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    Ellie's Fitness Adventures

    5 Things I Have Been Surprised to Learn So Far

    5 Things I Have Been Surprised to Learn So Far

    Going into this experience, I had so many assumptions and ideas about yoga and everything that surrounds the practice. It's been a few weeks since my first class and my initial thoughts have definitely changed. My assumptions have also been proven to be wrong many, many times. I am learning so much about the practice (and about myself) with each class I take and it's making this journey so exciting and rewarding. Here are 5 things I have been surprised to discover so far in my 4 weeks of Yoga.


    1.) Don’t be scared to laugh at yourself.

     

    Laughter really is the best medicine.


    As I mentioned before, I tend to laugh whenever I feel awkward or uncomfortable. And let me tell you, this journey has proven to be a laugh riot. Yoga is a serious practice, but it's important to not take yourself completely serious. Even the instructors laugh and add comical banter throughout the class. Laughing during my practice, and knowing that it's okay if I fall out of a pose, has helped me step out of my comfort zone and really push myself.


    2.) It’s okay to take breaks.

     

    Just to be straight, downward dog does not feel anything like rest.


    During my first CPY class, I felt defeated every time I had to take a “Child’s Pose” break. Since then, I have learned that it is completely okay to take a break. You need to give your body time to rejuvenate itself. If you push yourself too hard you are just going to end up doing the poses incorrectly and be even more sore the next day. Periods of rest will only enhance your relationship with yoga. It doesn't mean you're giving up- it means you're giving your body a chance to catch up. By doing this, you are showing that you are in touch and completely connected to your body- and this is what yoga is all about.


    3.) Sweating is good for you.

    Sweat today, smile tomorrow.


    As I’ve mentioned many times before, I hate sweating. Like really hate it. But I am learning that it can really benefit your body. One class I showed up a little hungover (too many wines the night before). Honestly, I was exhausted, and exercising was the last thing I wanted to do that night (Yes, I was still hungover at 6pm. I’m 30 and don’t bounce back like I used to. Thanks old age!). But I pushed through and am so glad I did. When I arrived I had an awful headache, but as the class progressed my headache disappeared. I sweated a lot more than usual during this class (which I didn't think was possible) but I knew I was sweating out the toxins, and wine, in my body. I left the class feeling great and so refreshed! So if you ever need to get rid of a hangover, exercise!! I always laughed when people would say this, but I can now vouch that it's actually true.


    Fun Fact: Did you know that sweating also produces endorphins that will actually make you happier?! And who doesn't like being happy? Read more about it here.


    4.) You can never drink enough water.

    Water, water and more water. Trust me.


    Even if you think you drank enough water during the day, drink some more! It’s so important to hydrate before class, especially if it's a class where you are going to sweat a lot. When we sweat, our body is losing the nutrients that we need. Being fully hydrated helps our body replenish these nutrients and stay energized. Hydration will also help with muscle soreness. I was so sore the next few days after my first CPY class- to the point that it hurt when I laughed (and I laugh a lot). I am still sore after almost every class, but I am realizing that the more water I drink, the less it hurts the next day.


    5.) Focus on progress, not perfection. Yoga is not a competition.

    Stop competing with others and start competing with yourself.


    Yoga is not about being perfect. It’s about feeling comfortable and confident in your body. Patience is something that I’m learning is very important when it comes to practicing Yoga. You can't expect your poses to become perfect overnight. Take small steps and celebrate these little improvements. Even the littlest step or improvement is a step in the right direction. I am so proud of all my small accomplishments so far, like being able to hold my downward dog pose for longer than 2 seconds. Even being able to make it through the whole class is something I like to celebrate (I usually celebrate with a glass of wine when I get home. I deserve it, okay?!).


    There are going to be poses that you are good at and other poses that you just can't seem to master. But don’t get down on yourself! It's important to learn from one another, but be mindful not to compare yourself to others. Everyone is different and everyone's bodies move and stretch differently too. So don't get discouraged by the girl in front of you who makes the lotus pose look like a piece of cake! Just like Theresa and Calvin explain- it is important to all feel connected in Yoga. When you look at others practicing, let this be a learning experience. Observe how they make these poses their own, and use this as inspiration and encouragement for your own practice.


