Yoga is something I’ve dipped in and out of over the years. I’ve definitely had a love/hate relationship with the practice. I’ve tried several forms of yoga and taken lots of different classes, but never found ‘the one’ for me.
It’s well documented that yoga is a great complement to triathlon. It helps to counteract your bodies imbalances, strengthen muscles, improve flexibility and avoid injury. But yoga isn’t just about contorting your body into shapes, it’s also about quietening the mind and creating space.
I’ve definitely got ‘Type A personality’ traits…. competitive, highly organised, ambitious, impatient, highly aware of time management. My lifestyle is hectic and busy, particularly with triathlon training. Yoga really forces me to press the off-switch and escape from life, even for just an hour out of my week. I actually find it frustrating to be still, relax and stop rushing, despite knowing that it’s good for me.
The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefits from stillness.Sakyong Mipham
Les Mills Body Balance was my first introduction to yoga back in 2006 at the local YMCA. These classes incorporate elements of yoga with Pilates and Tai Chi, to strengthen your body and centre your mind. At the time I was very unfit and inactive, so gentle Body Balance classes were ideal for a complete beginner like me.
As I became fitter, I explored lots of different types of exercise and yoga went on the back-burner for many years. I’d drop into the occasional class or follow a YouTube video, but I was more interested in pushing my bodies limits.
I started working for a Bikram studio in 2013 and suddenly yoga was very much at the forefront of my life again. In theory, Bikram yoga should have ticked a lot of boxes for me- it’s intense, sweaty, structured and challenging- all the things I usually enjoy in a workout. I saw people come into that studio whose lives had been transformed through Bikram yoga. Some had lost huge amounts of weight, overcome illness and improved their mental and physical health. However, something about the practice never really clicked with me.
The revelations around the founder of the practice Bikram Choudhury always made me feel uncomfortable about working for one of his namesake studios. Bikram was sued by former yoga students alleging sexual assault and rape. I recommend listening to this podcast and watching this documentary if you want to find out more about the Bikram scandal. Lots of Bikram studios since been renamed to distance themselves from the association with Choudhury.
Of course, there are many other forms of yoga aside from Bikram, so I haven’t let that experience prevent me from enjoying other practices.
One of the things I do enjoy about yoga is the ability to practice in weird and wonderful places. I’ve taken classes on rooftops, on beaches, in an aquarium surrounded by sharks, in the Royal Opera House and on a paddleboard floating on water. Taking the postures outside of the normal studio setting really adds to the experience and helps you to appreciate the beauty of your surroundings.
Having Joint Hypermobility Syndrome means that I have a tendency to push my body too far. Despite what you may think, being very flexible isn’t always a benefit in yoga as it can be damaging to the joints. I can’t usually feel a stretch until I’ve gone deep into a pose and pushed my joints past their normal range of movement which can lead to injury. When practicing yoga, I have to be mindful of my movements and focus on strengthening, rather than just stretching. I need to stop myself from ‘showing off’ and going deeper into a pose than the rest of the class!
I have to remind myself that yoga is not a competition. No one wins or loses. We practice progress, not perfection. Social media definitely reinforces the idea that we should be achieving ambitious postures against glamorous backdrops for the ‘likes’ and I’ve certainly been guilty of that myself.
Yoga is not about touching your toes, it is about what you learn on the way down.Jigar Gor
Yoga is something I will keep returning to, wherever I am on my journey. I don’t necessarily need to regularly attend a class to receive the benefits- even just practicing a few postures at home to counterbalance the rest of my lifestyle.
Do you love or hate yoga? Do you practice regularly?