Yoga. We’ve all talked about it, we’ve all dabbled in it, we’ve all seen photos of our favorite celebs’ bodies who swear by it. Some of us love yoga and are seldom seen without our mats strapped to our backs. And some of us just don’t have the damn patience.
I’m the kind of person who needs to sweat and pant during my workout to feel like I’ve accomplished anything. Basically, I heart cardio. This goes back to high school track practices where, five days a week, we would collapse in the grass after an hour of sprints, then run a mile, then oh, what the hell, another mile for a cool down. I don’t see how my body can feel alive and invigorated if it’s not physically showing me.
Because of this exercise history, yoga has never really done it for me. I’ve enjoyed it, I understand that it’s important, but it just doesn’t have enough movement for me. However, due to recent major life changes that have caused minor insomnia, higher stress levels and a slightly raised blood pressure (by slightly raised, I mean the doc found my through-the-roof blood pressure “quite alarming”) I’ve decided that yoga, which boasts of mind-quieting effects, deserves another shot.
For the past week, I’ve been testing a number of yoga DVDs for some at-home therapy. I narrowed them down to two faves. They’re two totally different approaches to yoga but they share the common focus of using your own body weight, resistance and your mind to get maximum results. It slows you down and forces you to feel your body working as it’s happening, and it feels damn good.
Bob Harper’s Yoga for the Warrior is the best morning yoga workout when you want an energizing sweat. The transitions between poses are quicker, but you hold them long enough to perfect your form. There’s no Om Namah Shivaya-ing in this DVD; there’s rock music playing in the background, and sometimes Bob will throw in some shoulder presses during Down Dog. The sequence of poses is your basic vinyasa with pose modifications and the addition of the killer Awkward Airplane, some one-legged balances, and the most complicated, impossible-looking, body-twisting, standing-up leg stretch, where after my gasping, “what the fffff…” I managed about three-quarters of the pose before I reached my maximum and exploded in sweat. After I removed my kneecap from my ear and came out of the pose, I actually fist-pumped. It’s one of those poses that’ll give you something to work towards, and no matter how far into it you get you always come out of it saying, “Hellz yeah, Body, you just impressed the bejeezes out of me!”
Not a bad way to start the morning, eh?
Rodney Yee’s Yoga Burn is my favorite to do a couple hours before bedtime. It’s about an hour long and it’s set up so that if you move slowly, you don’t ever stop moving. You go through most of the poses three times so that by the third time around, your forehead does touch your knees during Forward Bend and your heels will reach the floor during Down Dog. The poses are all simple enough that you don’t have to focus so much on form as you do on the sensations: the pull at the tops of your calves right under the backs of your knees, the release of tension from the back of your neck. Last night I actually heard my sternum creak during my third time through Upward Facing Plank. I’ve found that this DVD is best to do with the lights off and a fresh-smelling candle going, like Sprig by NEST Fragrances Candle, Lilac and Ivy.
By the way, I’ve slept better this week than I have in months.