Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sweating out the Kinks

As a triathlete I am used to tight muscles. I am diligent about stretching and massage but sometimes that doesn't seem to be enough. I have chronically tight hip flexors and a shoulder that develops knots simply by being immersed in chlorinated water.

Enter Hot Yoga.

I was a little intimidated to try it. Mainly because I didn't want to look like an idiot. Shallow, I know. I was also a little worried about the heat. Normally I don't do well in the heat. I usually get light headed and a little dizzy. Turns out I had nothing to worry about. The heat is a moist heat and seems to get right into your body. I thought I was in good shape but I remember being sore after my first hot yoga class. And I sweat like I had never sweat before. Not a stinky, hard run kind of sweat but a cleansing kind of sweat. I walked out of that first class feeling cleansed, relaxed and incredibly limber. I was hooked. I tried to go at least once a week. After several weeks of regular practice I started to notice things happening with my running. Things like less tightness in my hip flexors, the loosening of what I thought was chronic shoulder tightness. My running speed also started to improve. Probably because my hip flexors were no longer that tight. Imagine that.

I also noticed that it really helped me to mentally turn off. It's hard to think about your day when you're holding one leg in the air and trying to balance on the other in a room that is heated to a balmy 100 degrees. Yoga practice requires (for me at least) extreme concentration. Every week I would try to stretch a little farther, concentrate a bit harder. Every week I would leave that class feeling lighter. The harder I worked, the lighter I felt.

Unfortunately when things got really busy, going to yoga was one of the things that fell by the way side. All of my old issues gradually started to materialize again. After the ridiculous amount of physio that I went through last year while training for my marathon, I decided that there were 2 things that I was going to work on over the off season and throughout my next racing season. #1 was strength (which I have been incredibly diligent about) and #2 was flexibility. I've been good about stretching and foam rolling but again, I need that extra bit of help. So back to yoga I went. The familiarity of the postures was comforting. The heat of the room, welcoming. It was just like seeing that friend whom you haven't seen in years but every time you see each other you can pick up where you left off. And you never realize how much you miss them, until you see them again.
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