Hi, I’m Julie. I’m a recovering cardio-exercise addict and this is my journey towards making peace with myself and incorporating Yoga along the way.
I’ve been addicted to over-exercising since secondary school. Looking back, there was a high correlation to over-exercising and my weight. Whenever I wanted to lose weight, I thought the answer was two hours of aerobic exercise a day. Aerobic exercise for me was spinning (bicycling), running, swimming, elliptical machine, dance class, body pump class, step class – anything that would make me sweat in large quantities!
Normally, I would quit exercising whenever I reached my goal weight because I was tired and exhausted from over-exercising. I also started eating all the foods I was deprived of when dieting. You know what happens next, over time, the weight comes back. And when the weight came back, I went on another diet and exercise binge. On again, off again.
After almost 20 years of this “yo-yo dieting and exercising”, I finally got fed up and wanted to stop the up and down cycle. I wanted to stop binge exercising and stop binge eating. With a lot of self-reflection and mindfulness, I learned that I had a negative association to the “cardio” or “exercise” because it meant that I was on another diet, which wasn’t a pleasant experience for me. In addition, exercise wasn’t fun anymore.
I decided to go on an “exercise detox” of sorts and stop all forms of exercise and explore what I really wanted and what I thought was beneficial for my body. I wanted to find an activity I really enjoyed doing and would want to do regardless of trying to lose weight or not. So I started hiking. I connected with two women who also wanted to hike and who have become close girlfriends today. I find their company pleasurable and the outdoor views lovely to look at.
Then again, there are the Hong Kong summers. My girlfriends and I find it uncomfortable to hike with the humidity. In addition, last year I was undergoing In-Vitro Fertilization treatments (IVF) and was encouraged by my fertility specialist to stop all forms of cardio exercise. Even hiking at a slow pace was discouraged. I think the lack of exercise, fertility drugs, stress from fertility treatments, disappointments from failed IVF attempts, plus just feeling sorry for myself created a negative feedback cycle. I had to “snap out” of this situation.
Reading up on a few fertility books, they mentioned the benefits of a Yoga practice while undergoing IVF treatment. In the past, I’ve taken an occasional Yoga class and practised at home with Yoga DVDs. Now, I was finally ready to commit to joining a Yoga studio.
Serendipitously, I received a promotion from Twango.com promoting Anahata Yoga. I took it as a sign from the universe to try it out, and I’m so glad I did! I tried as many classes from as many different instructors as possible the first month. Their Yoga skills are impressive. More importantly, I appreciate their teaching abilities and all their form corrections. I finally learned how to do a proper downward dog and twists! I never thought I would be doing inversions in my life and find Anahata a safe environment to deepen my Yoga practice.
Ironically, one of the areas I coach people in is mindfulness training. I’m surprised that it took me this long to have a consistent Yoga practice! The mindfulness that’s required in breathing and holding each pose compliments and enhances my mindfulness practice as well. I can say that Yoga has allowed me to become a better coach in this regard.
There is no point in beating myself for finding a Yoga centre in my mid 30’s but not earlier in my life. It is what it is. “Mindful attitudes” I coach clients on are self-compassion, non-judgment, kindness, acceptance, patience, joy and gratitude. If I expect them to incorporate these attitudes towards themselves, it’s only fitting that I practise these attitudes on myself as well. I believe that there are no accidents in life and that everything happens for a reason. I’m grateful of the life situations that have led me to become more mindful practitioner.
Recently, I asked Master Yogananth what classes he recommends for women who want to enhance their fertility. I am grateful for his suggestions – distress, detox and Yoga therapy – and confident that Yoga plus the other treatments and therapies I’m taking will bless me to become a mother one day.
My Yoga journey has been a symbol of my life journey. Instead of being too “results oriented” (for example, how many poses I can hold and for how long, how many IVF attempts I need to go through, how many pounds I have to weigh, how many hours I need to work out, etc), I try to be more mindful of the process and enjoy the ride as much as possible (such as how breath affects Yoga pose, being grateful of present moment, finding the joy in yoga and swimming, etc.)
Life is too short to be stressed out all the time and to exercise all the time. For a recovering cardio-exercise addict, I find that balance, variety, and moderation with mindful sprinkles of self-compassion, gratitude, and acceptance are the recipe to having a joy-filled life.