    Get Out There And Try Something New!


    I was so nervous going into this Yoga journey. I was scared I wasn't going to be good at it. I was scared I would fail. I was scared I would be judged or feel embarrassed. But most of all, I was scared to leave my comfort zone (a zone that involved zero exercise). I am beyond glad that I have stayed on path with this journey. I am realizing that by stepping out of my comfort zone, I am opening my mind and body to things that I never knew I was capable of. And this feeling of empowerment is making this journey so fulfilling. Now get out there and try something new! Leaving your comfort zone can be quite liberating.


    Namaste!

    I promise, you will never regret going to a Yoga class.

    My Second (and super sweaty) Yoga Class

    My Second (and super sweaty) Yoga Class

    My first yoga class went great and I was so eager to experience different types of yoga classes and styles. After researching some studios in my area, I stumbled across College Park Yoga. I remembered a friend of mine raving about this place so I decided to give it a shot. I signed up for a 90 minute Ashtanga Vinyasa class that was aimed towards all levels.

    College Park Yoga. The real yogis refer to it as CPY.


    I arrived to the studio feeling excited and somewhat prepared. Having one yoga class under my belt makes me a Yogi now, right? I walked in and was warmly greeted by a man sitting behind the front desk. He gave me a tour of their facility that ended in their main yoga studio. It was dimly lit and very calming like the first studio, but about 3 times the size. To the right of the room there were candles lit and statues of buddhas. I also noticed there were heaters scattered throughout the room. This instantly made me nervous and I double checked to make sure this wasn't a hot yoga class (I’m pretty sure I would faint from heat exhaustion within the first 5 minutes). It was not. Or so they claimed. 

    How I imagine a hot yoga class would go.


    I laid out my mat towards the back of the room and waited for my coworkers to arrive. I had four of them joining me this week, so I was pretty much part of a yoga posse now. I looked around and was so surprised at the variety of people in the room. There were about 25 people and 7 of them were men. My last class was all females so I found this interesting. I was also intrigued to see an older woman in front of me who looked to be in about her 70s (she ended up being a rockstar and put her body in positions I didn't even know were possible). I also noticed there was a very sweet woman walking around greeting everyone with hugs and laughter. I was immediately drawn to her calming voice and presence and figured she must be the instructor. I was wrong (yet again).

    Carly excited to start and me worrying about the whole heater situation.


    The man that had greeted me walked into the room and instructed everyone to stand at the front of their mat in the prayer pose. He was the instructor! I always thought of yoga instructors being women so this caught me off guard. He introduced himself and his wife (who was the calming woman walking around). Their names were Calvin and Theresa and they were the owners and instructors of CPY.


    Calvin started the class with some breathing exercises and discussed how important it was for all of us in the class to be connected. We would start this connection with the “OM” chant. He told us to take a deep breath in through our nose and then exhale while chanting “OMMMMMMM”. I laughed to myself during the first chant (I tend to laugh when I feel uncomfortable or awkward). However, I was really taken aback at to how powerful this exercise was when we all did it together. You could almost feel the room vibrating. I did some research about the power of the “OM” afterwards and the whole vibrating stuff is actually a thing. Read about it here, it’s pretty cool.


    After these breathing exercises we started with a standard Vinyasa Flow. This is a sequence of movements that end in the downward facing dog. I was feeling comfortable and strong in my poses in the beginning, but as we progressed, I started feeling out of my element- and out of shape. My arms and legs were shaking, I was hot and sweaty (like really, really sweaty), and at one point I thought I was going to pass out. This class was proving to be much more challenging than the last.

    Me 30 minutes into the class.


    The thing that kept me motivated to keep going though was Calvin and Theresa. They walked around during the entire class and corrected our poses and and gave words of encouragement. I think Theresa could tell I was starting to shake and she came over and told me how great I was doing. She said that if I felt uncomfortable or unsteady to just move into the child's pose and relax. I did this a few times and it really helped me regain my focus.


