The Daily Discipline of Pushups
The first thing I do every morning when I get out of bed is to do 30 pushups. It’s also the last thing I do every night before I climb into bed. That may not sound like a very “yoga” thing to do, but it’s a discipline I adhere to that I believe has been very good for me.
I’m 50 years old so, if you’re younger, you can do more. I will probably gradually work up to 40 or so just to show off but 30 is plenty for conditioning purposes.
To some, 30 may sound like a lot… so I want to share how I worked up to that number. I used a very simple method that I use for most difficult things: I did started with something very easy that I knew I could do: One pushup.
I used to do a lot of pushups when I was younger, but around the age of 45 or so I noticed a lot of what doctors call crepitus in my shoulders – horrible, crunching sounds from wear and tear on my joints – whenever I did pushups. It bothered me. Yet I found that if I did pushups, it actually reduced the crunching noises, as though the exercises free up the tissue adhesions and let the shoulders move more freely.
That’s when I decided to start doing regular pushups. As I said, I started on month and, on the first day of the month, I did one pushup first thing when I got out of bed and another single pushup before I got into bed. My wife chuckled at my rigorous exercise program. But like the old Greek story of the farmer who lifted the baby calf onto his shoulders everyday… until, when the calf grew into a bull, he found he could still lift the bull… I kept doing as many pushups as the days on the month went along. On Day 2, I did 2 pushups. On Day 3, I did 3 pushups. By the time I reached Day 30, I was doing 30 pushups in the morning and 30 at night.
I stopped at 30 because I didn’t want to make it too hard. I’ve found that if I push myself too hard in my yoga practice or anything else, I start to procrastinate and avoid things. For me, thirty pushups is just about right: hard enough to work my chest and shoulder muscles, not so hard that I am tempted to skip a day.
For me, hatha yoga – the physical side of yoga — is all about the creation of daily exercise, cleansing and stretching habits like this. I have many of them which I will be sharing periodically on this site. But for beginners, I believe people will benefit from starting with one, very un-yoga-like but highly beneficial exercise: daily pushups. Men, especially, like this exercise because it gives them a hard, chiseling, defined chest and strong arms; but women, too, can benefit from daily pushups. The trick is to start slowly… just one a day, two times a day… and build up slowly. If you think 30 pushups will be too difficult, try adding another pushup every other day. Or even every third day. The key, as in yoga, is consistency and daily practice.
Jump out of bed, stretch, do a few sun salutations if you want, and then drop and give me twenty! You’ll be glad you did.