The Ins and Outs of an Ordinary Life

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Yoga Where Art Thou

I have always felt that gym time should be spent either lifting weights or sweating. I do a strength work-out with a trainer once a week; I swim with the Masters Swim Team twice a week; and I run and ride (indoors or outdoors, depending on the season). I have little patience for women who lift light and/or think walking and talking is exercise. And I never thought yoga would have a place in my fitness plan. I always thought of yoga as an "activity" for people who don't want to exercise but still want to feel like they're becoming more fit. Then I started to notice that as I get older, I have less flexibility and poor balance. Add to that the repetitive motion of hundreds of miles of swimming, biking and running and pretty soon your hamstrings, hips and shoulders are tighter than tight. This was my attitude when I took my 1st yoga class ever on Wednesday. It was medicine for my aging body. But I enjoyed it, and I found it challenging. And that didn't change the next day when I was so sore, I could barely get out of bed. I took my second yoga class ever this evening. It was totally different from the Wednesday class (different teacher). It was less physically demanding and much more focused on breathing and using your breath to maintaining attention and focus on the movements. And I am starting to see after these 2 classes that a consistent yoga practice will improve my flexibility and balance. AND it will make me stronger in my core and enhance my ability to use my breath to enhance my performance in any sport but especially in swimming. Swimming is all about efficiency. Flexibility and balance are important components of that efficiency. But mostly it's about controlling your breathing and linking your breathing to your body movements. I can already visualize smoother longer strokes with my arms and head linked to my rhythmic breathing.

So somewhere in the time I spend at the gym, I will find the time for yoga. Between the swimming, lifting, spinning and running, I will bend, balance and pose. And I will take what I learn on the road and into the pool. Right now I am less inclined to work with the more cerebral side of yoga, but maybe I'll find ways to make connections to my life in general.

BTW, I still think yoga is not a substitute for other activities that build muscle and make you sweat. But as a powerful complement to these activities, I'm on the bus.

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