Yoga and I have a long history. We’ve been on-again/off-again for about 15 years and, despite my commitment issues, I consider yoga to be an integral part of my fitness life. However, I’ve neglected it over the last six months or so. There are only so many hours in the day and so many days in the week and I made the conscious decision to focus on other parts of my fitness – running and cross-training – in the run up to my first obstacle course race. In retrospect, I question the wisdom of that decision and I am very grateful to my early morning Yoga for Sport class at Gymbox Old Street for showing, or rather, reminding me, the error of my ways.
Yoga for Sport is a 45 minute class of dynamic yoga, which is tailored towards athletes, and by that I mean people who train regularly: runners, cyclists, spinners, boxers, weightlifters, CrossFitters, you name it. The class is all about balance, alignment and flexibility, with a focus on some key muscle groups: hips, hamstrings and shoulders. These muscles are the usual suspects when feeling stiff. The more focused you are in your training, the more likely it is that you are using the same muscles more and underusing others. Or maybe you have a preferred side – boxing being a classic example. What Yoga for Sport does is to even things out, by stretching and improving flexibility and circulation in those overused muscles, and by building strength into the supportive but under-developed muscles that surround the muscles you utilise more. This improves your core stability, range of motion and the power and strength of your muscles, while at the same time reducing your chances of injury.
The dynamic nature of Yoga for Sport means that you ‘flow’ from one posture to the next, linking your movements with your breath. Not only does this energise and warm the body – perfect for an early morning or pre-workout practice – but it also helps you develop control and depth in your breathing. Better breathing means your muscles get more oxygen and hence function better. And, if you’re a runner, it also means less chance of a stitch dragging your down.
The balancing and inversion section of the class is always one of my favourites. Not only does it help to improve your balance and coordination – essential for any sport – but it also a chance to practice focus and control. Strengthening the connection between your body and mind will help you become more precise and efficient in every running stride, swim stroke, clean pull or swerve shot.
The class ends with a breathing exercise and brief savasana, where we lie on our backs with our eyes closed for a few moments of quiet meditation. This is the part of yoga class that people are most likely to skip. Don’t. Savasana is actually the most important part of yoga practice – it is when you reap the mental benefits of the class. This is when you train your mind to focus, clear the negative chatter, manage fear and visualise nailing the perfect lift, seamlessly transitioning during your triathlon, crossing that finishing line and achieving your goals.
No matter what your sport or discipline, a regular and consistent yoga practice has the potential to enhance your performance and abilities and to protect you from injury. Take it from me: a no nonsense class like Yoga for Sport at Gymbox is just what you need to bring balance to your training and take your abilities to another level.
Check out our class schedule right here.