How an anti-yogi finally makes peace with her Chaturanga
A couple of weeks ago I got a call from Acacia TV asking if I'd be interested in organizing their workout video collection. They've got over 100 hours of workouts they stream on demand and they needed someone to rate, edit and slice them up into convenient playlists.
This is the job I’ve been training for my whole life, I think.
My credentials: I've worked out at least five days a week since I was 12 years old. In my career, I've written 15 books about fitness and health — including Buns of Steel and Fitness for Dummies — and managed gyms all over the world. I've got certifications, a master's degree and I've served on the board of directors for the American Council on Exercise. As I said, born for this.
So, when they tasked me with organizing titles to see what's what, I immediately decided to make it a physical challenge. I'd do every single video, even the ones for pregnant ladies. I routinely work out about 100 minutes a day anyway — about the same amount of exercise I'd have to do to complete this task by the August deadline they set for me.
You know that person you meet at a party and after speaking with her for 10 minutes you decide she's your frenemy? That's how it is with yoga and me. We've never gotten along and, while we don't trash talk each other, we avoid each other like a bed bug infestation.
Yoga seems to enjoy highlighting my weaknesses. As a typical runner, the last time I stretched was never. Even the most basic yoga poses make my joints behave as if they are bolted into place. Twisting my spine or pressing my heels into the floor are not options. I'm glad I'm doing this alone in the privacy of my own bedroom rather than a studio full of supple, bendy yoga snobs.
This strained relationship is the reason I decided to kick off my 100 hours with Yoga for Beginners. I have come to make peace. Let the golden ball of light wash over my joyful heart or whatever. The workout is led by a woman with the most yogish name ever: Shiva Rea. I figure with a moniker like that her workout should be all gentle and forgiving.
Not. This 25-minute practice kicks my butt. By minute five, my Downward Dog muscles are aching. The back of my arms scream three times each time we do a Chaturanga narrow push-up — once for each head of my triceps muscles. Then, my video buffers briefly during Boat Pose, so I am left floating my thighs off the mat for what feels like an hour.
But I get through it and decide to move on to an abs workout. After popping out a kid — OK, so it was nine years ago! — core is one of my trouble zones for sure. And what's the first program in the 5-Day Ab Express playlist? More yoga! More Shiva!
At one point, I find myself on my back thrashing my arms and legs around like a waterbug trying to right itself, abs burning with effort. In fact, I'm beginning to realize that any movement in yoga that resembles a flailing insect makes me feel a bit silly, but also rips apart my muscle fibers at the microscopic level.
By the time I'm finished with these two workouts, I am completely humbled. To me yoga has always seemed like a trendy waste of time. I've viewed it as a pastime for sweat-averse people, who like to wave their body parts around for three quarters of an hour just to say they've done something. I might have to admit I haven't given yoga enough credit for being the formidable workout that it is. Respect.
Hopefully by the end of this challenge, I can let go of old grudges and perhaps grab onto my toes with a straight leg. We shall see.