My real health and fitness journey started somewhere around 2001 or 2002 when I first moved to Dallas from East Texas. I was single, starting my career, and searching for answers about life and love in general. I had a lot on my mind — a lot of internal demons to face and spiritual questions to answer. I trusted very few people. I was slowly starting to give up some lifestyle practices and relationships that had occupied most of my time and energy for years. What to replace these things with in my life? Like a lot of young, single professionals, I bought a gym membership. It changed my life.
I wasn’t overweight, but stress, poor eating, binge drinking and other lifestyle habits had drained my energy significantly. I now had huge pockets of time to plant myself on the elliptical machine and read through books that were formerly daunting like “Knowing God” by J.I. Packer. Sometimes I could only read a few sentences at a time and then spend the next 45 minutes on the machine processing what I read. I would pray. I would think.
One week I decided to drop in on the gym’s Power Yoga class. I found a huge blessing there in the form of a yoga instructor named Delia. Namaste to you, Delia, wherever you are. She was the perfect balance of challenge and down-to-earth acceptance for me. She was the first person I ever heard advise me to “trust my body” when going into a pose. She taught me how to breathe relaxation down my body, something that served me for years during both my natural childbirth experiences. No one had ever suggested that I do those things, and they were life changing. Here is what those two small things mean to me.
Trust your body. Our bodies are so amazing. If you are really in tune with how your body feels at its optimum and you spend time just sitting still to listen to it each day, you will know far before you start experiencing symptoms that you are fighting off an illness. You can tell if you need more sleep. You can sense your own tension and do something to treat it. The key to trusting your body is to trust it enough to obey what it is telling you. If it tells you that you need more sleep, you do. Make room in your schedule. Cancel something. Get a sitter. Have a bath. This practice serves me greatly with the added tool of essential oils, because the oils can facilitate the healing that my body is requesting. Listening to your body is also very important in parenting to supply you with the energy that you need, even when you are a “slightly older” parent like I am.
Breathe. We breathe automatically, right, so what’s the big deal? I knew from years of singing in choirs and individually that the way we breathe makes a huge difference. The kind of breathing that we do when we are stressed is a shallow, gasping type of breath. It supplies oxygen at the bare minimum. The most effective and supportive type of breath is the deep breath that comes from your stomach and lifts the diaphragm. In yoga, there is also the cleansing ujjayi breath which goes in and out of the nose with force. Just taking the time to breathe deeply can make such a big difference in your serenity. I like to do deep breathing and pray. I have a very excitable nature and I honestly believe that knowing how to breathe this way has allowed me to step back and surrender more of my natural tendency to control.
Those years were the start of my journey to fitness. As I listened to my body more and more, I realized that I felt sick after eating some supposedly healthy foods. Meat was something that consistently made me feel slow and heavy, and left a kind of pit in my stomach, so I became a lacto-ovo-pescatarian (a vegetarian who eats eggs, milk, and fish) in 2003 and have been since.
I expanded my healthy activities to rollerblading on the nearby Katy trail, cycling with my boyfriend-and-then-husband, and lots and lots of walking and more yoga during my pregnancies. As you might have noticed, my fitness journey has had very little, if anything, to do with my weight. It’s true that I’ve maintained a pretty steady weight for the last 10 years, although my muscle tone levels have come and gone. But for me, my journey is truly more about the mind than the body.