    The class ended with a Savasana. The Savasana Pose is also referred to as the Corpse Pose. You lie on your back with your eyes closed and focus on your breathing and meditation (my kind of pose). After 90 minutes of sweating and feeling like I was going to die, lying on the ground with my eyes closed never seemed so glorious. As I closed my eyes, the dim lights in the room were turned off completely. Calvin walked around the room and spoke to us in a very inspiring and calming manner. I was starting to feel completely relaxed when Theresa whispered in my ear and asked if I wanted a neck massage. I shook my head yes and she began massaging my neck with essential oil. This was the tip of the iceberg in my relaxation process and I was dreading having to open my eyes and come out of the meditation. I honestly had never felt so relaxed- for a second I thought maybe I actually did die (I opened up my eyes for a second just to check.... I was alive).

    I knew my sleeping expertise would eventually come in handy.


    After the Savasana (or yoga nap as I like to think of it), Calvin had us sit with our legs crossed and hands in the prayer pose. We did some more breathing exercises and ended with another “OM” chant. Calvin and Theresa then thanked the whole class and told us what a great job we did. When the lights turned back on, my coworkers and I immediately started chatting about how challenging the class was (and how sweaty we were). My “yoga posse” and I gathered our things and walked out of the studio. Calvin and Theresa were standing by the front door and gave us all hugs and words of encouragement as we left. I loved them.


    Although this class was much more challenging than the last, I really enjoyed it. I was so proud of myself for not giving up and making it through the whole class. I haven’t felt this sense of self pride in a very long time and it is something I feel I have been missing out on (I could do without the sweating though). I am hoping to become more comfortable and strong with each class and prove to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to. After all, “You Are Your Only Limit” (another shameless plug alert! I gotta rep our brand).


    Namaste, my friends.

    Me trying to find my inner Zen. I’ll locate it eventually.

    My First Step to Becoming a Yogi

    My First Step to Becoming a Yogi

    “Yoga is not about touching your toes, it's about what you learn on the way down” -Judith Hanson Lasater (and thank goodness for that because my fingers were nowhere near my toes)

    It is somewhat ironic that I work for a company that designs and manufactures clothing for active women, when I myself have not stepped foot in a gym in almost 3 years. I was a competitive dancer for most of my life, but it has always been a struggle for me to keep up with exercise and find something I actually enjoy doing. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not some type of lazy couch potato. I’m constantly busy and running around and I usually work up quite the sweat on the dance floor on the weekends. But now that I’m 30 and am apparently supposed to be “conscious of keeping a healthy lifestyle,” I decided it was time to find some sort of exercise I could commit to. I had always been interested in taking a yoga class and I figured this would be an easy way to ease myself into becoming a, “health conscious adult”. I took the plunge and signed up two of my coworkers (who are also new to yoga) and myself, for an Intro to Flow Yoga Class and the journey began.

    I arrived at Live Oak Yoga Studio, equipped with my brand new, never been used yoga mat, feeling excited and nervous. Would I be able to keep up? Would all the other Yogis know I was a first timer? What if I fall over or start laughing? Would I be judged for not having a fresh pedicure? These were all very important questions I pondered on my drive there.

    There was a woman standing outside of the door when I arrived. She was middle aged with a normal body type and had tattoos. My coworkers and I introduced ourselves and told her it was our first time doing yoga. She was super sweet and told us not to worry. We chatted about our jobs and she told us she works as an office administrator. I then asked her if she was a regular in this class to which she replied, “I’m actually the instructor”. What?! In my mind I thought all yoga instructors were some hippie chicks that drank wheatgrass, smelled like patchouli and bathed in essential oils (I later found out that my assumption about the essential oils was right). I was so surprised that she had another job and life outside of the yoga world. This would be one of my first of many wrong ideas I had about yoga and its lifestyle.

    I walked into the studio and immediately felt relaxed. It was a small, dimly lit studio, with a beautiful mural of a Zen-like garden painted on the main wall. Sparkling string lights hanging around the room and the smell of essential oils really set the mood. This calming ambiance almost made you feel like you were in a dream. There were about 8 others in the class- all females, but ranging in age. Everyone had their own mat and I also noticed that everyone was dressed very similar. Yoga pants and tank tops seemed to be the trend here and my inspirational shirt helped me fit right in. (Shameless plug alert! Click here to shop our full line of inspirational tanks and tees.)

