“We are all athletes on some level,” says power yoga master teacher Baron Baptiste. And he’s right. Whether competitive, recreational or lifestyle-related, most of us (hopefully) engage in some type of physical activity. If we’re lucky, we find activities we enjoy and develop routines around them—it might be training for 10Ks, swimming, or a specific set of PYP Studio classes we make sure never to miss. If we’re really lucky, these routines make us feel so good, so healthy and accomplished, they lead us to a lifestyle that becomes permanent. Once this happens, it can be easy to simply keep on keep on keepin’ on—grinding it out, working out, training and more training—without looking at the complete “fitness” picture. At this point the risks of overuse and injury become real.
Why thoughtful, active “recovery” is as critical as the workout
We generally understand the basic need for “rest” after a big physical effort. When we work our muscles hard we are literally creating microscopic tears that need to heal. When we give them time to heal properly we get stronger. For most of us, this simply means we can’t pound ourselves into the ground every single day—there needs to be a balance of different activities that alternate muscle focus, varying workout durations and intensities, and occasional rest days.
But “recovery”—and I’m talking about thoughtful, active recovery—is separate from plain rest. It’s a planned component of a complete fitness program. One of my teachers and yoga for athletes expert Sage Rountree says, “valuing your recovery is the key to both short-term and long-term success, no matter what your sport.” Recovery can include a number of modalities such as massage, self-massage, acupuncture, corrective exercise, stretching and yoga (and yes, these last two are different!).
The fuss about fascia
Pick up any general fitness magazine over the last few years and you are likely to run across a discussion of “fascia” – the aqueous, web-like connective tissue that surrounds our muscles and organs. Fascia is “sensory-rich,” and like muscle fibers, can become tight, restricted and painful. For a long time, foam rolling and Rolfing® (a very specific type of body work) were the most prevalent tools used for fascia maintenance. But in recent years, other specific self-care tools like Yoga Tune Up® (YTU) Therapy Balls have come on the scene to help us keep our fascia sliding and gliding, allowing for healthy range of motion and pain-free living.
What’s great about this new awareness of fascia is that it’s encouraging folks to think more about the “recovery” piece of the fitness puzzle, and incorporate one or more of the modalities mentioned above into their regular routines. Last year, high-end health-club chain Equinox instituted 30-minute classes dedicated to self-myofascial release, otherwise known as self-massage, using the same Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls we use at PYP. (Even Oprah is in—she designated the YTU® Therapy Balls as one of her coveted “Favorite Things” in the June issue of O Magazine.) The fact is, this work is scientifically proven to help relieve tension, increase mobility, and improve flexibility. As Jill Miller (another amazing teacher and founder of Yoga Tune Up®) likes to say, this type of “self-care is the new health care.”
Choosing yoga over “stretching”
We are more than just our physical bodies. Which is why for most of us, yoga feels different from simple stretching. During yoga we are integrating multiple layers of our selves – the physical body, the breath body and the mind all consciously work together. And there is great power in this practice. Integrating these layers (called “koshas” in yogic philosophy) allows us to tap in to the even higher layers of our selves, including the wisdom body where we experience deep levels of concentration and focus, and the “bliss body”—that state of feeling a connection with something larger than ourselves.
For serious athletes, yoga practice can create an undeniable edge—the ability to plug into a deeper level of concentration and focus allowing for peak performance. But yoga truly gives all of us an edge by creating a greater sense of ease and well-being, as well as more comfort in our physical bodies.
Putting it all together Monday nights…
Yoga for Sport is not a super-athletic yoga class. Instead it’s designed to complement and fuel your existing yoga practice or training program. But it will also help relieve the tensions of daily life—because sometimes it’s the spaces of “inactivity” in our lives that put the most stress on our bodies. (Sitting at a desk for many hours, long drives and poor posture habits all wreak havoc on our physical systems.)
During each class, Yoga for Sport blends flow yoga, body re-balancing and Yoga Tune Up® techniques to help increase power and strength through greater range of movement and healthy, supple joints. It also includes self-massage using the Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls®, providing immediate relief from chronic tension and rejuvenating overworked muscle fibers and connective tissues. No matter what stressors you face, everyone, at all levels, can benefit from this practice.
This fall, consider making thoughtful, active recovery—from sport and daily life—a permanent part of your fitness program. Join us for a “Monday night reboot” in Yoga for Sport and live better in your body, recover more quickly, and keep doing the activities you love for a lifetime!