Thursday, January 22, 2009

Let's Get Ready to Yoga!

First, the update: I weighed in today at 371 lbs, which puts me at 34 lbs, which is 2.5 lbs up from where I was last week. I'm not too surprised, nor am I too concerned, as the gain results from being sick. We had a round of stomach flu hit our house early this week, and all I wanted to do was rest and eat toast. Now that I'm feeling better, I'll get back to being more active and eating better. And now, here it is, as promised, my guide to yoga products for the beginner.

I think yoga is a great form of exercise, especially for people who are somewhat out of shape, because you can start slow, go at your own pace, and modify the poses to suit your body type and level of flexibility. Yoga increases strength, stamina, flexibility, and balance, and I find it an enjoyable form of exercise (and I am easily bored by most forms of exercise.) So, how does one get started? Well, the first thing you need is a yoga mat. Since yoga is practiced barefoot, the yoga mat gives cushioning and, more importantly, traction to the practitioner (after all, you don't want your feet to fly out from under you when you're balanced in triangle pose.) Yoga mats come in a standard size, usually 2 feet wide by 5.5 feet long, but you can get them in almost any color, and even in patterns. You can also find longer, wider, or thicker mats, even antimicrobial mats, if you feel you have a need for one. In most cases, the standard mat will do. If you're going to travel with your mat, such as to a class or on vacation, you may want to invest in a mat bag or a harness strap for carrying. Other props that I recommend for beginners are a strap, a small blanket or bath-size towel, and a brick or block. The strap and the brick or block are helpful for modifying poses, and the blanket or towel can be folded and used for extra cushioning under the knees for kneeling poses. You can sometimes find starter kits that have a mat, a strap, and a block or set of blocks, or you can purchase items separately. You could also improvise props from items around the house: an old necktie or belt could be a strap, a small, sturdy box could be used as a block. I'll put some links to various sites that sell yoga supplies at the end of this post.

Now that you have your mat and props, you need a workout to follow. Here are some of my favorites:
Yoga Journal's Yoga for Beginners featuring Patricia Walden. This is a great dvd to start with. Patricia Walden takes you through a number of basic standing poses, some bends, and some seated poses, and also shows you some modifications to the poses. She takes you through the poses slowly and gives you time to learn each pose correctly, which is an important first step, especially if you intend to eventually move on to flow yoga. I have this on VHS, and I understand that the dvd has more content, so I may have to upgrade soon. I also noticed that there's a companion dvd, Yoga Journal's Yoga for Beginners II, that focuses more on seated poses and twists. I might have to check that one out.
Yoga Conditioning for Weight Loss featuring Suzanne Deason. This has been my workout of choice lately. It's a longer workout -- I think it's about 45 minutes in all -- that's broken into 3 parts. The warm-up focuses on establishing a breath-body connection through seated twists, a standing sun-salutation-type sequence, and some kneeling poses. The main section consists of a number of standing poses and bends, and she has you stay in the poses for a long time. The final section is mostly floor poses and more seated twists. One of the things I really like about this workout is that there are 4 people on the screen: Suzanne Deason does the full poses, but she has 3 other people demonstrating modified poses for people of different fitness levels. One thing to remember with this workout is to only do what you feel you can do. If you can't do all the poses at first, or if you can't stay in them as long as the instructor does, do what you can and gradually work up.
Yoga: Just My Size with Megan Garcia, and MegaYoga by Megan Garcia. Megan Garcia is a plus-size model and yoga instructor who saw the need for modifying yoga poses to suit larger bodies. This dvd and book are the result. The dvd workout takes you slowly through a number of poses and then repeats the sequence a little faster; it also allows you to go directly to each pose, the warm-up, or cool-down from the main menu and access modifications to the poses. The book features even more poses with modifications, and has recommended pose combinations for 30-, 60-, and 90-minute workouts. These products are great resources for plus-size yoga practitioners.
Yoga for Back Care featuring Rodney Yee. As a plus-size person, I am prone to lower back pain, but I find that doing this workout always helps. Rodney Yee takes you through a gentle workout focusing on stretches, using a chair and strap to modify poses.

One last thing: whenever you get a new workout dvd, I recommend that you watch it once before you try it to familiarize yourself with the workout sequence. That way you'll know which props you may need and when. and remember, never try to do more than you're ready to do.

Yoga product sites:
and, of course,

And no, I'm not getting paid by anyone to mention these products or sites.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Trying to Beat the Winter Blahs

I hate winter. When I was a kid, a snowstorm meant getting the day off from school and playing all day in the snow, so of course I loved winter back then. Now that I'm an adult, however, a snowstorm means having to clear the cars and driveway, as well as driving to work in crappy conditions (at least, it did when I had a car to drive and a job to drive to.) Even when it's not snowing, you have ice, wind, and severe cold to deal with, not to mention the lack of sunlight, all of which leaves me feeling generally apathetic. Some days, the only thing that persuades me to leave the warm, comfy cocoon of my bed is the call of nature. This winter, I'm trying my best to not slip too deep into the winter blahs. Eating a healthier diet is helping, as it's giving me more energy; making sure I exercise regularly also helps. If the weather's too crappy to get out to Curves, then I'll do yoga at home (I'll rate some of my favorite yoga products in an upcoming post.) But what's really keeping me motivated is seeing my continued progress: as of this past Tuesday, I'm at 368.5 lbs, a total loss of 36.5 lbs! Woohoo!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

It's a New Year, It's a New Day, It's a New Life...

and I'm feeling pretty damn good! (Apologies to Nina Simone.) I did gain a bit of weight over the holidays, probably about 10 lbs., but I've taken off most of what I gained. Here's where I am now:
Weight: 373 lbs, for a total loss (TL) of 32 lbs.
Bust: 55.5 inches, TL 5 inches.
Waist: 59 inches, TL 1.5 inches.
Abdomen: 63 inches, TL 1.5 inches.
Hips: 63.5 inches, TL 1 inch.
Thigh: 31 inches, TL 1.5 inches.
Upper Arm: 17 inches, TL 1 inch.
BMI: 56.7 points, TL 4.9 points.

I was looking in the mirror earlier this evening and trying to figure out whether I could see the difference now that I've lost over 30 lbs. I could see it in my face a little but that was just about it. Then, as I was uploading this month's photo, I happened to see it next to my start photo. Wow, what a difference! I know I'm still a long way from my ultimate goal, but it's good to see progress on the way. It helps to keep me motivated.