Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about how I’m starting the process of decoupling “weight loss” and “exercise”. I have always begun an exercise routine when trying to lose weight. But sometime last year, I started doing yoga consistently, and I was fairly clear that I wasn’t doing it to lose weight – the perception that “yoga isn’t for weight loss” is something I lowkey bought into, and that meant the pressure was off. And you know what? For the first time in my life, I’m beginning to see exercise as an end goal in itself, rather than just a means of “punishing” myself for the food I’ve eaten. I have retired phrases like “I have to burn off that pizza” – and sometimes I catch myself thinking things like “I enjoy exercising”. That is SO WILD to me! I would have never thought I’d say something like that!

Yoga for a healthier body

Breaking the notion that I DON’T enjoy exercising has made me open to many different types of exercises. MMA, something I’d have never expected I would be interested in, was a part of my plan recently. It was a high-intensity workout (for me). I genuinely feel like I was able to do it because a) I’d built a strength and flexibility foundation in yoga that made me “keep up” with other people in the class – which has always been a problem for me, b) I had the confidence that if I could attempt yoga asanas I’d never thought I’d do, then I can probably do other things also.

See, I grew up thinking that I couldn’t do a lot of things. “Sports” was basically, just “running”. And I’m going to tell you, running is not something I’ve managed to do well – still. I’m slow. I don’t have the stamina, speed, or endurance for it. And I was mocked frequently as a child because of that. It made me feel awful and it seeded a deep aversion to exercise in me. This may be hard to understand if you’ve not been through it – if you’ve not gone your entire childhood and young adult life feeling (and being TOLD!) that you’re not good at physical activity. I have spent years slowly, slowly, slowly trying to undo that aversion. That process has been up and down, but this year has been a breakthrough of sorts for me. Yoga has greatly helped with that. 

Yoga during sunrise

I know a lot of people don’t like to consider yoga “exercise”. I think that’s limiting and unhelpful. Exercise can’t be just one thing. It can’t be only about cardio. It can’t be only about lifting heavy. It can’t be only about helping you lose weight. It can be all those things, and there’s absolutely value in all of that, but it’s also so much more. So yeah, I’m going to go ahead and say that yoga is exercise. It is an exercise I enjoy. I don’t tie it to my weight loss goals. I tie it to other goals – better mental health, increased range of motion, strength, releasing chronically tense body parts, being/feeling more active, and just enjoying the process of moving. For all those goals, it has been ace.

And maybe one day I’ll try picking up running, but even if I never get into it – I’ll know it’s not the only marker of being ‘fit’.