Get the Best From Your Exercise

Yoga: Tuning In

yoga abstract

I began teaching group fitness back in the 80’s. Remember the high-impact jumping up and down and “No Pain, No Gain” and “Go for the Burn!” Well, that was me! I was super energetic and perky. Then I thought I’d earn a little more money and decided to do the mercenary path of management and administration. On one level it probably kept me from injury; however, it was the most unsatisfying and unhappy part of my life.

I remember clearly when a customer, Haris Lender, (permission to use name?) invited me to her yoga class. She had observed me in my manic perfectionist best, working until late in the evening, sometimes to the next morning! Of course it was never enough, sound familiar?

How Yoga Changed My Life

I finally left the management job and began searching for a new career. As I searched I first practiced the physical practice of Yoga, called Hatha Yoga. Slowly, I learned that Yoga is so much more than poses. It provides a wonderful tool box for improving quality of life. I learned about the importance of the breath, called Pranayama, and how it could help me center and concentrate and be more peaceful. Then the studio I attended began a program called “Be a Yogi” inviting students to deepen their practice. I signed up!

Amazingly, not only did I deepen my practice, I also found my purpose in life, my Dharma. Yoga brought me to me. Yoga is about tuning in to our authentic self, our true nature and it gives us practices to help us do so. I slowly got back in physical condition and started to teach fitness classes again. Yoga brought me back to teaching—however, now on a deeper level. I had the wonderful tools of Yoga, a science and philosophy, to bring into every class I teach and to every person I work with.

Now Pain Means ‘No Gain’

The old philosophy of the 80’s & 90’s of no pain no gain has been reversed! Now, it’s if there is pain, there is no gain! I bring “non-harming,” the first tenet of yoga, into every class. If we are harming ourselves we are not getting stronger, fitter or more flexible. If we listen to what our bodies are telling us, we can achieve goals we never thought possible.

The science and philosophy of yoga is very simple, tune in, be present, be aware. Though simple, this may not be easy. Practice taking this attitude into every workout and it will increase the quality of results. Observe your breath–is it strained, or so light you may as well be sitting in an easy chair? Are you concentrating on what you are doing or thinking about dinner or the TV show tonight (part of the reason I do not understand the TV idea in the cardio-room)?

If we are not focused on what we are doing we increase our chance of injury and do not get the results we desire. If we can’t breathe correctly, we are not getting the oxygen to our blood cells or increasing our lung capacity or strength of our heart or muscles.

Set Goals and FOCUS

What are your goals when you walk into the cardio-room or weight-room? Observe your breath, tune into the muscles involved. Focus on how your body is feeling. Is it too much or not enough? Watch your results improve and you will feel mentally relaxed after you’ve finished each session.

Try bringing a little Yoga into everything you do. Be clear on your purpose, practice listening to your body and your breath ,and focus on what you are trying to accomplish.

Simple and revolutionary!

PennyHeffelfinger is a full time Instructor Trainer, Fitness Trainer, Swim Instructor and Coach at Safety Harbor Resort and Spa “Where Healing Waters Flow®.” She began her journey in the Fitness Industry in both Fitness and Aquatics over 30 years ago in the Chicago Area and has been working at the Spa for over nine years. She teaches Water Aerobics, Water Resistance Training, Aqua Yoga, Swimming, Water Fitness and anything to do with the water. Recently, Penny completed a comprehensive 500 hour Yoga Instructor Trainer Certification.

By Penny Heffelfinger

Article written for Destination Tampa Bay magazine