I often liken my overly-analytical mind to that of the sarcastic and pessimistic nature of the famed Woody Allen. It’s our thing. Neuroses just flow from us like water in a stream. To try to plug its path would end much like that poor little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike.
Suffice to say to have someone like me take on the calming nature of a soothing yoga class has routinely been an epic failure in relaxation. When I was first introduced to yoga, it was indeed just that: a slow-moving, slightly stretchy flow class that did little to relax my mind and more to highlight how loud it can be left to its own devices. I’d hold a pose and ponder what else I could be doing with my time? Did I leave the coffee machine plugged in? What should I have for lunch?
Taking yoga with a grain of salt, I embraced it as something my body really needed because as often as I tell my massage clients to stretch, I rarely follow my own advice. After shopping around for the right kind of class, I found a local studio that seems to follow its own rules. To get out of my head, I knew I needed a laid-back class dynamic, a physical layout that didn’t make me feel like I was in the army, and a teacher that didn’t project their thoughts about chakras upon me.
Breathing deeply and finding my space, I went in with an open mind.
Long story short, I have never felt so much doing seemingly so little in my entire life. No, I don’t mean deep, emotional strife; I mean the burning in my quads that made me want to beg for an amputation.
Void was the verbiage to question as to whether the instructor was speaking in tongues — a breath out was just that, a well-known transition from one movement to another was cued with do your thing. I had found my yoga happy place. The benefits of stretching, a lower-impact but still extremely challenging workout, and a teacher that seemed to get me. Pair that with softly playing oldies and I’m fairly certain I could move into this studio.
Sure, yoga is not for everyone. I get it completely. It took me quite some time to find somewhere I could tolerate, but the benefits of fitting in this brand of an active rest day, when paired with a collection of activities that are explosive, I can guarantee that you’ll last longer and perform better.
Not convinced? Here are some well-researched, tried and true benefits of yoga for athletes that, from my experience, ring very true.
Allowing your body a chance to heal, move slowly and stretch helps with proper body alignment and body mechanics. When everything is moving in the right way, in the right direction, and without issue, it’s amazing the power that can come from your well-maintained machine.
With no mirrors, at least at my studio, yoga forces you to truly be aware of your body and more importantly how it feels when it moves, not just how it looks. This translates directly to a more efficient training pattern in other activities.
All you’re doing is standing there in static (not moving) holds. Yes, but when done properly, everything should be engaged, turned on and helping keep your body moving. Ever notice the breathing habits of those doing power yoga. Yes it’s a little hippie-dippie but it’s also because they are working hard!
Yes, I have been injured doing yoga. It took a beat or two to realize there are certain poses and positions someone with my back, knee and shoulder injuries shouldn’t go too far into. But once you learn what your body needs, the stretch and holds turn on a litany of supporting/compensatory muscles. Strengthen those, and the big boys (quads, hamstrings, glutes) will feel like they are brand new.
After coming through an epic flow and find yourself at the top of your mat with your eyes closed, standing on one leg, with that floating leg dug into your inner thigh, now lift your arms and maybe sink your hips back. Your mind wanders? You fall. A delightful commentary on life, don’t you think?