    Zen Mural at Live Oak Yoga Studio

    Bonnie started the class by putting on some meditation music and instructed us to lay out our mats and sit down in a comfortable position. There were a few other beginners in the class so she began with an introduction of herself and the practice. Bonnie told us that she took her first yoga class over 20 years ago strictly for the exercise and immediately fell in love with the practice. She began taking classes regularly and learned that yoga was helping her improve her life drastically. Her stress and anxiety reduced and for the first time she felt like she was finding herself and inner peace. This is something that really stuck out to me, as I have suffered from anxiety most of my life and am always looking for ways to help me with it (other than red wine).

    She told us this class would focus on the synchronization of conscious breath and mindful movement. She did a very good job at making me feel comfortable, and stressed many times that it was okay if we weren't perfect at the poses. She then pulled out a small bag that was filled with essential oils (I told you my essential oil assumption was true). She came by and gave each of us a drop of sandalwood on our palms and told us to rub our hands together to get some warm energy flowing. Between her inspiring words, the calming ambiance, and the relaxing scents and sounds, I was really starting to get into this whole Yoga thing and was eager to learn more.

    We started in the child's pose. The best way for me to describe this is kneeling down and then separating your knees as wide as your hips. You sit on your heels and touch your big toes together. You then reach out your arms in front of you. Bonnie kept reminding us to focus on our breathing. You’re supposed to take deep breaths through your nose and exhale through your mouth. She said to imagine fogging up a window with each exhale. Every time you exhale you're supposed to reach more in your pose to and try to stretch a little further. The breathing part was easy for me when we first started, but as we began to do more difficult poses I found myself getting confused. I wasn’t quite sure when to inhale and when to exhale when we were moving from pose to pose. Who knew breathing could take so much concentration?!

    Me doing “The Child’s Pose” (or something like it).

    For the next 90 minutes we were taken through basic yoga moves and poses including downward dogs, planks, and warrior poses. Each pose worked different muscles in my body and I was really starting to feel the stretch. My favorite poses were the pigeon pose and threading the needle- I could actually do them in their entirety and they gave me a good stretch.  A lot of the movements involve tightening your butt and sucking in your belly button. Bonnie told us that yoga is one of the best forms of exercise for strengthening your core, and I can see why- the next day I felt like I had done 5,000 crunches.  

    Bonnie did a great job at setting the pace for the class as well as explaining and demonstrating the movements for us. I was surprised as to how flexible she was! As the class went on I really started getting into the flow and allowed myself to step out of my comfort zone. A few times I thought I was going to fall over and other times I couldn't even get my body in the correct pose. However, Bonnie and the entire atmosphere in the yoga class really made me feel comfortable. I liked this because I always feel so self-conscious when I go to the gym. It seems like people there are competing with who can lift more or run faster. Never once in the yoga class did I feel embarrassed or uncomfortable. Well, mentally I was comfortable; my body was a whole different story.

    As I mentioned before, I was a competitive dancer for 16 years and I thought this would be my secret weapon. I was very wrong. I was trained to keep my toes pointed and have elegant and poised hands (my fingers still go into ballet form automatically when I'm stretching). Your hands and feet pretty much do the exact opposite in yoga. Feet are flexed most of the time and your hands are wide open. I was hoping my flexibility would come back naturally but I guess after not dancing for 12 years you have to retrain your body and muscles. This became apparent when I could not come anywhere near touching my toes. I decided that one of my “Yoga Goals” in this journey is to be able to once again touch my toes (stay tuned for updates).

    Me at age 6 really embracing my inner Ballerina (not quite sure whats going on with my smile here). 

     

    The class ended with some mindful meditation and stretches. She had us lie on our back and close our eyes and allow our body to relax and almost melt into the mat. As I laid there she walked around the class with more essential oils and talked a very calming manner. Her meditative talk was very inspiring and helped me fully relax in my body. I really liked this meditation part and thought it was such a peaceful ending to the class.

