Yesterday was the first ever International Yoga Day. Millions of people took to their mats to celebrate. Yoga is part of my weekly workouts and it really helps me focus on my body. But that hasn't always been the case.
I find that people fall into two categories when it comes to yoga. There are those who swear by it and proclaim it to be the absolute best form of exercise. Then there are others who think yoga is not a “real” workout and would rather lift weights or go for a run rather than waste their precious exercise time on some simple stretches. I have to admit I fell into the latter camp. Honestly, I am not someone who enjoys going to classes at the gym. I would rather do my own thing. About 6 or 7 years ago someone convinced me to try a gentle yoga class. I figured I would go early, do an full workout and then use the class as my cool down. Mistake! The next day, as my muscles were screaming at me, I realized gentle yoga was not so gentle! It was slow, calming and even relaxing and my body was thrown for a loop. Holding poses, focusing on my breathing and concentrating on how my body was feeling were all new experiences for me. Eventually the instructor left the gym for new adventures and I stopped doing any yoga. Then I started working with a trainer whose specialty is yoga. She convinced me to try her heated power yoga class. It was an incredible challenge. I no longer looked at yoga as anything less than a full body workout. That Tuesday class became the workout I dreaded but tried never to miss because I knew at the end of that class I would feel amazing! I started to take many of the lessons learned in class to my other workouts. I finally started understanding what it means to listen to your body. I get what it means to “ground down” through my foundation. It makes sense to “breathe” into my muscles. In other words, I caught on that working out isn't simply about lifting a few weights and going on a run. It is knowing your strengths and your limitations and getting the most out of each workout.
Eventually that instructor left the gym for new adventures. In my search to continue with yoga I turned to Youtube. I came across Yoga With Adrienne and really like her teaching style. She has many videos posted, including a 30 Day Challenge. I decided to try it. I love it! The videos range in length from 15-30 minutes and they are easy to incorporate into my routine. This was my first experience practicing everyday. I see a massage therapist on a regular basis and she commented that she could feel a difference in my muscles, and I was only halfway through the challenge! I am currently on my second time through. Her motto is to find what feels good and she shows many variations on the poses so you can find the best one for you.
One of the hardest things for me when I take a yoga class is to try and not compete with the uber-flexible yogi next to me. Yoga is much more than a workout for your muscles, it also works out your brain because you have to focus on so much, including how to let go and just be. That is the hardest part for many people who are too busy thinking about to-do lists, projects, chores, etc. That is why I think of yoga as a total body workout. One you won't regret even if you don't lift a weight or run one step.
When you get out of class you will want a healthy snack or meal to continue the great feeling. This recipe is so versatile you can make it as an appetizer for a party, use it as a taco filling or serve it on a bed of lettuce for a cool dinner on a hot night. There are many versions of Texas Caviar, all of which should include black-eyed peas. This is my basic version. I often change it up by replacing one can of the black-eyed peas with black beans, adding corn or subbing red onion for green. Make it your own! This is best made a few hours in advance to let the flavors come together. Be sure to taste it before serving as it may need more salt, lime juice or other seasoning.
original recipe from Simply Recipes
2 15-ounce cans black eyed peas, rinsed and drained
4 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2-3 jalapeños, seeded and chopped (if you like it spicy don't remove all the seeds)
3/4 cup-1 cup chopped tomatoes (use your favorite)
1 red, yellow OR orange sweet pepper, seeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
2 tablespoons good olive oil
juice from 1/2 lime
1 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste