I have a long summer stretching out in front of me. I am moving house, getting a puppy and writing a dissertation, but I figured that wasn’t enough, so I am setting some fitness goals too.
A few weeks ago I started taking a regular Ashtanga Yoga class once a week. It’s an hour an a half long, and goes through the primary series. It’s a very small class at a private studio, the most we’ve had is about 8 of us, usually there are 4 or 5. This is great for me because it means that the teacher can help each of us to improve. When I went to bigger yoga classes at university, I used to worry that I was doing it wrong; that I would strain something, and practising yoga alone at home; I could never be sure that I was doing it right. Attending this class has given me the knowledge and confidence to improve my home practice and weekly attendance helps my progress, as well as getting me out of the house for something other than work or food shopping.
I have never been particularly flexible, or bothered about being so. Yoga always seemed like a nice class to attend at the gym, and was often a social activity with friends. However, the more serious I got about my health and fitness, the more it appealed. Before I hurt my back, I was incorporating yoga into my fitness regime daily, by following 30 day yoga challenges on YouTube. I used to follow these videos daily before bed to help me wind down and stretch out. Then after my back injury, yoga and pilates were about all I dared to do. I am always one for researching the benefits of things I do and eat, so I was sure to pat myself on the back for my efforts, and the benefits definitely help.
There are the obvious benefits of yoga:
- Strength, balance, flexibility
- Bone health
- Relaxation and sleep
And the not so obvious:
- Boosts immunity
- Fights food cravings (linked to mindfulness and becoming self -aware)
- Better memory – through increased blood flow to the brain
- Better digestion – through deep breathing and twists
- Anti-ageing – blood flow to the face and head when inverted is said to help prevent hair-loss, slow down greying and stop sagging.
I have seen my flexibility improve so much since I became a more active person – even a simple stretch like this was once very difficult for me:
It’s great to see an improvement in my flexibility, but I have really got the yoga bug now and want to improve my inversions. These are the goals I have set to encourage me to practice daily.
- Be able to hold the crow pose consistently for 5 breaths – move this into crane with straight arms.
- Headstand for 1 minute
- Handstand against wall with pirouette bail.
So far, I can come up into headstand comfortably against the wall and come off the wall and hold firm for about 10 seconds. With daily practice I hope to be able to come up in the centre.
I find handstand a lot harder and have practised coming up from plank with my feet on the wall. I find coming down hard as I am yet to master the pirouette bail.
How am I doing this? Well, I have joined Yogaglo and am following a 20 minute class aimed at building strength for inversions. My summer routine is as follows:
Work out day – HIIT/Lower body strength training and yoga inversion strength training.
Rest day – Ashtanga primary series and inversion strength training.
I alternate between the two. My work out days are usually Mon, Weds, Fri and Sun, but this can vary. Thursday I attend my offical yoga class. I tend to focus on the lower body for strength training, because I much prefer it! I stick to fitness blender’s videos and use powerblock dumbbells.
Another goal of mine is to up the weights for my squats and dead-lifts. At the moment I tend to use 12lbs per hand for squats and 21lbs per hand for dead-lifts. This is comfortable, enables me to keep good form throughout and gives me a good burn. However, I want to be able to move up to 15lbs per hand for squats and 24lbs per hand for dead-lifts, whilst keeping the good form. I can definitely squat and dead-lift that weight ok, but it’s a case of maintaining good form and completing all the reps. In order to this, I will start using the heavier weight at the start of my work-out and if form starts to suffer, move back down. Hopefully, with practice and dedication, my strength will increase so I won’t need to move down a weight between sets.
What goals are you working towards and how do you hope to get there?