Skip to content

More Than: Katie of Sweet Tater

February 22, 2010

Yoga Isn’t Stretching

Like many people I reluctantly turned to yoga as an “easy” low impact exercise to help me “stretch” and strengthen my bum runner’s knees. And like many people I learned very quickly that yoga is a whole lot more than stretching. In fact, it has changed my life. Weight issues that I’d struggled with for years literally melted away with the pounds I lost and the damaging psychological pains associated with weight and food obsessions went with it. I learned to stop punishing myself with exercise, to accept myself and to challenge myself in healthy ways. But you’re not convinced that this silly “stretching” could do so much so let’s break it down…

Yoga looks pretty easy, right? Just stand there and look calm, right?


Exhibit A

Wrong. You are wrong. I was wrong. For the most part, the general population’s view of what yoga is and what it does for you is wrong. In my opinion, there are two schools of thought on yoga in America (excluding the teachers and students truly dedicated to the practice, of course):

1. Yoga is a nice easy stretch and will make an ideal interim between injuries.

2. Yoga is a trendy way to lose weight—all the celebrities are doing it.

I will admit to falling prey to both these assumptions. Yes, I turned to yoga as an “easy” exercise so I could recuperate after a running injury and, yes, my interest piqued when I heard Jennifer Anniston’s 40-year-old-and-still-hotter-than-me body was a product of her regular yoga practice.

These two different assumptions treat yoga as a workout, as a physical exercise for the body (which it is, and I’ll get into that) but what people neglect to consider is that yoga is even more an exercise of the mind. If you approach yoga simply as an exercise, you’re missing out on its most powerful benefits.

Consider that Warrior pose above. I know that it looks easy, but it’s not so easy after 60 seconds in a 90-degree room. What do you do then when your body is screaming at you to straighten your leg, your thoughts are wandering in all directions, your heart is racing and you’re panting like a dog?

You focus on your breath. You clear your mind. You trust your body’s strength.

Yoga is not easy. The hot yoga that I practice in a 90-degree room is especially not easy. But neither is life. As I’ve learned to focus on my breath, clear my mind and trust my body to get through a difficult pose on the mat, I’ve also learned how to apply those practices to help me get through a difficult phase in life.

If I were a character in a novel, one of my (many) fatal flaws would be my inability to enjoy today. By dwelling on the past and dreading the future I rob myself of the beauty of right now. Yoga teaches me to be present, to pay attention to the moment and to appreciate today.

If you let your mind wander on the mat—especially in balance poses—there is a very good chance you will stumble and fall. The same is true in life. When my mind wanders all over the place from past to future without regard to my present state, there is a pretty good chance I will stumble and fall. The physical poses in yoga are really nothing without the added mental component.

And the mental side of yoga has been the biggest challenge for me. Physical improvements came quickly. And while no one is ever “perfect” in yoga, I find it much easier to get close to mastering a pose than to get anywhere near mastering my own thoughts. The human mind is a complicated beast, but I am confident that a continued dedication to the practice of yoga will help me continue to grow and improve.

And now for the most important question: Do I look like Jennifer Anniston?

No, not at all. But I don’t want to anymore. Yoga has helped me to be comfortable with myself exactly as I am. I have never said this, but I feel most beautiful when I’m on my mat—makeup-less, sweaty and exposed.

I have lost 25 pounds since I started a regular hot yoga practice last year. The most amazing thing about that, however, is that I didn’t even notice. For the first time in my life I was doing something without the explicit intent to lose weight. And for the first time in my life, I actually did.

I can’t promise you you’ll lose 25 pounds, but I can promise you that yoga will strengthen your body and your mind so that weight loss will be less of a concern. Your obsessions with weight will be replaced with an interest in whole-body (and mind!) health. And that, my friends, is more important than any number on a scale.

katie and sweet tater blog

To learn more about Katie and her life after losing “25 pounds completely by accident”, visit her blog. You can also read Katie’s 140-character or less thoughts by following her twitter feed.

Heather urges you to enjoy learning all about Katie, her DVD reviews, and keep coming back each week for Caturdays.  & so much more.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. February 22, 2010 1:45 pm

    As a semi-regular student of yoga, I have to say that I agree with this. I started doing yoga because it was trendy (I’ll admit it), but it really is very, very hard. Especially to do it right!

  2. February 22, 2010 2:45 pm

    I love this series your doing! Thank you Katie for sharing your story. Yoga is amazing and totally need more of it in my life.

    • February 22, 2010 3:29 pm

      I agree! I am trying to add more yoga to my life as well- I’m working on my review from my first ever yoga class and will be posting soon. (Thanks to you, Jess, for encouraging me through the process!)

      I think I’m going to try to attend a yoga class at least once a week once the class challenge is over. 🙂 gotta step into it and FACE those fears to find balance!

  3. February 22, 2010 3:04 pm

    Well, I do believe I’ll be going to yoga class tonight. I hear everything “Tater” is saying… those who don’t think it is challenging are far off the mark!

  4. February 22, 2010 3:24 pm

    Thank you for so much for writing this post! Yoga is this thing that I always ignored, even though it was so obviously IMPACTFUL on my life! a couple of years ago, I started a routine of 5 am yoga each day, and it made me stronger, saner, and generally happier, but I never put together that it was the YOGA… not just a random string of happenings!

    I’ve since re-started my yoga practice in a wonderful studio, and I’m so much happier for it. 🙂

  5. February 22, 2010 10:48 pm

    I love this post! Makes me want to give Hot Yoga another shot for sure! I love how peaceful I feel after a good yoga session.

  6. February 24, 2010 10:14 pm

    LOVE this post!! I’ve done a bit of yoga in the past, but I really, really want to get back into it. THIS…

    “I learned to stop punishing myself with exercise, to accept myself and to challenge myself in healthy ways.”

    …Is exactly where I want to be!

  7. February 25, 2010 2:24 pm

    oh wow this is very neat! I NEED to get my butt into yoga. I tried it once and was so amazed at how out of shape I was, I just gave up. This is definitely motivation! great post 🙂

  8. April 11, 2010 8:08 pm

    beautiful post!


  1. Yoga is More « Sweet Tater | Food | Fitness | Etc.
  2. Un-Stuck: The Finally.
  3. More Than « The Twenty-Fifth Year

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: