What pregnancy taught me about yoga

My first child was born on 4/25/2017.  I literally practiced hot yoga until I was having contractions and I resumed my practice 4 1/2 weeks post-partum.

 

As my pregnancy progressed I had to modify some postures simply because my belly was in the way and my hips were shifting.  Practicing helped keep me energized and flexible and of course, sweating is so therapeutic for ridding the body of toxins.  The awesome teachers at the Original Hot Yoga Center in Voorhees NJ are very knowledgable and supportive and they guided me throughout this time.  The heat was never an issue and I never had to take breaks (surprisingly.)  Here’s what I learned in that 9 months.

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4-5 months pregnant
  1. Anyone can do yoga.  This school has had yogis in wheelchairs and others with serious injuries practice and they were right in the same room with everyone else.  You don’t have to be slim or flexible to practice yoga.  The yoga builds strength and flexibility and can aid in weight management.  There are forms of physical activity that are not safe to do while pregnant.  I’m fortunate I did not have to miss a beat with my routine.
  2. Starting over after giving birth and the subsequent five weeks off was a priceless learning opportunity.  I lost a lot of my strength and hence flexibility when I returned to the hot room.  Certain postures just straight up hurt a little in the beginning.  My practice is 5 1/2 years old.  I’m happy that this re-establishment of my practice happened at a time when I could appreciate the gift of starting from scratch with the knowledge of the alignment and progressions of the postures and the wisdom to know I could not bounce back and to be okay with that.  I was grateful  for this and to be able to just sweat.  I was also content with not being able to bust out cool looking postures.  There was comfort in being surrounded by the yoga community that shared this phase in my life because they saw the stages my body and practice went through.  I wonder if I was surrounded by strangers if I would secretly wish they knew I just had a baby and that’s why I can’t do Dandayamana Janushirasana like I used to.
  3. Yoga is more than physical postures.  It’s a state of mind known as the present moment; The practice of not worrying about the future or ruminating on the past.   Yoga is one’s ability to listen (in more ways than one.)  You listen to the directions of your instructor, you listen to your body and you listen to the voice that tells you to try more when you feel you’re on the verge of a breakthrough.  Yoga is a connection you make with others in and out of the room.

Thank you to Jessica, the teachers and students at The Original Hot Yoga Center in Voorhees NJ!

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Pre pregnancy headstand.

 

 

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Five ways to get results from a cycle class

You may be new to indoor cycling/spinning. You may have heard its a great way to burn calories. lose weight and improve your cardiovascular endurance and heart health. You may be an experienced rider who has made progress but still wants more results. One, some or all of the tips below will absolutely help you achieve your fitness goals in a cycle class.

  1. Listen to the instructor.  (The assumption is that you are being led by a certified cycle instructor.)  Obvious right?  Are you really paying attention?  Make sure your bike is adjusted properly so that you maximize power and limit your chances of injury.   Even if you like it the way you currently have it set up, if a trained instructor recommends you change your seat or handle bar position, give it a try.  It may even feel weird at first but that’s because you have had it wrong for a while. Bike set up is only one example.  Listen to what he/she tells you before during and after a class.  If you are unsure of something, ask questions.  We instructors love answering questions and helping our riders.spin teacher
  2. Actually turn up the resistance.  I could have included this in tip one but its such a common instruction that people disobey, it earned its own bullet point.  I’ll admit I have a hard time understanding why some people are so reluctant to add resistance.  If it’s too hard, you can turn the knob back to the left.  It doesn’t get stuck at ‘too hard.’  It’s not like one of those manual timers that only turn in one direction.  You won’t get stronger and burn more calories by flying the wheel around super fast and twerking (bouncing) in the saddle.   Ladies, your legs will not bulk up like a body builder.  If you have genetically thicker legs, good for you!  They will not get even bigger because you cycle with a harder resistance.  This will help strengthen them and if you lose weight, they may be trimmer.  If you want to build your legs, lifting very heavy weights will add muscle.  This is actually a good thing and still won’t make your legs huge unless you are training on a body building/competition level.  I’ve been cycling for 14 years, I have naturally slim legs and they have never gotten huge.   Honestly you are missing out on a great workout by not exploring the resistance knob.  resistance
  3. Compete with yourself.  Many studios and gyms today have bikes that give you measurements such as RPM- revolutions per minute, watts- power output based on speed and resistance, gears- resistance and MPH.  These metrics keep us honest and give you objective numbers so that you don’t have to rely solely on perceived rate of exertion.    If you spin consistently two or more times per week, you will notice you can go faster and steeper as your build strength, stamina and muscle memory.  I regularly ask my classes, “Can you go faster than last time?” and “Can you handle more resistance or increase your watts?”  Often riders tell me they covered more miles in a particular ride too.  In addition to these measurements there are other ways to challenge yourself.  Often new riders notice they can begin riding out of the saddle for longer and some people measure their heart rates and calories burned with a monitor or watch.  compete
  4. Control what you can.  So what can you control?  Quite a bit.  Yes we are busy and modern day life in the western world is quite demanding.  I found exercising in the morning was the best way to avoid conflicts.  The sacrifices are going to bed and waking up earlier and sometimes getting dressed for work at the gym.  It’s worth it to me.  You can control when you make (not find) the time to get to a class, how hard you work when you get there and how you plan your life so it happens consistently.   Don’t miss a class if you don’t have to because things you can’t control like, storms, traveling for work, sick kids etc. will afford you breaks.  You also need to have realistic expectations.  Genetics play a role in how our bodies look.  No matter how much cycling I do, I will never have a narrow waist or larger calves.  You can change a lot with diet and exercise but not everything.  IMG_1011
  5. Reward yourself with healthy meals, a spa service, nap, (so underrated) a new gym outfit or something other than junk food loaded with sugar, salt and fat.  If you are in the vicious cycle of completing a tough workout then having a burger, fries and sundae, not only are you hindering your progress, but you are setting your self up to be discouraged and creating an unhealthy habit that can be tough to beat.