Yoga: Layman's Terms
I'll be honest. I've never been a yoga person. The handful of times that I ever went, I did the hot yoga solely because I wanted to sweat. I never understood how to do the poses, by the time I figured it out it was time to move on, and I wished the instructors would just tell me what to do instead of the code words they use... the ahhhsssaaaahhhsss... as I call them. (no disrespect meant... I'm just totally ignorant)
I would have to look at someone else around me to figure out what I was doing. I didn't view yoga as anything relaxing or therapeutic. I always viewed it as a challenge. "I will get into that pose if it kills me!" I would hold my breath for the really hard poses because I was either twisted up so tight I couldn't breathe or the pose required so much balance that I dared not breathe and mess up my concentration. How can they ask me to breathe in THIS position anyway? Who can????
I never saw any benefits outside the sweltering temperatures that let me sweat out toxins. I could see the value in a consistent regimen for flexibility, stretching and strength, but I just never could accept the practice into my own training routines.
And then I met Dana and Joanna. This is a critical combination because without the first, I would never have figured out the second.
Dana facilitates energy work at The Divinity Spot. I've spent many hours sifting through emotional stress and struggles with her as she helped me to let go of cumbersome baggage and showed me how to pour light and love back into myself. One of the most valuable tools she equipped me with was how to breathe. Deeply.
As an endurance athlete, I thought I knew how to breathe just fine. However, there's a difference between just inhaling and exhaling. It's about where your breath comes from, where it's going, being conscious of it and giving it permission to take its time, without force. Breathing with intention was completely foreign to me until Dana gave me a visual, something to see as I focused on my breath. That changed my life. Not in a, "I'm a brand new person" kind of a way, but in a "I can handle this" kind of way.
Joanna has been teaching yoga for years. She's been practicing even longer. However, she popped into my life in a time that my training was paramount and if there was something that could improve it, I was all ears.
I had explained to her my issues with yoga and why I just couldn't subscribe. But, knowing she had been working with triathletes and listening to their needs, I gave it another shot.
Instead of hearing words that made no sense, I heard layman descriptions of how I should be posing. I was given time to get into that position (instead of being pushed onto the next before figuring it out). I was assisted and corrected! She actually used her hands to help correct my form, so I could feel what it should be like to hold a pose. I wasn't expected to be quiet and stoic. I could grunt and fall and try again and I didn't feel like I was in trouble or being judged. I felt the stretches where I already knew I needed work. And better yet, I knew if I couldn't breathe with intention, then I wasn't ready for that pose.
What I've found out is, yoga is designed to help you BE INTENTIONAL. That means you're choosing to be present, you're choosing to focus on your breath and your body. It means you are choosing to let go of the thoughts that are not part of who you are in the very moment. As a triathlete, that's how I should train and race - being in the moment, aware of my body and focused on the task at hand.
I'm only about a month or so into this but the immediate results of this has been:
1. A stronger upper body, which is improving my swimming substantially., particularly my pull.
2. A habit of stopping and breathing when I get overwhelmed, which happens almost on a daily basis trying to get a new company established while taking care of a family.
3. Taking at least an hour for myself (mother, wife, coach, business owner). Taking that time for myself, even to train, had been a stretch for me.
4. Increased flexibility and mobility in joints that have accustomed to one plane of movement. My hips are still tight but starting to open again and my IT band is ever so slowly beginning to release.
I no longer see every pose as a challenge that I'm supposed to conquer. I'm more patient with my body and aware of limitations, whether mental or physical, that keep me from being able to breathe. I'm honoring the athlete in me that still needs slow, focused movement, purposeful stretching and strengthening (and a little TLC).
Joanna has been evolving the practice of yoga to encompass the specific needs of athletes. We need to understand what's being asked of us, we need to know it's improving our performance and we need to avoid injuries caused by immobility and inflexibility of joints.
Finally. A yoga instructor who meets me where I am...