Finding his bliss

Washougal resident gets healthy with yoga

By Jeff Cross
Special to the Post-Record

Why would I ever do Yoga? Because it gave me back 10-plus years, that’s why. Pending grandfather or not.

As a 45- plus-or-minus 50-year-old guy who works sitting all day and spends way too much time driving and flying for work, my doctor says “your lifestyle and success is going to kill you.” What a wake-up call. Yes, I know I need to workout more, eat less, drink less, cut fat and sugar — blah blah. But wait, I was young before and I could ignore all that right? Well, no.

My story is likely very similar to many who may read this in that in high school I was a football and basketball player, sprinter, and participated in other sports through college. I lifted weights, but running was not for me. As the years went by I would have spurts of exercise and weight loss blended with low-carb diets and “no-white” diets with great success, temporarily.

The problem was that none of this was sustainable and none of it was necessarily healthy long-term. In addition, I was having lower back issues complicated by pain in the outside of my right thigh, plantar fasciitis, pulled hamstrings and way too many other injuries to mention.

The bottom line was that I was falling apart from lack of use and the rationale of “preserving my body through not overusing it” was failing.

In November 2014, I joined All Pride Fitness in Washougal with a sole purpose of slowly getting into shape. My body remembered how sore it gets going back to the gym, but I did not remember being so inflexible. The thought of bending down to put my shoes on had become an exercise in holding my breath as well as a tour of all the pain points I had.

At this point, I had avoided my doctor long enough and with a history of high cholesterol and rising blood sugar I went in and got the bad news based on the routine physical and blood work. I negotiated a six-month pill reprieve with my doctor in order to “take back my health.”

So in January 2015, with a couple of months of proven attendance at the gym, I happened across a flyer for Body Bliss Yoga in Washougal. With a chuckle, I thought about going. I asked my wife and she said “yoga is not for me.” I asked a few other buddies what they thought about me going to yoga class and they just gave me an odd stare. I was sure that the class would help me stretch and improve my flexibility and help me with the weights, so I decided to go to a class later at night so no one would see me.

I received a warm welcome, but was hit with frou-frou smells and lots of non-manly colors and decorations, but I did not leave. The instructor told me the next class was yoga fundamentals and that would be a good one to learn how to do yoga. So I stayed. I borrowed a mat, took off my socks and shoes, which seems strange for a workout, and tried to copy everyone else’s actions as we worked through the class.

I realized very quickly that yoga does not only mean stretch, it means aerobic workout. While they kept saying go at your own pace and be careful, I wanted to do my best and so I pushed. About 8.2 minutes into the class, I was pouring sweat to the point that I was afraid the river would hit my neighbor, a 40ish woman who was obviously a long time practitioner.

I also kept hearing the instructor say “relax your face.” Well I was — I thought — but actually I was the guy with the grimace that was simultaneously mimicking the 40ish woman doing the “Warrior 2” stance and trying to remember to move my front knee out, engage my core and relax my shoulders.

I survived the class and felt so refreshed and spent at the same time, I decided I would try it again the next day.

My experience from then on was one of learning the yoga “flow” and positions and trying to work as hard as I could during the classes I could attend. The style of yoga taught by Body Bliss is Vinyasa or “flow by breath.” I was so glad they did not require me to chant or do any other things outside my comfort area, but clearly part of the yoga lore.

Fast forwarding to today, here are some initial statistics: 28 pounds of weight loss, a three minute improvement in my mile run time, 6 inches in my waist gone, and best of all my kids making comments about how I replaced my “keg” stomach with a four pack. Coworkers tell me I look 10 to 15 years younger. The nagging pains down my leg and aches in my back are gone. I have not been sick since I started. When I travel for work, I have become a yoga studio tourist and always have found that the best place is right here in Washougal at Body Bliss Yoga owned by Angie Cherry and Kristine Archer. These two ladies are fantastic and give much more to our community than a yoga studio. I appreciate them both tremendously.

My medical labs arrived recently and I am happy to report that the combination of water/black coffee and the occasional alcoholic drink coupled with weights, yoga and running have had the following affects: Total cholesterol dropped more than 27 percent and the “bad” cholesterol dropped 33 percent. All the other parameters for a plus-or-minus 50-year-old guy are OK.

So, in fact, my six-month reprieve from the pill bottle worked and I did it. I stuck to my plan and I will keep doing it. I look and feel better. There were some hard choices between overtime at work, kids’ games and practices, as well as all the other life demands. But the lack of movement was killing me and I owe it to myself to make sure I will be here for another 50 years. Heck, now I will be a grandfather in February so there is one more reason to stay fit and keep doing yoga.