Roll out your stinky mat, light the incense, rub some coriander oil into your pecs and get ready to get downward D-O-Double-G. This is another one of those things I said I’d never do. But here I sit…and I think…they say change comes from within, so the next time I break one off I want to pass a Grant, two Jackson’s and a Hamilton, with interest, ’cause I’ve been holding this exploration for a long time. That’s right Boo-boo…bang a gong and strike a pose as we endure initiation into the world of Yoga. Who’s your Yogi, baby?
It started innocently enough…Horseypants invited me to attend what her friend Mrs. Needle Pusher (SpeedLord’s Mom) sucked her into…Core Power Yoga. I’d done a Yoga class with her a few years before, so I knew what I was getting into. And since I’m down a few sizes since my Jabba-The-Hutt Mu-Mu wearing days, and I’ve been told that I need to get more flexible, I decided it was time to try again.
My first observation: Yoga isn’t just for unbathed hippies, flatulent vegans or chicks that like their partners hung like a doughnut anymore…not only is my own MILF regularly going, but there were plenty of would-be yogis in what Mr. Needle Pusher calls “distracting” outfits. The talent has really come along since the last time I tried this 10 years ago. But other than the influx of Cougars and Co-eds, not much more has changed, particularly the smell of sweat steeped patchouli and the heat.
The ambient music helped create a mood that allowed me to drop my cynicism just long enough to relax and flow with the experience. We start in Balasana, or Child pose, which I imagine is a very familiar posture for your average practicing Muslim, but instead of chanting prayers toward Mecca you’re silent on your knees, driving your hips and weight down over your heels at the same time pushing your forehead into the mat under you and stretching out your arms on the floor over your head. It creates an expansive cavity for you to focus on your breath and release tension in all of your major muscle groups. It’s very effective as a warm up all by itself.
As I’ve come to learn, the practice is centered on synchronization of timing and motion. Timing the motion of your body to be synchronous with your breath. With focused practice, Yoga becomes a moving meditation. In the first few weeks I was moving with nothing like what you’d call Swiss accuracy, but by the third week I began to get just a slight feel for the fluidity that the instructors move with. I’ve got a long road ahead of me, but it’s just like those first few times you nail a good double push. You know this can only get better the more you practice, and you start to think about it obsessively, living in anticipation of your next training session to do it again. At least, that’s how I know it’s right for me.
And like skating, you’ve got to start slowly and build a foundation. I’ve chosen to spend time with the breathing, as breath control is something I always struggle with. In Yoga practice, the breath work starts right in Balsana. In pose, it’s simply a matter of taking purposeful long, slow breaths, and timing them so that as you enter a new posture, you lengthen your musculature on the inward breath, and find depth upon the breath release. In some postures, that’s lengthening your spine by lifting your chest to the ceiling as you’re breathing in, and going deeper into a twist or a stretch on release.
A number of these postures were familiar due to the inordinate amount of time I spend being down low as a speed skater or sitting on the crapper. With inline speed skating I’ve built a pretty solid core, so to get down and hold Utkatasana, or Chair pose, isn’t a problem for my quads, but man, it takes on a whole new dimension when you raise your arms over your head and straighten your spine.
We also use runner’s stretch, and a lot of the Warrior poses put you into a forward lunge that’s familiar. I was surprised at how hard it was to find balance in some of these poses considering the amount of time I spend doing one-legged drills, both on inlines and ice, but I found that as I focused more on my breathing, it was easier to achieve the balance I was looking for. One of the coolest poses is Eagle pose, where you move from the Chair pose to this pose shown below:
My problem with Eagle is that I can’t seem to get my foot wrapped around by calf, because my blood is tiger’s milk and I have the legs of Adonis. But I digress…The dude in the pic above isn’t fully there, as this one also requires you to get your elbows up to shoulder level. Talk about brutal, but that’s not the worst of it. There’s this inversion pose called Crow pose…
In Crow, you’ve got to balance yourself on the shelf you create with your triceps after you’ve been doing this in a hot room for 45 minutes. This gets slippery…and the danger of face plant is high. Go ahead and try and do this one, naked in front of a mirror (just for added kicks.) Oh, and hold it for a minimum of 5 deep breath cycles. Yeah…Charlie Sheen couldn’t even hang with that s#&t, boyee! It’s Epic!
There are many other poses that skaters can benefit from. And with the Core Power program, they run you through other core building exercises like bicycle crunches. A lot of the poses really stretch out your hammies. After an hour, I’m spent, dripping wet and smelling of rotten feet (but that’s because I hit the Yoga class after having spent an hour on the ice. The chicks really dig the aroma.)
If anything, I’m thinking Yoga will allow me to get deeper in my seat, and improve my core strength, stacked alignment and balance when I’m skating, both inline and on the ice. Am I more flexible? Hard to say at this point. I do know this…I feel a lot more vulnerable, and sometimes really dirty, like I need to take a shower to wash off the ugliness…
This might have something to do with Happy Baby pose.