News Flash! Muscles were not designed to hang flaccidly from our bones. They are meant to support our structure and facilitate movement. The body is designed to move and muscles are meant to be toned. So when we live a sedentary life it is no wonder that eventually the body will break down from the lack of activity. I see many folks experiencing chronic pain who also exhibit clear patterns of weakness and imbalance in their bodies.
Take a section of the body, the back is the perfect example since it is estimated that 31 million Americans experience low back pain at any given time. There are only so many years that your lumbar spine can carry your upper body efficiently. Eventually the years of muscle recruitment and compensation will catch up opening the door for pain to move in. Though not just the low back, the entire spine requires strength, it is the core of our structure. Moving out from the spine we develop and tone all muscles so that the physical body is a cohesive machine of movement and flow.
Now buyer beware, you can go too far in the opposite direction. If your traps more resemble a turtleneck rather than soft tissue retractors then you may want to lay off the free weights. If you can no longer straighten your arms, it is time to consider a focus on eccentric contractions.
It is imperative that our bodies find balance between strength and length. From my experience as a triathlete and massage therapist, basically a person is almost always active, I have found no better remedy then yoga. My physical yoga or asana practice provides me with everything I need for strength and length in my physical body and the added bonus of quiet calm in my mind.
A few things to know about yoga. First, it’s all about steady breath; the poses will take care of themselves as long as you are listening to your body which leads me into my next point, yoga is not a competition. Your ego will no doubt be in major panic mode once it realizes you are in a yoga studio. It will try to intervene, tell you that you are better than or less than someone else in the class. This is a fruitless journey save yourself the trouble just honor the space and the reality of your practice.
A few other pearls of wisdom that I have gathered over the years. If you are concerned about what people will think of you in class don’t because they don’t care and they are not looking at you. If you think that yoga is for chicks or that its not a workout, then please come to one of my classes so we can clear that up. If you’ve avoided yoga in the past because you can’t hold the poses, your mind just goes crazy, please drop what you are doing right now and get to your mat. You are the poster child for yoga.
Yoga can offer you the balance we all crave deep down inside. So next time you’re considering it, just try it. I dare you, in a non-competitive way of course. Or not…whatever is going to get you to your mat.