Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Limbering Up

I've just come home from a session of Body Balance, the only fitness class at the gym I attend regularly, and am feeling so loose, strong, and limber.

Many of my friends, specially the ones who knew me in high school and before, often struggle to hide their surprise when I tell them that I dabble in something that involves having to twist and stretch and push your body into funny poses. Apart from my well-vaunted reputation for athletic stupidity, I guess it's a bit difficult to imagine someone as sturdy-looking as me can be flexible enough to do the poses.

I can't blame them for it - because none of them is probably more surprised about it than me.

I was first introduced to yoga while I was studying for our medical boards a few years ago. A few friends of mine and I were bunking in to review together during the last few weeks leading to the exam and looking for a means to diffuse the stress build up in our apartment. One of them had a friend who was a real yoga master (orange robes, flowing hair and all) who was willing to come to our little HQ once a week gratis to teach us. The rest of the week, we would all wake up really early and do the sequences together on our own until he taught us a new set. It was a strange experience at first, working through the menagerie of poses named after animals that constantly challenged my often uncooperative muscles, joints, and ligaments. But I was quickly won over.

The stretches were awesome and must be experienced to be fully understood. Imagine how good you feel after one really good stretch. Multiply that great feeling by the number of muscle groups used - and that will give you a rough idea how great your body feels after a yoga work out. And as a stress-buster, the relaxation that closes each session cannot be beaten. I'd always come out of a session relaxed and centered and feeling wonderful.

The most amazing thing about it, though, was how my impossibly inflexible body actually became more pliable with every session we did. So much so that I was actually able to do my first full bridge within weeks of starting (see picture above - yes, that girl in the ratty shirt and blue jogging pants is me).

I promised myself I'd continue doing it even after the boards were over, but Real Life, as always, interfered with my good intentions. I sporadically attended classes here and there over the years - which doesn't count for much, even if it's true that your body remembers.

Body Balance is not quite as intense as yoga, but it is yoga based. This is the first time I've actually been able to do it regularly. I've been going to class two to three times a week for about three months now, and I can really see the difference it's made in my posture and my flexibility. I'm far from being capable of twisting myself into a human pretzel, but I've definitely improved a lot from baseline. And, yes, I am actually doing those back bends again!

I'm thinking of trying out a real yoga class, to get a feel of what it's like and to see if it's something I want to pursue. If that doesn't pan out, I'm quite happy with Body Balance and I highly recommend it to anyone who's starting a fitness program. It may not burn as many calories as other cardio classes, but it's really great for the body.

Okay, I'm going to take advantage of this loose and limber feeling now, get a hot shower, change into my flannel jammies, and just melt into bed. Did I already mention how amazing the post-Body Balance work out haze feels? I admit it, I'm an addict.


Manggy said...

Oh come on, Dr. Claire-- I totally believe you. I might go for something like Rainbow Rhythms (psychedelic color-based dancing, lol): gotta love the hippies, they're so non-judgmental. Is this an old pic? Parang nasa Pilipinas. (I wonder if you Aussie friends would've found it weird for you to be photographing yourself in the middle of class?)

P.S. "a few years ago." Charing! :P

dr_clairebear said...

@manggy: yes, this was taken a few years ago - not about to announce how long i've been out of med school! - in our bunk-in apartment in Pedro Gil. :) You can't see her, but the girl in full bridge beside me is the current chief resident of Pedia. :))

as for photographing myself in class, i'm flexible, but not that flexible! and i often feel pretty AFTER - but during, I must remind myself not to feel weird because I look like a dork doing everything.