Who is Ted?

I'm the father of two beautiful daughters and an amazing wife. For fun, I enjoy the long hours of seemingly endless suffering that endurance sports (mostly running, cycling and triathlon)provide. During my "down time" I'm an avid beer snob and self-described gourmet chef (in other words I like to burn things on a stove or grill).

Friday, January 6, 2017

Namaste: 5 reasons to consider adding Yoga to your life

Last summer I decided to join my wife for a yoga class on the rooftop deck of a local brewery in town.  I'll be honest that the real enticement for going was that it was a package deal, an hour of yoga with a pint of beer to follow, all for less than $10.

Other than a bit of practice with some videos several years ago, I really didn't have any experience with yoga.  But by the end of that class, I was hooked, and not just because of the beer (that didn't hurt!).  Since that afternoon, I've gone to  yoga class at least once a week, and on a few occasions when my schedule has allowed for it, even hit two or three classes in the same week.  Six months later,  though I'm far from being a yogi master, I do have a few takeaways from what I've experienced so far.

Yoga is cheap.  Apart from the cost of a class ($5 to $20 for a "drop in" class), yoga is inexpensive.  Most studios have mats that you can use (usually the high quality mats), and you really don't need anything more than regular workout clothes, a hand towel, and a water bottle.  If you already have a membership to a YMCA or other health club, there's a good chance that they offer yoga classes either as part of your membership or at a discounted rate.

Yoga is not easy.  It might appear that standing, sitting, and bending on a mat for an hour is a low intensity experience.  I assure you it is not.  When you truly engage in a class, yoga provides a solid "fitness" experience even for a well-trained athlete.  I was surprised at how challenging it was.  Who would have thought that holding a pose for ten, fifteen, or even twenty seconds would be so exhausting? Try repeating that or "flowing" more quickly through a series of poses with one breath for each movement.  Now try Hot Yoga, where you do all of these things in a room set to 85-100 degree temperatures.  Yes, you will be sweating!  There are all kinds of yoga classes available, each having a somewhat altered focus.  The most common, and a good starting place are the "vinyasa" or "flow" classes.  There are also classes that combine yoga with spinning, and even yoga done on a paddleboard.

Yoga is NOT a "chick" thing. While the majority of participants in a yoga class tend to be women, I've yet to take a class where I was the only male participant, and I've even been in a few where there have been as many, or more men.  If yoga is a "chick" sport, then so is running.  A 2015 report shows that 57% of finishers in U.S. running events were women, compared to 43% men.

Regular yoga practice improves flexibility, core strength, and balance.  These three aspects of yoga are extremely valuable for the endurance athlete.  As a forty-something aged guy, I've long struggled with flexibility to the point of not being able to touch my toes.  Six months in, I can definitely see an improvement in my flexibility and range of motion.  My balance has also drastically improved. Several of the poses in yoga strengthen your balance and increase your "body awareness" in space.  There is also quite a bit of core work in yoga.

Yoga exercises the body, mind and soul.  I don't want this to come off sounding like some hipster, new-age type of thing.  My point is that just like a good run, or long bike ride, you feel really good after a yoga class.  In fact, the feeling is probably most similar to the way I feel after a swim workout;  A bit tired, maybe a little sore, but also refreshed and relaxed.  Each yoga class concludes with about 5-10 minutes of "Shavasana."  Basically, you lie on your back with your eyes closed and you relax, focusing only on your steady breathing.  I've found that since starting yoga, my stress levels have been reduced, and my patience has increased.  This seems to extend into the rest of my life and that, in and of itself, makes it worth it.

While I doubt that Yoga will replace other athletic endeavors (I will always love racing and other endurance challenges), I am certain that yoga has become a permanent part of my fitness routine.

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