I've taken Yoga classes for about 4 years now and had a love/hate relationship with it. I know that flexibility is the key to aging so I love it because its good for my body and a good balance of the other workouts that I do, but I hate because sometimes its so painful to do some of the moves. Some of the teacher's that I've taken classes from are such pure yogis that was more important for me to hold the pose than to modify to meet my body's limitations. I would dread going to classes but went anyways because I thought that in the grand scheme of things, it was good for me. Towards the end of last year, probably around November, one of my gym's started offering this Yoga Tune-Up class. Its taught by the same instructor that teachers my Strength & Conditioning and Core Training classes. The first time I went, I was expecting a traditional yoga class, but Yoga Tune-Up is anything but. Now I know that in the past I have had a really hard time describing exactly what Yoga Tune-Up is, but let me try again...
Yes its a Yoga class, but not in the traditional sense. For one, the instructor plays music, which I love. And while similar to regular yoga, in that we focus on balance and flexibility, we are also asked to be cognizant of what is going on in our bodies and to take note of imbalances or things that just don't feel right. Then we focus on healing those problem areas and making them stronger. Kinda sounds like physical therapy, huh?
What I love about this hour long class is that the entire class focuses on one pose that supports the one area of the body that we work on. That's it. For the past 4 weeks we've had classes on:
* Hips = Pigeon Pose * Piriformis = Eagle Pose * Hamstrings = Triangle Pose (I think, didn't take good notes in my journal) * Shoulders = Downward Dog
All common problem areas for runners, right? I swear, during every class this month, I've truly felt like the class was designed specifically me.
Last Night's Class The instructor opened last night's class by having us do a downward dog pose and assess how it felt. I felt very stiff and inflexible. Then, he asked us sit down, cross our one foot over the opposite knee and massage it. "Melt the butter" he said. The goal of this exercise was to release all the tension and gunked-up tissue in our feet. Any problem areas we have, he says, start in our feet. After doing that one side, we went back into downward dog to see if one side felt different than the other. Sure enough, mine did - my right side was much looser than my left. So then we sat down and did the other side. The next downward dog pose that I did definitely felt much looser and more comfortable; I didn't feel like I was straining or trying to fight through the pose.
During the rest of the class we went through more poses and exercises like hamstring stretches (using a yoga strap), Happy Baby pose, Chataranga push-ups, Warrior 2, modified Warrior 3 (airplane) -- all with the goal of working on lightening the load on our shoulders (during downward dog).
The one thing that made the biggest difference for me was to be in Plank position, then move back into a half Child's pose, then straight my legs into downward dog. I felt like all my weight was in my legs, my shoulders and upper body felt really light AND it was the closest I've ever come to having my heels touch the ground! I was pretty excited about that!
As I've been writing this post, I went to Youtube to see if there were any videos on Yoga Tune-Up and lo and behold there are! This video pretty much explains it all and my instructor is even in it!
After watching this video, I also discovered the official Yoga Tune-Up Web site. Please, please, please watch the video on the home page. The people speaking in the video communicate exactly how I feel about this class. If you've been following my blog for a while, you'll know that most of 2009 was spent battling hamstring and piriformis injuries. And if you're familiar with those injuries, you know that they linger for a long time. I have to spent time every day doing stretches, PT exercises and lots of foam-rolling. I still continue to battle these problem areas but now that I'm taking Yoga Tune-Up classes, not only am I getting the therapy I need to recover and get stronger, I'm also gaining a whole new education on how to listen to my body. I am much more aware of my movements. With all the running, weight training and other workouts that I do, I now realize how harsh it all is on my body; Yoga Tune-Up is a way to step back, take inventory and recover from the all the training. I truly feel like its a blessing in my life to help me continue to do the things that I love to do.
Now, instead of grudgingly dragging myself to yoga, I look forward to going to class every Monday night - I just wish it was offered more often.
If you can find a class in your area, I so encourage you to check it out - I promise you, you will love it!