sanskrit names) and because I took private lessons for a while, I care about good form. I know what it takes to get into a pose, hold it, and how it’s supposed to feel.
About 5 minutes into my first class I feel like a total loser. My incredibly tight hamstrings don’t allow me to get my legs even close to being straight. I can’t go deep into any of the poses. I can’t do the vinyasas (read: pushups) between poses because my wrist immediately starts to hurt. It’s so hot in the room I feel like I’m going to pass out. I literally have sweat dripping all around me…my mat is so slippery I can’t even stay in down dog. My left hip starts throbbing during Tree pose and my balance sucks.
Then I had a lightbulb moment. This is what it feels like when people try to lose weight. Specifically, this is how you feel during Nourish when I ask you to stop eating sugar and cut back on caffeine. You’ve probably removed sugar from your diet before, but you feel out of practice, your confidence is low, and you don’t think you’re going to make it the whole 21 days. All those same thoughts and feelings going through MY head during yoga class are going through YOURS during Nourish:
I’m so out of shape, what’s the point of doing this?
I can’t finish. I want to stop now.
If I can’t do the pose perfectly, there’s no point doing it at all.
OMG, it’s going to take FOREVER to get back to where I was.
Why is it so easy for everyone else?
How many more minutes?
How can I sneak out of here?
I kid you not. I thought every single one of these thoughts during that 50 minute class. But I didn’t leave. I sucked it up and finished.
Once the torture was over, I changed my clothes in the locker room and went outside to meet Michele. I stepped out the front door to find it was a perfectly gorgeous day. The sun was shining, there was a nice breeze in the air and I noticed that I felt good. I felt accomplished. My muscles were loose, the tightness was gone. I felt at peace.
And then I remembered something I had learned years and years ago. It’s how I felt right then that mattered, not how I felt during class. And eating healthy is the same way.
You have to change your mindset and focus on how you’re going to feel AFTER achieving your goals and not on the pain of discipline in the moment.
Although yoga focuses on the present moment, the magic really happens after you leave the mat. That day is a reminder of what’s possible with a simple mindset shift. When you set out to lose weight or change your diet and you’re hungry, craving sugar, stressed and you want to use food for comfort and you ask yourself what is this all for? Remember how you’re going to feel tomorrow. Next week. Next month. Next year. When you lose weight and your clothes fit better, you’re able to get off medication, when you’re not using caffeine and sugar to get through the day, when you actually crave healthy food as a way to feel good about yourself and your life.
Trust me, you’re not going to feel sad about the food you’ve given up when you start to see a new possibility for your life.
Choosing to be the healthiest version of yourself is similar to a yoga practice. It’s not about what you look like doing the pose, it’s not about what others can do better than you can. It’s not a race to the finish. Rather, it’s a slow and deliberate journey that could takes years to perfect.
Just like yoga, once you think you’ve mastered it, you can step back and ask yourself is there more I can do? You may have mastered the beginner class, but what’s next? On the yoga mat and in life there’s always a variation that can take you deeper…and just like that, you’re a beginner again.
Join me in September and start your own journey.