Is Yoga Underestimated? 06/12/2019

I have to admit, for a long time I thought Yoga was either too easy, you needed to very flexible to do it, or it wasn’t physically hard enough for me. It wasn’t a challenge. Growing up, I loved being a part of and watching team sport. I watched every sport on TV regardless of what it was with admiration of the skills, physical ability & the competition.

Working pitch side for Rugby & Football clubs, I loved the physical and mental challenges the players & coaches had to encounter to be successful both physically and mentally.

3 years ago, I was introduced to Yoga. Since then, I haven’t stopped practicing Yoga weekly! I’ve also had different Yoga teachers, attended different classes in many studios & have learnt a lot about my body. And what Yoga is, as an inflexible male who prefers the gym & team sport!

The aim of this blog post is to explain what Yoga is from my point of view, and to show what it can do!

The Wrong Perceptions of Yoga(I’m going to be very honest in this section)

‘Picture Perfect Poses’

3 years ago, when I saw photos of Yoga poses on flyers and social media, I thought there was no point in trying the class as I wouldn’t be capable of doing anything! It would be a waste of money! And I also feared the poses a lot! Some of you may know I can’t extend my R wrist, or place my bodyweight onto it, so I feared most poses with my hands on the floor.

This really isn’t the case at all. The images and poses you see require lots of practice. At the classes I’ve attended, the teachers don’t expect you to perform the pose perfectly straight away, if at all! It’s a gradual progression like many things with sport and exercise. This still applies for Restorative Yoga for those less mobile or confident in their physical ability (I’ve now gained a lot of confidence weight bearing on my R wrist).

We are also limited by the structure of our skeleton, such as the angle of our femoral neck. Or we have injuries & operations in the past which don’t physically allow us to get to the end range of movement, or the advanced poses.

‘Everyone does Yoga when they are retired’

I hear this a lot and it was a perception I had. The reality is, as a 32 year old male there are OAPs who are stronger & more flexible than I am! There’s a wide variety of classes, all of which age has no barrier! And I’m using Yoga as a way of being in control of my own body, which will help me when I retire, in terms of falling etc. This is a great motivating factor for me.

‘All you do is stretch and chant in Yoga’

Again, I used to have this perception before I started to practice. What I love about Yoga, is that it allows me to discover weaknesses & strengths, and to see how strong I am controlling my own bodyweight. Not only using my hands in High Plank or Chataranga, but my feet while balancing standing up in Half Moon, or Split Dog.

I see Yoga as a challenge to improve my weaknesses in different ways and planes of movement. And it’s annoying when I don’t see progress as I haven’t committed to it. This applies to both my flexibility, strength & balance. I know that it may take me years to perform a tricky pose, which is a sign of respect for the discipline. But this is very normal for any skill in sport & exercise.

The Test

When I decided to write this post, I wanted to show what improvements can be made in a short space of time. I am very poor with bending my lower back forwards (Lumbar Flexion), and with any seated forward fold, I just look like a giant teddy bear that’s slouched in the corner. Therefore I used myself as an example! I asked Caroline, the owner of Karma Studios to instruct me through some moves to see what I could achieve.

The entire routine was roughly 7 minutes long. I have created 2 videos, one short version without instructions, and a longer version with Caroline’s instructions.

Short Version

Longer Version with instructions & cues

The Results

I have used the Hudl Technique app (many of my clients will recognise this) to analyse & compare the differences made from the routine, using annotations. There are 3 main observations:

  1. My elbows are straighter
  2. Which means I could change the height of the block from the high to medium
  3. My knees are straighter

I felt more comfortable around my pelvis, hamstrings & knees, which has allowed me to bend my back more/Lx flexion.

For those who have similar careers to myself, I know what you’re thinking…The changes will may be short term, and I agree. However, how easy is this to do in an office environment for this suffering with back pain? We live in a world where everything needs to be short, quick and convenient, so why not promote this? It can be a good catalyst both mentally & physically.

I’m a very big advocate of strengthen to lengthen, and I incorporate this into my rehab plans. There are a lot of Yoga poses that will be able to strengthen and lengthen muscles and fascia, due to the loads applied & positions. You’ve also got the added bonus of balancing with some poses.

After reading this post and watching the videos, do you think Yoga is underestimated? I’d love to know what you think!

PS: Please don’t try this routine if you’re experiencing back or hamstring pain/symptoms. The routine may be an aggravating factor, therefore I recommend you to consult your GP or Injury Therapist before attempting the routine.

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