Fat to Fit to First Level: Namaste from Zennessee

Yoga is an increasingly popular form of exercise, and with emphasis on flexibility, balance and deep breathing, it’s a no-brainer that yoga skills can help riding skills. Esther Roberts shares her yoga progress so far.

Well, the 21-day challenge is complete.  I’ve lost a little more weight and I’ve learned a lot more about myself, my eating habits, and food in general. Maree Thom has been patient and kind, and we’ve both learned a great deal over the past three weeks.

Since I began writing about my weight-loss journey for Horse Nation, I’ve met so many fantastic people! Each one is dedicated to getting more fit and healthy, which is a great thing. Some have ridden the same horse for a decade or more. Others are in the exciting phase of shopping for their next riding partner.

And, in similar fashion, each person is taking their own path to fitness. Some folks have had bariatric surgery. Some folks are vegetarians. Some folks follow a certain diet, such as Atkins or Primal, low carb and high protein. Our paths to health and wellness are as individual as the horses we ride.

For me personally, I now know that lower carb and somewhat higher protein work well, but not an absolute diet of “low carb/high protein.” I feel weighted down when I eat too much protein, and I “break and binge” if I have too few carbs.

Some folks need three meals each and every day. For me, eating anything after 6 p.m. impedes my efforts to shed pounds, so two meals and “4 o’clock tea” works really well.

For me, it’s important for me to work up a sweat each and every day. Some days, that means cleaning the barn and riding Kaliwohi. Other days, it’s hiking or dancing or yoga.

When I first considered taking up yoga, I remember watching a few videos and thinking (rather condescendingly, I confess), “all that stretching and slow movement and deep breathing is gonna be a WORKOUT? Come on, get real!”

And then I started my own yoga practice. WOW. What an eye-opener! If you’re a seasoned yogi, yay for you. But if you’re a beginner or you’ve not yet begun a yoga practice, maybe I can share a few tips here that you’ll find helpful.

As some of this week’s photographs show, I practice yoga outside, on my front porch. The barn cats sometimes “coach” me! I use two mats, one on top of the other, for added cushioning. I have a pair of cork yoga blocks, but that is all the additional equipment I own.

I have purchased a few pieces of “yoga” clothing, but I sometimes practice yoga in my riding breeches and a t-shirt, just to avoid one more wardrobe change; I change clothes so often throughout each day as I go from cleaning the barn to riding Kaliwohi to practicing law to evening chores. The most important things regarding yoga clothing is everything needs to be soft enough so it doesn’t rub anywhere, and it needs to fit well enough so it doesn’t bind your movement in any way.

I subscribe to yogaglo. It costs around $25.00 per month, which is far cheaper than joining a yoga studio on the side of town that actually has yoga studios. On my side of town, the farming side, you’ll find a huge John Deere dealership, two feed stores, and Cardin’s restaurant – an iconic drive-in that’s been a fixture in East Tennessee for over half a century (complete with hand-spun milkshakes and the best deep fried onion rings anywhere) – but you won’t find a yoga studio.

Tree pose. Photo by Tess McHone/Everyday Beauty Photography

One of the first yoga poses I learned was the “tree” pose. When I began my yoga practice three months ago, I could only balance my lifted foot at my ankle, and I was really wobbly and could not hold the pose for very long. These days, I can rest my lifted foot at my calf. The next phase of this pose is to get my lifted foot resting against my inner thigh.

Easy pose: my knees should be much closer to the ground. Photo by Tess McHone/Everyday Beauty Photography

Another pose – the keynote pose for Phase Two of my fitness journey –  is called “easy pose” but I have absolutely no idea why! I find this pose very challenging.   Ideally, my knees should be touching the ground! I am working on opening my pelvis (BONUS:  this also helps me sit deep in the saddle with my legs wrapped around Kaliwohi) to gradually lower my legs so they will lay flat.  Some folks can even tuck their feet on TOP of their calves.  Not me, though.


Boat pose. My knees and nose should be much closer together — and I’ll get there. Photo by Tess McHone/Everyday Beauty Photography

My keynote pose of Phase Three of my fitness journey is called “boat pose.”  I am already practicing boat pose because it will (hopefully) help strengthen my core and my spine (and maybe help flatten my oh-so-round tummy!). Hopefully, as I lose more weight and get more fit, my knees and nose will be much closer together in boat pose. And, hopefully, I will gain more balance so the brush of a cat against me won’t (I can’t help it) rock my boat!

Boat pose outtakes: Farm cat “Miss Dixie” (my yogi) brushed up against me and over went the boat! Photo by Tess McHone/Everyday Beauty Photography

Kaliwoh’s training continues to progress. I usually train alone in the mornings, and then ride again one afternoon so I can have someone take photographs to include with this column each week.

This week, my friend Amanda came over and rode Caleb, a fairly quiet Tennessee Walking Horse, in the arena with me and Kaliwohi. Getting Kiwi used to having other horses in the arena is an important step in his preparations for attending dressage shows. There was a good bit of wind, so Kaliwohi was distracted and a little on edge, apparently imagining every falling leaf was going to float down and bite him. Still, it was a good workout for both of us. Amanda and I got so engrossed in schooling our horses we totally forgot to take photographs to share! I’ll have some new photographs of Kaliwohi to share next week!

Join me on this journey on Facebook: Fat to Fit at Horse Nation (page and group), and my blog www.appalachianchic.com.


Go Riding.

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