    The only complaint I had about the class was, at times, it was hard to follow the instructor's movements and concentrate at the same time. A lot of the poses involved keeping your eyes and focus down. It seemed like I was breaking the pose and my concentration every time I had to look up to see what the instructor was doing. I think as I get more familiar with the poses and flow I won't have to keep looking up every two seconds to make sure I’m doing them right.

    How I felt for most of the class. 

    Overall I was very happy with my first yoga class. It was challenging at times, but this only made me want to practice and learn more. I loved how calming it was and really enjoyed how relaxed I felt afterwards- both mentally and physically. I look forward to learning more about this practice and hopefully gaining back my strength and flexibility. I also hope to ease some of my stress and anxiety through mindful meditation and breathing. If you have ever thought about taking a yoga class I would highly recommend you trying one. Most facilities have package deals for beginners, and that’s the best way to shop around for Yoga instructors and studios that align with your goals. I am so excited that I have started this journey and look forward to experiencing everything I can with yoga.

    Namaste,

    Ellie

    Me pretending to look like I know what I'm doing. My boyfriend says I look like Rafiki from the Lion King. 

    Let the Journey Begin!

    Let the Journey Begin!

    Let's get something straight. I am not an athletic person. I haven’t been to the gym in over two years. Sometimes I get winded from walking up two flights of stairs. I buy yoga pants strictly to drink wine and watch Netflix in. And to my family's disbelief, I managed to get a D in gym my 8th grade year. Dance classes were something I participated in from ages 2-18, but I never really considered this a form of exercise- it was more of a hobby. In my twenties I dabbled in a variety of exercise classes, fitness DVDs, and different gym memberships. I would always lose motivation after a few days and go back to my normal habits, feeling defeated.

    Pitch Perfect

    Fat Amy from Pitch Perfect is my spirit animal.

    I have always envied those who truly enjoy working out, but personally have never been able to find the inspiration to stick with it. I’m realizing how important it is to be healthy and I want to start feeling better both physically and mentally. This is why I have decided to go on a fitness journey and open myself up to as many different types of activities as possible (and I hope I will find one that I absolutely love).

    I am a firm believer that anything can be more attainable with a positive attitude and good sense of humor. I rarely take myself seriously and I'm not expecting to become one of those people who claims, “Spin is Life”. I hope this journey does change me in some ways. Getting rid of my muffin top and underarm jiggle would be a huge plus. But, I promise you, I won’t become, or pretend to become, one of those workout snobs who only eat skinless chicken breasts, run 5ks every weekend and meditate every morning (I like to sleep in. Sleeping will always be my favorite past time).

    This experience won't be easy, and I promise not to sugar coat anything. I will tell you everything from my own perspective- the good, the bad and the ugly (and let me tell you.. so far my yoga poses are just that).

    Yoga Poses

    I question myself in every pose.


    I’m sure many of you are trying to find a  sense of motivation and dedication in yourselves, just like me. I hope you can relate to my posts and experiences and, if anything, my stories will add a smile or laugh to your day.

    This blog isn’t just about me though. It’s a collaborative effort from everyone on our inspiration.fit team. On top of hearing my stories and rants, our blog will also feature guest posts from people who we find inspiring- both on a fitness and emotional level. Our team is made up of women and men of various ages and diverse backgrounds. I already know this sounds cliché, but we really find inspiration in each other. We believe inspiration is contagious (just like laughter) and we want our blog to be your one stop shop for relatable, and sometimes humorous, inspiration.

    Each month we will feature a new activity or class. (Side note: I am hoping we will forget about crossfit. This is something I know I will be extra horrible at as my arms get tired just walking around the supermarket carrying two bottles of wine.) For our debut month we have decided to focus on.. You guessed it.. Yoga!

    We're all really excited to introduce our yoga pants to actual exercise. 

    Stay tuned for stories about my journey, interviews from industry professionals, inspiring videos, helpful and relatable tips and, if you're lucky, embarrassing photos of our team guinea pigging these new activities. We promise to keep you smiling and hope you will find our blog inspirational.

    Let the journey begin!