Readers, I’ve recently had the opportunity to integrate a session of yoga into my weekly practice. The value has been tremendous.
My prior experience with yoga has been pretty limited. I attended the odd class or two in my first couple years as a trainer, but it was way too early in my movement development to see the value it had for me. Over the summer, however, I did a brief stint of hot yoga here in Halifax (30 days for $30, yo!), and it’s usefulness became immediately obvious.
Even the abbreviated posture set used in Bikram yoga exposed and attacked many holes in my movement profile. I became very aware of not only how stiff I was in many directions (as I’m sure many first-time yogis experience), but also how weak I was in positions of compression (being all folded up). When faced with such a crushing experience, the wise mover must recognize that they have discovered a toolset that can both highlight and bolster important shortcomings.
Bikram was a little outside my price range, but thanks to the efforts of a good friend who teaches an Ashtanga class on Wednesday nights I finally have a way to engage in this practice regularly. So much of the value for me, I think, is finally having exposure to a good teacher who can identify the faults in my breath and alignment and guide me into greater awareness of better positions. I already feel a heightened understanding of my right shoulder, the mechanics of which have been elusive to feel out and optimize, which has translated into stronger handstand training and better daily posture.
Certain groups in the movement community seem to have a negative opinion of yoga, and I think this has come about for a couple reasons. The first is that yoga, like many movement disciplines, is not complete. It teaches and enforces many important qualities of movement, like mobility, balance, control, flow, and strength (to some degree), but it typically leaves other stones unturned, such as speed, power, aerial awareness, and interaction (unless you’re doing Acro, of course). That said, I think the qualities it does teach are missing in the movement profiles of many individuals, and they could become much more physically complete by dabbling in it. The second reason yoga gets some hate is, I think, because the growth of yoga has been rapid and, like oh-so-many martial arts schools and Crossfit boxes, quality is not guaranteed. It is important to seek out experienced teachers, or at the very least those who have the thirst for understanding that makes a good teacher.
Now, I’m obviously a yoga newbie, and while I’ve observed the practice from afar for a while I certainly don’t profess to know much about it. I would encourage those of you who are experienced practitioners to comment below and let me know your thoughts.