By Sharni Quinn
Yoga is most often thought of as slow moving stretching postures that are for girls in tight pants or for happy-clappy hippies. Wrong! Things are changing and the top tri-athletes in the world are using yoga as their secret weapon to reap the benefits that the practice brings to their hard-core training.
If you are burning many hours on the bike or major kilometers running in the mountains or on the road, your body is eventually going to feel the impact.
The hours that you spend running or cycling can often lead to injury or burnout.
Using yoga as a tool not only increases your flexibility, stamina, strength and endurance but you will also feel the effects that it has on your mind to get into the right headspace for race day.
Here are a few tips and explanations on how yoga can improve your training, help you run and ride faster and enjoy it all with a pain-free, happy body!
What is yoga?
Yoga is an ancient healing practice that was created more than 5 000 years ago to improve physical, mental and spiritual discipline. Yoga is not a religion so it won’t affect your belief system. It is also a lot more challenging than you might think! Today it is used by many top athletes to complement their training, improve their breathing and use the meditation aspect to de-stress, relax and get into the ‘zone’.
Why is it good for me as a cyclist?
Yoga can help relieve the physical aches that come with cycling from back pain and tense shoulders to tight hamstrings and thighs. Yoga also improves your posture so you will feel more aware of your body and how you ride on your bike. By increasing your core strength you will also balance better on the bike and power up unused muscles to improve your stamina and strength.
Why is it good for me as a runner?
As a runner, if you are doing it just for fun or if you are a seasoned competitive runner, you can feel the impact that this sport has on your knees and hips. Yoga helps protect your joints by mobilizing them and muscles around them to keep them safe. If you want to improve your form then yoga brings symmetry and balance back into the body making it the perfect compliment to running. Often runners avoid yoga as they think they have to be flexible… but that is the point, the more yoga you do the more flexible your body will become. Yoga stretches the muscles that are tight, decreases stiffness in the joints and muscles which ultimately results in greater range of movement and reduces aches and pains.
What are the other benefits?
Yoga is a complete inner and outer body workout. It strengthens and stretches muscles, as well as massages the internal organs and rids your organs of toxins. However, it is not merely a physical practice; an hour of yoga is also an hour of proper breathing, meditation and relaxation. The deep yogic breathing increases your breathing capacity, calms you down and de-stresses the whole body, the meditation aspect increases your focus, makes you more mindful and can help with controlling your emotions while you are in discomfort on the road, and ultimately reach your goals.
What can I expect from a typical yoga class?
A typical yoga session is an hour long. If you are working with a specific injury then it would be best to find your own private yoga teacher that can work with you one-on-one. There are many DVDs and YouTube videos that you can watch to get the basics, however it would be best for you to go to a class or a few, so that you can get to know the names of the postures and how to do them properly.
Depending on the style of yoga class, there will be various levels of intensity and different sequences, but a basic class at our Follow the Sun studio mainly follows the routine of starting with simple stretches and breathing techniques, a few Sun Salutations to warm the body up, standing postures, (increasing strength in the legs), seated postures, (improving flexibility), core strengthening postures, backbends, (increasing flexibility in the spine and loosening up tight back muscles), and then ending off with the final relaxation, (5 minutes of complete bliss!)
We also don’t recite the ‘Om’ mantra or chant in our classes so you won’t feel weird having to ‘tap into your Zen side’ and many of our students are beginner yogis.
Where do I sign up?
There are many different styles of Yoga from Hot Yoga in a 40 degree heated room, to relaxing Yin Yoga sessions. You need to try out a few various styles, studios and teachers to see which one works best for you. Most yoga studios in Cape Town and JHB offer a discounted or free first session, or a special for beginners to the studio.
You don’t need to be super-bendy to attempt your first yoga class. Yoga is for everybody! So, get your training buddy, try a few sessions together at various yoga studios in your area and enjoy the positive effect that yoga has on your riding and running!
To find out more about Follow the Sun’s Yoga classes and workshops at their studio in Woodstock, or to get your own personal one-on-one yoga instructor in Cape Town or Johannesburg then visit www.followthesun.co.za for more prices, classes and more details or email firstname.lastname@example.org