I chant, I stretch, I balance. I eat a LOT of green foods. Yet my vice is Nutella. I can't get enough of it - I could have considered it a habit a few years ago. No one's perfect.
For years I had gone to the gym. I began by making a very 'girly' attempt at running (with no hands eventually - wooo!), rowing, cross-training and even the occasional weight-lift. But I mainly spent time on the mat stretching out and, well, doing yoga.
These days, with a 6 day-a-week yoga practice, my other form of exercise is walking. And I walk a lot. I'll walk from one end of London to the other, time permitting. It’s a balance that works for me. And yes, walking is a sport!
There's no denying that sport and being active is an important part of staying healthy. There are so many benefits, including happiness, social interaction, working muscles you never thought you had and walking away feeling great. Until the next morning.
How did I pull that muscle in my right butt-cheek, and why is the left just fine??! What is that in-between-the-lungs cramp I have??! There’s no muscle in-between my toes, is there??! Surely not...
I’m afraid, surely so. And these aches come mainly as a result of not stretching our bodies regularly enough to prepare ourselves for the muscle tension we inflict every time we hit the gym, pool, bike, boxing ring or more popularly these days, the high-impact, fast-paced, 5 minute carnage that is cross-fit. (See video below if you're not familiar...I fear for their joints, but I am confident I can help!)
Over the coming weeks, I will be conducting, analysing and documenting a series of different sports and the main areas of stress they put on our bodies - and how we can avoid injury, muscle strain and tension and increase endurance - all through the magical powers of yoga.
It’s not just for girls. There are a growing number of men (and still women) who are enjoying the benefits of a good yoga workout pre or post sport activity.
To touch on some benefits;
Correct posture and alignment.
Our feet, for one, are probably not considered as much as they deserve to be. They put up with a lot and deserve some love and attention, just like the rest of our bodies.
When was the last time you gave your feet a good squeeze? Go and give it a try, they can take a good amount of squeezing. Now give your toes a tug for a few minutes one-by-one. And finally grab hold of those toes and the two muscly balls underneath them and rotate the whole lot around to the right a few times and then to the left. They're happy feet right? Feels good? You're already one step closer to more flexibility in your feet and it took only a few minutes - happy feet mean happy sportsman/woman.
So many sports require us to bare a lot of weight on our feet. Boxing and kick-boxing, for example, ask you to put more weight on one leg to the other for a better stance in action. We may not realise that by strengthening one side of the body more than the other, even slightly, can lead to problems in alignment, cause stress in the knees, pelvis, back, shoulder and even neck.
It is important that we are aware of what our feet are doing in order to be aware of our balance - our actual balance in a stance, yes but also balance throughout the entire body - spine, hips, knees, shoulders and neck.
Everything in yoga is done both right and left. Our breathing is equal, our stance is on all four corners of our feet and sometimes our hands and our feet. If we raise a leg, we release and raise the other leg, If we turn our heads, we release and trun the other way also. It's balance.
How lovely will it be to have a balanced body, not only in the literal, physiological sense, but in the psycological sense also.
With a little practice, it will become as natural as breathing.
Now breathing is for another day.
Ill look forward to writing more about sports and specific areas of the body to focus on to promote balance and avoid injury in upcoming posts.
For now. Let's marvel at this thing called Cross-Fit. This will be the first to go under the spotlight.
Until then - breathe easy and stay focused!
CROSS FIT - NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED (...OR WEAK JOINTED)