All about yoga

by - Thursday, April 23, 2009

Like I said earlier this week, I've been getting a lot of different yoga questions lately, so I thought I'd try to handle them in one post answering them as best as I can.

First, here's a bit of background. I've been certified to teach yoga for just about four years now. I'm certified through YogaFit, a very flowing style of yoga that focuses on sequences that move seamlessly from one to another. YogaFit can be gentle or it can be more vigorous and active depending on the instructor and the personal style they bring to the class.

My personal thoughts on yoga are that it should be something that is accessible to everyone. Yoga isn't about the girl who can stand on her head or the guy who can wrap himself into some crazy pretezel contortion. While it's great that they can do that, I will never teach those kinds of poses in my classes. Instead, I teach on a more basic, but still challenging level. The poses aren't hard to get into persay, but there are modifications that make everything a little more challenging if you want to take it to the next level.

I believe yoga should blend strength and flexiblity, so what you will find in my class are tons of planks, side planks and not-too-tough balance work mixed with lots of deep stretching. I tend to focus a lot on the legs and back with the stretches, which is probably because flexible and loose leg muscles equal better running.

Now that we've got my theory and background stuff out of the way, I'm going to try to tackle some of your questions and concerns.

A lot of people are put off by yoga because it's slow moving or they get bored holding the same pose for a long time. (This isn't a specific question, just a common feeling I've picked up in blog reading.)

My advice is to try a flow style class. In flow based classes you move from one pose to another and don't hold anything for longer than five to 10 breaths. Sometimes it can be hard to tell if a class just labeled yoga on a schedule will be flow style. Unfortunately, the best advice I can give you there is to read the class description if there is one or try to talk to the instructor before you take the class and find out what style he or she teaches.

Susan asked: Do you have any tips for getting into yoga? I've tried a couple times, but maybe it's just not for me?

A lot of the yoga experience relates back to the instructor. If you don't enjoy the instructor's teaching style, it's almost a gaurentee you won't enjoy the class. I'd suggest trying a few different classes to see if you can find something you like. (Free week long gym trial passes work great for this. You can go to all the classes you want for a week until you find one you like. Then you can decide if you actually want to join said gym or yoga studio.) Another thing to try is different yoga DVDs or, which is free. I've watched a few YogaToday episodes and it's kind of hit or miss on whether or not I like it, but it's worth checking out if you're interested. When I first started doing yoga, I had a hard time enjoying it because as a runner I just found it too slow moving. But after sticking with it for a while, I came to really enjoy the half hour or hour of calm yoga provided. So if you're thinking it's not for you, don't give up after a few classes, stick with it for a month or two and then see what you think.

Amber and XC2 both asked about my thoughts on Bikram (or hot) yoga. Amber asked: I was just wondering what your thoughts are on Bikram yoga? Would I better off getting a membership at a Bikram studio or a regular yoga studio??

I have never tried a hot yoga class, but one day I would really like to. I've heard mixed reviews on hot yoga. Some people love the feeling of the sweat pouring down their bodies and feel the heat lets them sink deeper into poses. Other people find the room is just too warm and they can't get comfortable. Again this comes down to personal preference. Before you invest in a hot yoga membership, I would try taking a single class to see how your body reacts. Most hot yoga studios will let you take a class on a drop-in basis for a small fee. Some places may also offer a free trial class. Same is true for a regular yoga studio, I would see if they offer a free trial class or a drop-in rate so you can see if you like the instructor's or the style of the class before you invest the money.

To wrap up this rather long post, here's a few of my final thoughts on yoga:
If it's something you haven't tried, I really encourage you to give it a shot. The worst that can happen is you don't like it so you don't go back. But who knows, maybe you'll really like the class and the benefits it has for your running.

Yes, yoga will help your running. It will help loosen tight hamstrings. It will help strengthen the core, which supports us through all our pounding on the pavements. It will build strength in the legs as well through lunges and various other poses.

If you have more questions or want to know more, feel free to leave them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer as best I can!

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  1. Gary Player is a pro golfer known as a "the black knight". every day of every tournament in his 52+ years as a pro he played in long black pants and a long sleeve black shirt. even if it was over 100 degrees outside, he thought that the extra warmth made him a little more loose or flexible than the other golfers

    this is the same appeal that hot yoga has. if the room is super hot, the muscles are naturally a little more loose and flexible than if the room is cold. plus the extra sweating gives the perception of burning more calories, better workout kind of thing. I'm already a really heavy sweater, so I avoid the hot yoga. I also don't wear black when I play golf. But i can see the appeal.

  2. Thanks for answering my question and telling us all a little more about yoga! I'm going to keep trying some different things online, and maybe check out a real, in person yoga class. Half the time I don't even think I'm doing the poses right. (I did some while my boyfriend was here and I guess my poses don't really look like the pictures...oops!) I would love to be more flexible...running definitely makes me tighter.

  3. I've determined that I suck at yoga, but I haven't given up yet. Thanks for the info. :o)

  4. Thanks for all your thoughts on this! I love yoga, but wish I spent more time on it. I've just never found a studio near me with the right schedule and prices.

    And hot yoga? Yeah, did it once and barfed. That was about 5 years ago. Maybe I should give it another chance.

  5. Very informative! One of our English teachers here at school is doing her practicum this summer and needs volunteers. Very excited about it! Thanks for the insight.

  6. Aw, man! "Hot" yoga is not what I had hoped it would be!

    Still, thanks for the insights, sister!

  7. Thanks so much for answering my question! I really want to start doing more yoga this summer because running has really made my legs tight!! I'm checking out the yogafit website right now :-)

  8. i need to get back to doing yoga at least occasionally, since i can't seem to do it regularly... definitely if i lived closer to you of course :)

  9. I {heart} yoga. Wish I had more time to include it in my routines...