One major challenge since returning to the States has been not getting completely fat. I realize that may sound insensitive and ignorant, but trust me, it is not. The sedentary, car-based American lifestyle, replete with processed sugary- and junk-foods, is the perfect recipe for obesity. It took a while to notice just how rapid and devastating the effects were because, obviously, I was pregnant when I arrived. Once I had given birth, all of the natural postpartum phases followed. For a while I still looked pregnant. I continued to wear my maternity jeans for a few months. I had a little Buddha belly that was more like a front muffin top. But, I believed I was on my way. Slowly, but surely, I would go back to normal.
Then, about nine months into the process, the losing trend seemed to reverse! We have never had a scale in our house, so I can't say for sure, but my clothing was not fitting the way it should. Everything was tighter and more uncomfortable. It was undeniable that I was gaining weight! I was horrified.
I was also insanely stressed and busy and overwhelmed, so a year went by and I just sort of hovered at this place where, at every doctor's appointment or check-up, I was 10 or so pounds heavier than when I had gotten pregnant with Theo, and 15 pounds heavier than I had been before Coco. When we decided to have Theo, I was still nursing Coco, so I just assumed the extra five pounds were related to nursing. Fine. But the other 10? They were wholly unaccounted for!
The first time I lived in Switzerland, in Neuchâtel in the Suisse Romande, or French-speaking side, I gained 15 pounds and needed a super quick way to lose the weight fast when I got back to the US. That year in Phoenix, Bikram Yoga became my favorite thing. I started practicing Bikram a few times per week and within two or three months, the weight was gone! I continued practicing for another six months and by the time our wedding rolled around, I was slim and toned and looked and felt great.
So back at the end of January, determined to dive into my resolution before the month was over, I went back to Bikram for the first time in over five years. It's no exaggeration that I fully expected to die in that first class. But, as luck would have it, I accidentally went to a Baptiste class, which is much cooler, and it felt great. That gave me all the false confidence I needed to agree to a work-for-trade position at the front desk, fully locking myself into dedicated practice for the long haul.
My first actual Bikram class, I had to leave the room. I barely hobbled to the door and lowered myself to the floor just outside the door. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. I sat there for nearly 15 minutes before I could get up and refill my water bottle and head to the showers.
After two months, I hadn't lost any weight and my practice was spotty at best. I felt really disheartened. I was dealing with a pretty severe diastasis recti and feeling more weak and out of shape than I have ever felt in my entire life. How I lamented the loss of daily exercise I hadn't even noticed I was getting in Zurich. Without a car, I was walking miles every day just as a matter of course. Here, I see moms out running or walking through the residential neighborhoods in workout clothes. They're setting aside time to actually go nowhere. It seems so inutile; as much as I love walking, I just can't bring myself to do it. I desperately miss the fast-paced, destination-driven city walking.
I seemed to be going nowhere with my yoga practice, but with the work-for-trade position, I kept going. The thing I love about Bikram is that every class is different. It's extraordinarily physical with the heat and the humidity and the postures. But, the more challenging aspect by far is the emotional one. Nothing can hide or escape in there. Sadness, anger, regret, it all gets churned up and unpacked and pushed to the surface. It's not unusual to experience dizziness or nausea in that room. Nor is it unusual to feel panic, dread or profound sadness - or the opposite. I've both cried and found myself bubbling over with mirth in Bikram classes.
I tried not to get to discouraged and to remember the mantras my teachers over the years had given me: Alignment before depth. Stay with your breath. Breathe into the discomfort. The signs of progress were miniature. I noticed I could lift my legs a few centimeters higher in Locust. My breath was more steady and I didn't have to take as many breaks in Savasana. And then, a couple weeks ago, something clicked. I was able to get into Camel for the first time since returning to yoga. Then I got into Bow. I didn't just feel alive at the end of class, I felt good. I could feel my spine and legs getting stronger. I had more energy. My clothes were looser and more comfortable.
Six months. It took six months to get back to a normal practice and to the very beginnings of seeing results. I can't believe how quickly my muscles, posture and tone had gone out the window. But this much is certain, I'll never let that happen again. It's not easy, especially when the wider culture and day-to-day lifestyle don't support it. How do you stay fit? Or is it an area in your life that needs more attention?
(Bikram infographic via)