We NEED. More. Yoga.

Yesterday I practiced yoga for the first time in months. It was a basic practice – relatively speaking. Very different from the forms of power yoga that I prefer. But this practice was a gentle reminder of what I have been missing in my training regimen. Yoga. Stretching. Lengthening.

What we often miss photo (33)

Stretching. Lengthening. Decompressing – both physiological and psychological.

I am guilty of not stretching as much as I should. I diligently stretch after running – other than that, rarely.

Our muscles need stretching – especially if we are putting in the work. Weight lifting involves continually contracting muscles. While proper form also includes lengthening, this is not always enough to allow the muscles to reach full length. I will not pretend to be a yogi – I am far from being a yoga expert. But I have done my research! (Don’t I always?)

Injury prevention – Research has shown that yoga has injury prevention properties. I would attribute this to the lengthening of muscles. The National Academy of Sports Medicine’s Corrective Exercise protocols incorporate lengthening into the four step program design. Unfortunately, corrective exercise is often only incorporated into training regimen after an injury has occurred. Why not use yoga as a tool for injury prevention?

Yoga & mental health – Yoga is known to be a ‘mind-body’ fitness practice. Some view this as getting in touch with your soft, gooey insides. I argue that ALL exercise requires mind-body awareness (Markula, 2004). Yoga has been shown to improve self efficacy and confidence and reduce depression and anxiety symptoms (Junkin, Kowalski, & Fleming, 2007; Markula, 2004; Rahimi & Bavaqar, 2010).

Relaxation – At the core of any yoga  practice is centered breathing. This necessitates focus on breathing. This allows our minds to relax and be free of the thoughts and worries that bog us down. Further, focusing on lengthening muscles allows those and other muscles to relax. Tension melts away.

Pain management – The benefits of pain management are well known and widely accepted. Time and time again, research has shown that yoga reduces back pain and other chronic aches and pains.

The bottomline

We could all use a little more stretching. I like the structure of incorporating a consistent yoga practice – and now realize I need to add that focus back into my program. As with all fitness professionals, not all yoga instructors are created equal. I would strongly urge you to read the American College of Sport Medicine’s resource on Selecting and Effectively Using a Yoga Program. Further, it is my personal opinion that instructors with 500+ hours of training are leaps and bounds ahead of their counterparts.

Looking for yoga that you can do at home? Debbie Williamson is your woman, with both DVDs (kids too!) and downloads. After traveling the country and experiencing many different styles of yoga and instruction – she is by far my favorite!

References

Junkin, S. E., Kowalski, K., & Fleming, T. (2007). Yoga and self-esteem: Exploring change in middle-aged women. Journal Of Sport & Exercise Psychology29S174-S175.

Markula, P. (2004). “Tuning into One’s Self:” Foucault’s Technologies of the Self and Mindful Fitness. Sociology Of Sport Journal21(3), 302-321.

O’Donovan, G., Blazevich, A. J., Boreham, C., Cooper, A. R., Crank, H., Ekelund, U., & … Stamatakis, E. (2010). The ABC of Physical Activity for Health: A consensus statement from the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences. Journal Of Sports Sciences28(6), 573-591.

Rahimi, E., & Bavaqar, S. (2010). Effects of yoga on anxiety and depression in women. British Journal Of Sports Medicine44i68-i69.

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Unexpected, only mildly welcomed, pain

DOMS. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. I have been known to experience limited DOMS. In the past, I attributed this to proper training and conditioning. But since the first of the year, I have been experiencing more DOMS than usual. Currently, I am recovering from some of the worst! Two days ago, I completed a posterior workout, focused on corrective techniques to inhibit, lengthen, activate, and integrate, as I have been having significant issues with my LPHC (lumbo-pelvic-hip complex). I anticipated slight trap, gluteal, and hamstrings DOMS. Surprise, surprise – DOMS is isolated to my calves (gastrocnemius) and everything else is fine.

I can barely move. I have to stand up slowly and let my muscles extend at their own pace. I had to adjust yesterday’s workout because of the cramping that occurred when I tried to run. After a week of torturing my body and pushing through the mental barriers to reach my physical limits, my body has taken control and is screaming, STOP. REST. I am not one to rest without reason, but I am quick to listen to my bodily cues and I consider myself quite ‘body smart.’ I know that if I don’t rest, I will be on the DL for much longer than I would like.

photo (4)Ask my best workout partner ever, Emily, and she will tell you that she hates me for how often I am NOT sore and she is. My soreness does not interfere with life! We have all heard things like no pain, no gain. Some of us think that being sore is indicative of a great, effective workout. But I hate being sore like this. I hate being slow to stand up and having difficulty moving. In my Training for Life, constant DOMS would be a deterrent. I need optimal functioning capabilities! And with proper training, DOMS can be significantly reduced, if not eliminated.

So why the DOMS now, when I haven’t had it in the past?

My physical training from June 2012-December 2012 was minimal – in relation to my typical training regimen. With big goals set for May 2013, I have kicked it in gear and my calves have screamed, YES – WE’RE STILL HERE. So, while I am not enjoying the pain today, I appreciate the nudge. I will now pay more attention to my full-body Training for Life. This amount of pain will not occur again any time soon!

As for treating my DOMS? Rest, water, and moderate movement.