The only forms of exercise I know anything about are walking and yoga.
But thankfully, through years of practice, I know rather a lot about both.
In fact, when I first considered starting a blog, I could hardly decide which of my dearest interests - fashion or yoga - would make the best subject. I went with fashion by determining that it's more democratic. Not everyone does yoga (and when (s)he does, it's not necessarily at a masterclass level). Everyone, however, wears clothes and is thereby invested, pun intended. So it won on that basis. But I'm as passionate about yoga as I am about style. Lucky y'all. :-)
I find myself in the dubious position of writing first about yoga to a great group of fashion lovers who perhaps care nothing about it, go figure. And in as much as it's relevant to this theme week, I'm here to discuss it solely as a method of fitness. Now let me explain. Yoga - while it can kick your ass into gorgeous submission - is not an art and science dedicated to the ridging of your abs.
We who "do" yoga in a serious way, practice an ancient system devised to bring about meditative (actually post-meditative, but let's not get bogged down) consciousness. The road to consciousness begins in the body, this shell we inhabit and, as such, must master - or at least befriend! How can one meditate for hours at a time if one's body is impinged upon by inflexibility, weakness or misalignment?
OK, that's well and good, but isn't the universe a fine place, that we can shoot for consciousness and find fitness all at the same time? And beauty, I might add. Cuz a fit body is a strong, symmetrical and healthy one. And strength and health are very lovely.
I'm going to speak in broad terms about yoga as a method of fitness because, I imagine, this is the context in which it will appeal to the widest audience. If you'd like to chat metaphysics :-), I'm more than happy to engage, however. You know the drill: Pls. just email and we'll take it from there.
I've been practicing Iyengar yoga for 20 years, and have been certified to teach for about 15. I taught for over a decade, although (by strictest rules) one is not encouraged to train to teach the method until one is in one's thirties (the idea being that one isn't really mature enough to embrace the more punishing transformative elements of the two-year teacher training program until early middle age). In hindsight, I'm inclined to agree. Though I'm truly grateful for the path that brought me yoga - and teaching - wacky time lines notwithstanding.
For what it's worth, at eighteen, I had one of those unlikely, meditative, alchemical experiences during my very first class. One which, on the one hand, motivated me to continue learning forever but which, on the other, was not repeated by a long shot for many years to come. By now though, I think you get it. When I'm in, I'm in. Long haul be damned.
The Iyengar method, the one in which I was trained, and which I did exclusively for many years, is not the only method I know something about. I've also done a lot of Ashtanga (which is much better represented on wikipedia than Iyengar, I'm intrigued to note), some Bikram and many hybrid methods (style mashups that the Iyengar camp tends to mistrust).
Of course, in as much as one can find peace and alignment with the Iyengar method, all yogas are one. So by all means, do whichever appeals. But, if you're thinking about starting up and you want to know my thoughts about what's best to try, I strongly advise Iyengar because it's all about fostering alignment (through the use of props and very specific teaching) and anatomical awareness before you get into all the pretzely stuff.
And while you might be after yoga simply cuz you want to do the pretzely stuff, it's actually rather dangerous to fall into an extremely complex system of movement as if you are an advanced practitioner if you are, in fact, a beginner. If you happen to have spent years in dance training then, by all means, lead with Ashtanga if that's what flips your switch. But if you are too stiff to touch your toes for 5 minutes with pin straight legs and a long spine, not yet strong enough to jump from push up to push up for up to 20 minutes at a go, or unable to balance on your head, you might want to start with another school and progress. Oh, and BTW, the Iyengar system teaches all the same 87,000 poses - so you get your soooooper challenging / pretzel quotient - you just learn in a more progressive, and I feel safer, format.
Now's as good a time as any to say that I believe all systems of exercise can be meditative, and at their best they are. If you do Pilates or kick boxing or walking to get to and from work, you are as entitled to - and capable of, natch - finding the consciousness most often referenced by yogis. (So, maybe, spinning is your bliss of choice. In the same way I can find buffness with my yoga practice, spinner gals can find the meditation in their ass-kicking classes. Esp. if they learn with Enc!)
Please stay tuned for one more post about why I exercise - why we all should - coming up demain!