Week 10: Try Yoga.

There are few people who would not benefit from doing Yoga. 

For me, yoga is one of those exercises I have a lot of trouble making myself do. However, every time I do it, afterward I feel so good, I always think, MAN I need to do that more often! It is one of the most scale-able exercises out there, meaning it has benefit to almost every audience who could possibly be reading this blog.  Read below to find which category you identify most with, and what the possible benefits could be to you?

The “Seasoned Athlete”: For many athletes, especially runners and triathletes, much of the motions you do are repetitive forward motions. This can make your hip flexors very tight. I have run quite consistently since I was 13 (with little stretching), so yoga teachers can usually pick me out of a class lineup because of my inflexible hips. By incorporating Yoga into your workout regimen, you can increase your flexibility, decrease your chance for injury, and learn breathing techniques that can enhance your endurance. 

The “Couch Potato”: If you are doing nothing, Yoga can be a good place to start! If you need any inspiration, watch this short video about how Yoga helped a crippled man walk again. You are likely starting in a better position than he is! There are lots of beginner classes and they are usually taught by really positive, granola-y, happy people that make you feel good just to be alive. If the idea of running makes you want to dive back into bed, yoga may be a much more approachable place to start. Yoga uses your body weight for resistance, encourages movements that increase flexibility, and all of this takes place in an approximately 2’x6’ rectangle. (It also usually ends with a nap if you are like me. I can never make it through the eyes closed relaxation part!) 

The “I once was an athlete but I’ve had some sort of injury that makes me feel like I can’t do what I used to do athlete”: One of the greatest things about Yoga is the ability to tailor it to individual needs. Even in group yoga classes, they usually ask at the beginning if anyone has any injuries, and are able to give you “modifiers” throughout the class to avoid further injury. Again, if you need any further motivation, check out the video mentioned above in the “Couch Potato” section. You are also likely starting off in a better place than he is! 

The “Aging Athlete”:  I am not sure how that 100 year old guy is still running marathons. For most of the athletes that I have known in my life, there comes a time when he recognizes that he “ain’t no spring chicken no mo.” This is an especially hard realization to come to terms with as a runner. Many shift to swimming since it’s one of the softest exercises on your joints. If that works for you, GREAT!  Yoga can also be a good complement and can help increase your flexibility, maintain your mobility, decrease your chance for injury, and learn breathing techniques that can enhance your endurance.

The “Aging Non-Worker-Outer”: A healthy lifestyle can actually prolong your life. Are you noticing a little more fluff around the middle once you passed a certain age? Maybe you used to be able to eat whatever you wanted without exercise and not gain wait, but somehow in recent years it seems to be catching up to you? Maybe you are noticing after you’ve passed 40 it takes a little extra OOFDA (and a small pully system) to get your rear end off of that couch? Or maybe you are noticing that simple things like tying your shoes is getting more difficult than it used to be? Yoga can be a great exercise to ensure that you are maintaining mobility into your “highly experienced” years. That’s right, it can make simple things like tying your shoes or chasing your grand kids possible for longer.

The “Pregnant-Lady”: There are huge benefits to you and the baby if you stay active throughout your pregnancy. While most suggest not to start something new when you first find out you are pregnant, yoga, in my mind can be an exception to that rule simply because it is so low impact. With minor modifications like no backbends, no deep twists, no dangerous inversions, and don’t lay on your stomach you can get a pretty good workout in within a fairly short amount of time. It can also help you practice your breathing, focus and build up endurance for labor! Be aware though that as you get closer to your due date, your body begins to release hormones that actually loosen your ligaments to prepare your hip openings for labor. Care must be taken to not cause injury in your “loosened” state. Those hormones do not fully go away until you are done breastfeeding, so additionally Yoga can be a great way to start getting your post baby body whipped back in shape with less risk for injury. 

A few other suggestions for all of the above groups:

  1. Join a class or yoga studio when you are just beginning. I know it can be expensive, but most yoga places will let you do a trial class, or possibly even a trial week or month. Your best bet is to get proper coaching to start so you know you are doing the poses properly. You may get injured by doing the exercises wrong or possibly just miss getting the full benefit. And who likes wasted time? You can transition to an at home video later, but to start, make sure you are doing it right.
  2. Mix Yoga with something else. Yoga by itself is a great exercise, but I still recommend getting your heart rate up in addition. The danger with yoga (and the nice wide range of skill levels it suits) is that some of the types of exercises are more focused on JUST stretching and relaxation, which by itself may not be enough. By coupling it with at least 20 minutes of cardio a few times a week, you can get the unique benefits of both exercises. Side note: NEVER RUN RIGHT AFTER YOGA. You may be “too loose” and are more prone to injury.
  3. Do Yoga multiple times a week to get the full benefit. If you are a “Couch Potato” bravo for just getting started somewhere! If you are a “Seasoned Athlete” or have an extensive other workout agenda, once a week may also be enough for you. BUT, IF you are looking to get results from yoga, whether your goal is to gain flexibility, mobility or just to get in better shape, you WILL see better results if you can fit it in 3 or more times per week.
  4. Do not be discouraged. Most people suck at Yoga the first time they do it. In fact, it may seem like it’s not much of a workout at all at first. Stick with it. Give yourself a chance! It’s kind of like drinking coffee. Few really love coffee at first, it’s more of an acquired taste. Same with Yoga, and the better you get at it, the more benefits you will feel from it.

So, your health nudge challenge this week? Try Yoga. Better yet, sign up for a month long class! 

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