Words by Lindsey Powell
My Yoga story.
The day I found yoga I never looked back. I was well over 200 pounds with no idea on how to get back in shape, struggling with anxiety and depression. When I finally made the decision to get into the gym, I started where most people do, I purchased a gym membership and jumped on the treadmill. As I attempted to run off the weight, sweating profusely and feeling like I might actually die, I found myself dreading every day in the gym. I was continuously fighting off shin splints, making sounds that I can only imagine sounded like a dying goose, and worst of all, I was not seeing any progress. I was losing the motivation quickly.
It was at this moment, when I was ready to give up, that I saw a group of ladies with yoga mats strapped to their backs walking to the group exercise room. I had dabbled around with yoga in the past, attempting to follow various TV and home yoga programs, but it was never something I took seriously. I remember thinking to myself “what can that actually do for me… I’m fat!”, but out of ideas and running low on motivation I decided to give it another try. (I mean.. what could it hurt, it can’t possibly be any worse than that god awful treadmill.)
After that first class finished, I was hooked! I had stepped into a power yoga class that forever changed my life; learning how to breathe effectively, stretch and torque my body, build strength and control, and how to flow from one pose to the next. This was it! I found that I loved yoga because I finally had something to help me build a healthier body and a balanced mind. Not only did I fall in love with yoga, I began to love my body a little more with each class, and I felt my anxiety and depression start to fade away. For the first time in a long time, I started to feel comfortable in my own skin again, and see the progress that I was so desperately hoping for.
With every pound I lost and every class I took, I wanted to take care of my body more; I found myself naturally wanting to eat better and make healthier and more active choices, without even really thinking about it. That’s how it starts and that’s what keeps you going, find the one thing that makes you feel better about yourself and gives you confidence.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline that includes breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, that is widely practiced for spiritual, mental, and physical health. While there are many different varieties of yoga, they break down into two basic categories, Traditional and Modern.
Traditional, or Hatha, Yoga seeks to improve physical and mental health by improving your spiritual health and vise versa. It focuses on improving your life force (Prana) by aligning and empowering the intersections (Chakras) of the channels (Nadis) that carry the life force through your body. If you didn’t catch all that, don’t worry, that’s as far down that road as we are going.
Modern Yoga takes a more practical, less spiritual approach to improving mind and body health through meditation, breathing control, and poses. This is what is taught in the vast majority of classes in the U.S., including my own.
Why is Yoga a good place to start?
A common misconception people have about Yoga is you have to be skinny and flexible to do yoga… wrong! Yoga helps you become more flexible and helps shape your body along the way. The more you practice and train, the more progress you make. Think of it like lifting weights, you do not just wake up one day and have a toned physique or big muscles, you train!
As a trainer, I recommend yoga to all people who are just beginning their fitness journeys, and even to seasoned athletes. Learning, and allowing yourself, to be in the moment and focused on each part of your body is very important both at the beginning of your fitness journey and as you continue to push yourself harder and further in the future.
Yoga is a slow, controlled, and low impact practice that allows you to safely find your body’s limitations, abilities, and needs. It lets you to push your limits slowly and safely at any commitment level. Whether you practice a couple of times a month, to a couple of times a week, you will see improvement in your flexibility and coordination.
Yoga is great for beginners, seniors, and rehabilitation. While practicing yoga, you are increasing your muscular strength and endurance through lifting and supporting your own body weight. Most importantly, yoga does not add unnecessary stress to your joints that weight training has been known to do.
However, it can prepare your body to handle weight training and endurance training in the future, should you choose that fitness path. If you are not accustomed to weight training, upon beginning this type of workout, there is a higher risk of injury.
Something I can’t get enough of, is the stress relief and relaxation yoga provides. Utilizing controlled breathing techniques can help you not only to flow through yoga poses, but through your day-to-day life. I found myself using my “Ujjayi” breath, in which you inhale and exhale through your nose controlling your breath, during stressful or aggravating day to day activities – such as driving, parenting, and marriage.
To practice, start by inhaling through your nose, filling your lungs and expanding the lower abdomen, filling the belly, then the ribcage, and finally allowing the air to enter your throat. You will feel your breath become warm inside of your throat, as you exhale slowly through your nose.
Yoga started out as a spiritual practice for Hindu followers in northern India over 5000 years ago. Today, it is practiced all over the world by people looking for spiritual enlightenment and by people who are just looking for a great workout. There is no wrong way to yoga, make it your own.
A simple exercise to learn posing, breath control, and flow is the Sun Salutation. This is a great exercise that is good for almost any age or ability group. Try it throughout your day and just do it until you start to tire out.
