An amazing thing happened tonight: I actually made it to yoga. Today was one of those crazy days where you look up, realize it’s 6:00, and wonder where the day went. I knew it would be because I have a lot on my plate. But, forever optimistic, I tossed my yoga bag in the car this morning anyway… just in case. The way I see it, not having my bag packed, my bike loaded up, or my running clothes laid out is the worst excuse to miss a workout because it is so easily avoided. (Not wanting to get out of bed Saturday morning when it was below freezing and I finally had a chance to get 8+ hours of sleep? Now, that’s a totally different story!)
With only minutes to spare, I learned some great news about one of my cases and flew out the door. It had been over two weeks since I’d made it to class, which is a really long time for me, so I was a wee bit excited. 🙂 I sat down on my mat and tried to calm my mind. Alas, it kept racing — a clear sign that I’ve been running around like crazy these days. After about 30 minutes, though, I finally settled into a groove.
I really can’t say enough great things about yoga, but I wanted to give it a try… It is hands-down the best compliment to any intense training schedule that I can imagine, and, in my opinion, should be required for anyone in marathon training.
First, there’s the core strengthening. Gaining core strength is one of the best ways to avoid injury and improve efficiency, but it’s also very different from what most people think of when they hear “strength training”. I am not talking about doing a billion reps of push-ups, lunges, or heavy weights that activate big muscles and make us feel like we worked hard. I’m talking about activating the small, but crucial muscles, in your abdominals, lower back, glutes and pelvic floor that stabilize your posture and keep you balanced. It might not feel like a lot while you’re doing it, but I promise you’ll see a huge difference! When your core is strong, everything else will follow.
Second, there’s the stretching. I say this with some trepidation because I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews about stretching lately. One camp swears that it is necessary to prevent injury, while another insists it actually accelerates injury. I’m still researching this for myself so stayed tuned! For now, I remain convinced that at least some stretching is necessary to both running and cycling. Without it, I would no longer be able to touch my toes and that can’t be a good thing.
Third, there’s the tenacity. It takes serious determination to maintain a steady bow pose or triangle for a full minute, four times, especially when you’re staring at yourself in a mirror the entire time! It sounds harsh, but I think that every time you fall out of a posture without getting back in or let go early, you are training your body to quit. Instead, you have to learn to stay focused, preferably on something other than how badly your muscle are throbbing or how much time is left.
Fourth, there’s the detox. After spending 90 minutes in a room that is intentionally set at 98.6 degrees with 60% humidity, you will sweat out of pores you didn’t even know you had. Enough said.
Finally, there’s the meditation. I can’t think of any other time that I get to simply be with my own thoughts. It leaves me feeling content, proud, empowered, and completely exhausted. Speaking of which, there’s also the great night of sleep you get afterwards.
All of this is a long way of saying that yoga is about much more than chanting and stretching! Hopefully, at least one of these reasons will spark an interest and encourage you to give a try.