I’ve vacillated over the years as to whether or not I enjoy yoga. At times I have found it engaging and calming, at other times I have gotten easily bored and found myself impatient to get through a session. But after years of toying with various kinds and commitments to yoga, I think I have finally discovered my happy-yoga zone.
Now, while I enjoy variety in my fitness – I strength train, I get excited about plyometrics, high intensity interval training is a good time, and so on – I am first and foremost a runner. At this point in my life, I am confident in that last bit, which means that all of my other fitness endeavors need to work in support of and fit in around my running.
This is how I’ve found the right fit for yoga in my life.
Once I discovered a yoga practice that makes me a better runner, I was hooked. Engaging in yoga sessions that stretch and strengthen the muscles I need to run feels healthy, relaxing, challenging, and worthwhile all at the same time. And, because I know I’m never going to be a super-yogi, but I am already an endurance athlete, I can connect this practice to part of a larger picture which keeps me present and motivated in my practice.
So, what’s important for me in a yoga practice, then? Here is a run-down:
- It is just one component of a larger fitness calendar. I don’t want to do yoga everyday. I just don’t. I generally have one yoga day a week and it is enough to stay on top of my abilities without taking up more time than I am able and willing to give it.
- Yoga that really focuses on strength, power, and movement keeps me much more engaged than slower, gentler forms of the activity.
- I am always more engaged when I am challenged. Give me balancing poses (I love warrior three), along with various levels of progression that I can work towards, and I am a happy woman.
- Sessions that target muscle groups I use for running are what I’m really in to. Building flexibility and strength in my hips and ankles, for instance, is really important to me so bring on the moves like pigeon, warrior two, and crescent. I connect with purpose in these poses and feel their immediate, as well as long term, benefits.
While I do selected yoga poses and stretches sporadically throughout the week as I feel I need them, I have two at-home videos that I have really come to enjoy. I generally do one of these on my rest day from running and higher intensity training. They are:
- Bob Harper’s Yoga for the Warrior
I’ve written of my love for Bob Harper before. And, I do love him. People who think that at home videos can’t give you the kind of workout you get in a gym, clearly have not tried Bob’s Total Body Transformation, Ultimate Cardio Body or Pure Burn Super Strength, among others. Since discovering Yoga for the Warrior, I have been silently hoping Bob will release another yoga DVD because this one is so good. It’s definitely yoga for people who want to focus on strength; it offers a variety of poses and movements, and still manages to bring the peace and calm that is synonymous with yoga. I can’t recommend this one highly enough. Really.
- Kimberly Fowler’s Yoga for Athletes
This one isn’t perfect, but it is very good. The major thing that I find faulty with this video is the instructor’s vocal inflections and repetitive use of phrases like ‘If you can . . . “, but that’s just my personal issue. When it comes to the actual practice, this routine really does deliver poses that target areas of the body known for giving athletes trouble. Fowler will really help open up your hips, strengthen and tone your body, and dramatically increase range of motion. It’s a good, solid practice.
I can attest that incorporating these yoga videos and other poses/movements into my weekly routine has helped me work through pesky niggles picked up during running, kept me sane on rest days when I wanted to do anything but rest, and increased my overall levels of strength, balance, and agility – all things I’ve been thankful for.