Yoga for athletes: Are you playing full out?

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Through changing up your routine, cross training and exploring multiple ways to approach the same muscle groups, your workouts remain interesting and you keep the body guessing.  Cross training is one way of keeping the body from the plateau of your regular routine. One does not have to be "athletic" to train like an athlete. This is key in weight loss and maintaining an ideal weight and it keeps you from getting bored or "dropping out." As a yoga practitioner, you may even find that it is time to explore more than one style of yoga or expand your exposure to different aspects of the yoga practice. One of the pitfalls of getting too comfortable with the same routine, is just that, the body is not challenged enough to encourage your true potential in your fitness or your efficiency. What does an efficient workout accomplish? It is important to support the entire body as well as train in a way that balances both strength building and cardiovascular workouts, active or "yang" aspects as well as passive or a more "yin" approach. How does one accomplish both, get a great workout and stay efficient in reaching fitness goals within a yoga practice?

In class, I’ll often say, "greet the edge," or "surrender to the breath." Through approaching these whole body movements with both the active and passive awareness, one begins to greet sensations within the body that may be a bit uncomfortable, sometimes even triggering to the emotional body during deep postures, releasing held stress or trauma. Through exploring these areas of the body with the awareness that all we must do is greet the edge even if it is for a brief moment, the expansion into that next place is only a breath away. This is the first step; I call it greeting the door. Once we greet the door, it is only a matter of time before something begins to open; the body, the mind, the deeper level of awareness or a sense of oneness that is often associated with the spiritual aspect, similar to what runners refer to as a “runners high,” or what serious athletes or call the “zone.” For artists, this is often called being “in the flow.” There is something quite creative about coming to your workout with a sense of freedom to explore, adventuring into the unknown.

It doesn’t always look pretty and it’s not always easy. Hold the mindset that each and every day is a new opportunity, one with something behind a new door of the wealth of experience that is yours. This makes your practice that much more enjoyable and the results (enjoying the quality of your life right now, feeling relaxed and more at ease in your body) are already tangible. The mind of an athlete is within every body, it simply may take changing ones mindset; rebooting your internal heard drive and coming to it newly each time. Deeper levels of fitness (on all levels) happen when we are willing to approach a new way of seeing the familiar. Artists call this a “beginners mind.” Just as deep and long lasting romances are ones in which two people rekindle the flame of what struck ones heart and mind the first time again and again; your practice is true love in action over and over. You are the artist of your life, the healthier you are in body, the wealthier you will feel in mind and spirit. There is no separation between the health of our bodies and the wealth of aliveness we experience. Are you playing full out?

Show up even when you don't "feel like it." Trick your mind and tell yourself you are going to walk for 10 minutes…that’s it! Watch what happens, you won’t be able to resist a few more minutes. It is the first step that is always the hardest, take your time and rest when you need it. When we don’t resist where we are today day, we choose the style that helps us sustain a balanced state of being. Rather than questioning why you are not feeling up for it or passing on your practice or making up an excuse, ask yourself, how do I need to move to support what my body is telling me today. There may be days when it's more appropriate to go slow and back off. Other days you will feel the surge of prana (life force) flowing through your every motion, the unstoppable surge most commonly associated to the acclaimed super hero you grew up admiring. This super hero is within us all…screaming to be unleashed. Are you getting enough rest and eating a nourishing diet? These choices affect the quality of your life and this is always going to be the case. The more we practice listening to our body’s signs and needs; the innate wisdom begins to guide our actions and our efforts toward greater health. The excuses are easy, the practice...quite often, is not and there in lies the reward. One thing I know for sure, there is no reward without the work. The beauty is, it pays off on so many levels, and after a bit of diligence and consistency, it no longer shows up like work. Your workout...can playground. It’s a new day, what would it look like, if you were to play full out? Today, take your practice and your workout to a new place...experience a deeper connection to your innate wisdom and trust...that you are exactly where you need to be and arriving at your destination with due to diligence and kind action. There’s so much to savor inside of your yoga practice along the way. Enjoy every bite, take your time, chew slowly and remember it’s not about how much you do, or how far you go, it’s about how fully you are there and present to the moment. Feel, breathe and savor it!