Written by the Warrior
I discovered yoga back in 2005, 4 months before my climbing trip in the Central Andes. I had badly twisted my ankle from soccer and needed to find a way to get back to form, really really fast, because obviously there was no way I was going to cancel nor postpone my trip.
This discovery has been one of the best things to have happened to me, as over the past 11 years, yoga had become an integral part of my life.
I was lucky enough to have found Sivnanda yoga and Ashtanga yoga, which are two powerful practices that emphasizes well being of the body and of the mind, as one cannot exist without the other.
Since being diagnosed with hyperthyroidism in October last year and even being on a very successful treatment plan, I found my energy level and my weight yo-yoing like crazy.
Of course, a strong yoga practice remains a regular part of my routine. I even choose to get up at 5:15am to get to work for 6:30am to squeeze in a daily lunch time yoga practice at Ashtanga Yoga Ottawa. I have always been active and swim and run on a regular basis.
However, since I was in such rough shape, in order to get back to form, I needed more than what I was already doing. Luckily, I stumbled upon three key elements to help me get my mojo back.
Back in October last year, while at my neighborhood strip mall, I happened to peek in on a new pilates studio that had just opened.
(Photo curtesy of LiveBy Pilates)
Upon first glance, it looked like a medieval torture chamber. And had I not ran into the owner Basma at LiveBy Pilates, right there and then, I would never have ventured in. Until this point, I didn’t know anything about pilates except that Gwyneth Paltrow practiced it. Being the experimental type and considering how close the studio is to home, as well as how small the classes are (5 maximum), I thought that I would give it a try.
I’ve now practiced pilates for a year, and I still can’t quite describe what it is.
This is what it looks like, if you are really good at it.
(Photo curtesy of LiveBy Pilates)
But, rest assured, I do not look that good, not even close. I resemble a giant and uncoordinated blob attempting that.
I think what Pilates means to each person is different, depending on your health conditions, your motivation, you level of effort and the teaching style of your teacher.
For me, it’s full body strength training. For many others, it’s injury rehabilitation, which I can also relate. It was tremendously helpful when I threw my hip out from coaching JK T-ball.
The machines and contraptions help to ease the body into position and challenge the body safely within its own range of motion while working to increase that range and develop flexibility and strength.
Even though I have practiced yoga for 11 years, I still have lots of muscles that I have never been used, and trying to make them work at the beginning was hard work!
For about 3 months, I struggled just to make it through to the end of each class. I remember wanting to quit often in those earlier months, but I stuck with it because I was seeing fairly amazing results.
For one, I have lived with a 4 finger width (and extremely deep) diastisis recti from pregnancies. A diastisis recti is the separation of the abdominal muscles resulting in a weakened core and poor posture. Under the close supervised practice with Basma, the diastisis was closing at a rate of half a finger width a month. I even have a bit of a waist now. I even might have the faint outline of 1/8 of a six-pack.
Second, I have suffered from computer related tendinitis since 2005. Since starting Pilates, I’ve been able to strengthen the relevant muscles that I haven’t felt pain in a long time.
And finally, I feel physically stronger. I can feel the new found strength when I swim, when I do yoga, when I carry groceries.
So I stuck with it. And once I made it to the 3 months mark, I begin looking forward to classes and even asking to be challenged.
Pilates is more expensive than yoga. I practice both because they benefit me differently. For those lucky enough to find the right teacher, right practice and the right motivation, it can be an amazing addition to your life.
The second mojo inducing element was me jumping on the Fitbit band wagon.
There has been a lot of hype around the Fitbit the last few years. Most people in my neighbourhood has participated in some sort of work Fitbit challenges. I have heard a lot about how many steps people were doing a day. But until I purchased my Fitbit Charge HR back in January, I really didn’t know anything about it.
I’m not someone who normally participates in hyped activities, but I ended up purchasing this particular model on a whim, because it had a heart rate monitor. Hyperthyroidism affects the heart and I wanted some way of tracking my healing progress.
The Fitbit and its apps have been life changing.
It tracks key health related information, such as amount of sleep (based on the length of time spent at resting heart rate), heart rate, steps a day, amount of food eaten, water intake, exercise, etc…
I was able to quickly realize that I was not getting enough sleep. With a sitting job, I was not active enough. And I was not eating properly. Either I did not eat enough, or I was eating too much.
I also learned that I was delusional about exercise, thinking that I could eat anything if I swam 1 km a few times a week. Apparently, I was only burning 131 calories during the swim, the equivalent of 1 slice of whole wheat bread.
I decided that I clearly need to get in better shape, eat better and sleep better. But it has to be sustainable. So I decided that 10,000 steps a day would be reasonable, as it is about 7km of walking.
The first week was brutal, I was so exhausted for walking so much daily that I would collapse when I got home. After 1 week, I realized that my energy level was much better and I was feeling better. The Tiger Princess and the Dragon are quite into this as well, and harshly criticized me, if by 5pm, my steps count is below 8000. I have found that this reminds me daily of making the right choices. I try to walk a slightly longer route, I try to park as far as possible, and I walk the dudes home from school. It has benefitted all of us.
What I like the most, perhaps is what makes most people give up quickly, is that no matter what you did and how many steps you achieved the day before, each day starts brand new. It gives regularity and renewal.
The final mojo inducing element is quite simple – a new bed.
I have had an IKEA bed for about 10 years, and for the last 5 years, I have woken up daily with a sore back.
Of course being engineers, That Guy and I could not simply just go buy a new one.
We needed 5 years worth of debate as to what to do about it.
Should we get a king size bed instead of the queen size that we have now? That would mean, we would need to invest into new sheets and blankets. Now the associated cost is increased significantly. And what was really the problem the mattress or the bed?!?
Luckily for us, most IKEA furniture has about a 10 year life span, so right on mark, the frame started to fall apart.
Around this time, our favourite furniture store – Urban Barn, had a bed sale, so we purchased a new bed frame.
Since then, I have not woken up with a sore back.
And according to the Fitbit, I had the best night on April 15 when I slept for about 6 hours straight without moving.
April 16th looked good too.
So, a little yoga, a little pilates, better eating habits, a good night sleep and the Fitbit to shame me when I slack off, is how I got my mojo back.
These days, I feel content and healthy and I lost 10 pounds in a healthy and sustainable manner.