- Beginning at the front of your mat, stand in Mountain Pose. With your feet side by side, hips width apart, you should let your arms hang\ freely by your side leaving your palms open and facing forward. Close your eyes and begin focusing on your “Ujjayi” breath, inhaling and exhaling slowly through your nose.
- On an inhale, swing your arms upward and reach up to the sky. Stretch your entire body upward, you should feel the stretch through your entire body as you reach. Hold the stretch as long as you feel comfortable. Then upon exhale, dive forward extending your arms out to the sides hinging only at the hips as you move into Fold Forward stretching down. Focus on keeping your back straight and pulling your belly-button up towards your spine as you fold. You can keep your knees as bent as needed here, until you are comfortable keeping them straight.
- As you dive forward continue to exhale through your nose, as you break 90 degrees begin to reach down to the mat with your hands, again bending your knees if needed. Once you have completed your exhale, lift up slightly and take another deep, slow inhale while you settle back into the stretch. You should feel the stretch from your calves up through your hamstrings and on into your back. For your next exhale, plant your hands to the mat and step back with each leg until you are in Plank position.
- Once in plank, take another slow deep inhale and lower both knees down to the mat. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders during this move. Begin your exhale and start to roll down to the mat beginning with your thighs, then your waist, to your belly, bending the elbows as you lower yourself to the mat. With your palms still planted on the mat, keep your elbows close to your body as you bring your chest and finally your forehead to the mat. Pressing into your palms, inhale. Raise the upper body as far as you are able, keep the hips pressed into the mat and your gaze looking forward as you move into the Cobra Pose.
- Exhaling, release the pose rolling back down to the mat. Inhale, lift your body back into the kneeling plank, then tuck your toes under and lift into a full Plank. Exhale and press the hips high to the sky moving into the Down Dog Pose.
- In Down Dog, your hands are still shoulders distance apart and your toes should be facing forward. Your head needs to hang freely in between your arms, allow the neck to lengthen downward and relax. If you find it difficult to press the heels to the mat, that is okay. Keep your knees slightly bent to take the pressure off your muscles as needed.
- To stay in your flow of a Sun Salutation, once you exhale into a Down Dog from Plank, you should pause long enough to inhale, then exhale. Step both feet forward until you are standing back at the front of your mat in the Forward Fold position. Inhaling, sweep the arms out to the sides, lifting the body and reach for the sky. Exhale, allowing the arms to fall back to your sides ending where you began in Mountain Pose. Repeat.
Meet Lindsey Powell
In short, I am a 32 year old mother of two, a hometown girl, and an absolute fitness junkie with a passion for helping others reach their health and fitness goals.
I am a Nationally Certified Yoga Instructor through Yoga Fit. I have five years of group and individual instruction experience, with a focus on rehabilitation and weight loss. I am also a Nationally Certified Personal Trainer and Group Exercise Instructor through ISSA and the YMCA, with extensive experience in program design, strength training, weight loss, and healthy aging. Professionally, I have trained with multiple gyms and private training studios, and currently train and instruct at the Hood County YMCA.
As stated above, I am the mother of two wonderful children with my high school sweetheart, husband of 13 years, and fellow fitness enthusiast, Michael Powell. We have an 11 year old son and a five year old daughter that keep us very active. Like so many families, my husband and I spend most of our free time running around like crazy people, sprinting from one youth sports or school event to another! I am also a Granbury High School graduate (Class of 2004… Go Pirates!), the former Mrs. Fit Texas, and the current Mrs. Granbury.
Why should you listen to anything that I have to say? Okay, so I know what you’re thinking… “Great, another skinny chick that’s never had to struggle with diet or weight a day in her life is going to tell me how easy it is to be fit!”. Well, before you stop reading, let me tell you about my struggles and my fitness journey.
Some years back, I started to put on weight at an alarming pace, I had changes in my mood and personality, and most frustrating of all – nothing I did seemed to help. I found myself weighing over 200 pounds. At this time, I became pregnant with my second child. After her birth, my health only got worse, I struggled with postpartum depression, anxiety, more weight gain; numerous health issues began to mount. I hated the way I looked and felt. I was absolutely miserable! I tried medication, diets, and working out on my own, but I never felt comfortable and I wasn’t seeing results.
Then, I found yoga and everything started to change. I learned how to include the principles of yoga and fitness into every aspect of my life and change my body in a healthy and sustainable way. Over the next year I lost some 60 lbs., I was able to come off of all prescription meds, and most importantly, I finally felt good about myself. From that moment on, I knew I had found my true passion and that I wanted to help as many people as I could.
Photo by A+C Photography