It has been suggested by people who know me (and some people I pay to know me) that perhaps my weight loss is so glacial because I am supremely stressed. Yes, I know – we’re ALL stressed – that much I will grant you. But while many are lucky enough to have stable personalities allowing them to take it all in stride, there are the others of us who are fragile messes scanning the skies for the next house to fall on us. I reluctantly admit to falling into the latter category.
Unrelenting stress releases the hormone cortisol, which elevates your appetite and helps produce visceral fat – the more active kind of fat which settles deep in your belly and can interfere with liver function as well as wreaking other kinds of havoc. This varies from the other kind of fat – subcutaneous – which lies just under your skin and poses no serious health risk – unless you’ve got so much of it that you’re obese. To help alleviate stress of this nature, deep breathing exercises, antidepressants and yoga are often suggested. I’ve had my dance with antidepressants and while they helped soothe my jangled nerves, they also helped pack on 35 pounds that I wasn’t expecting. Eventually, I felt so stressed out by the additional weight that I stopped taking the meds (tapered down under doctor supervision). The deep breathing is all well and good but I needed something that didn’t give casual onlookers the idea I was a heavy breathing perv. Enter yoga.
I heard about the DVD a little while ago and rented it first to see if it looked doable. No sense in shelling out real money if you can’t stand the instructor, music, scenery or the moves resemble something along the lines of the Flying Wallendas (and look what happened to them!). It looked like something I could do (as long as no one else was in the house to witness the calamity) so I bought it for $7.99 at Amazon.com.
Let me first congratulate the producers of this DVD for using the Biggest Loser trainer and mellow fellow Bob Harper, instead of the screeching Jillian Michaels. I know a lot of you are huge Jillian fans because all that yelling motivates you but when one is trying to de-stress, being chided and humiliated is not a good jumping-off place. To me, Jillian is the female equivalent of counter-terrorism agent, Jack Bauer from “24”. I love me some Jack, especially when he’s going all Slingblade on the bad guys. I would not have such warm, fuzzy feelings if Jack were delivering the beatdown to me. Ditto on the Jillian verbal assault.
This DVD is Bob at his laid-back best; before he started dropping f-bombs all over the place a couple of seasons ago. Whatever happened to the good cop-bad cop approach that he and Jillian had going when the show first started? Who thought this bad cop-bad cop deal was such a good idea? What’s next – Biggest Loser: Reservoir Dogs Edition? Quentin Tarantino as guest trainer? But I digress. Bob hits a perfectly mellow pitch and is oh so gently encouraging in this DVD.
The workout has three levels of ability plus a five minute warm-up and cool-down. There are also the requisite disclaimers about checking with your doctor before beginning any exercise video – which we at Cranky Fitness endorse as well. Besides a DVD player, the only other piece of equipment which I’d recommend is a yoga mat; especially if you have wood floors.
The warm-up is a good mix of deep breathing and stretches which instantly helped to relax me. I selected Level 1 as I am a rank beginner at yoga and I have the coordination skills of a hippo jumping double dutch. I should caution you that if you’ve never done yoga before, it’s a little like that simplistic attitude some of us had about parenting before we actually had kids of our own: “What’s all the fuss about? How hard can it be?” Brace yourself.
This is not me (sigh)
Photo: Canon in 2D
Photo: Canon in 2D
It starts off easy enough except that Bob puts you in a downward dog position (on your hands and feet with your butt up in the air) from the get-go so that you’re facing the floor when you really want to see what’s happening on the screen. This happens at various times throughout the workout and I just took whatever liberties I needed so I could see what he was talking about. The pace was nice and slow as he worked me from one position to another (that’s not really as dirty as it sounds). I could not bend over and palm the floor or get into a plank position without granting myself some “accommodations” but that was just okey-dokey with Bob. Moving from one position to the next was a little awkward but I can see with practice that it could flow much more smoothly. There was the ever-present Forrest Gump on-screen participant doing the “Help, I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up” version of the workout so I wouldn’t feel so alone.
The yoga poses themselves were not very difficult until Bob instructed us to hold them for what seemed like an eternity, usually with one knee at a 90 degree angle to the upper leg. Oh yes, thighs will be cooking tonight. Make sure Frank Perdue and his Fry-o-later don't catch wind of this free range bird going rogue.
A difficult move for me was the plank – arms straight and supporting the upper body with a straight line down to your toes, which are supporting your lower body. Is there such a thing as “wrist splints”? I only ask because mine were screaming during any of these upper body poses. At this point, Bob wants to “test” your upper body strength and see if you can go from a plank position to a half push-up, and then into a full push-up. Maybe it’s just me but my upper body regimen is pretty much restricted to turning door knobs and threading needles. I double-Gumped my way through that one.
THIS is me.
Photo: lululemon athletica
Photo: lululemon athletica
As I neared the close of the workout I was indeed exerting myself. Muscles once lost had been found. There was ample moisture in all the right places but perhaps that was just flop sweat. I had to laugh (once I regained the use of my lungs) when Bob kept telling us to breathe throughout the workout, even if we were bent in such a way that our ass fat was impeding our diaphragms, making breathing a bit labored. Here again, that might have just been me.
All in all, I really did feel like I had gotten a good workout. Having tensed and relaxed so many muscles proved to be very relaxing once the workout was over. Yoga is not some glorified tree-hugging exercise. It really works your muscles and your core. I was sufficiently sore the next morning, which in my book makes it worth the effort.
I suppose for the weight loss benefit to kick in I would have to do this work-out more than just this one time. Kind of like eating your vegetables. Sure, I’ve eaten vegetables – back in 1979. You can’t get the desired benefit unless you repeat the process over and over.
Have any of you tried yoga? What did you think of it and have you made it part of your fitness regimen?