Recently a parent sat in on a rehearsal I was running with 80+ kids and asked how I stayed so patient.
Yoga, I told her. Really?, she asked.
I stumbled upon Yoga at BU many years ago, and it’s been part of my life ever since. My regular Yoga practice has helped me through major surgery, keeps me cool when overseeing large children’s programs, and of course always reminds me to breathe through all that regular day to day stuff.
Some students become so enamored with Yoga, they start to think it’s magic. I sadly have to break the news to them – no matter how much you practice, you can still get sick, your loved ones might leave you, your boss can drive you crazy.
But if you’re open to a new approach to life, Yoga will teach you to breathe through difficulty, walk a moderate path when those around you are taking sides, and in general live with equanimity and gentleness.
As I walked to my studio this morning (which I’m lucky enough to be able to do year-round), I was struck by the number of people out in the beautiful weather. Power walking, strolling, jogging, running, dog walking, even getting their gardens ready! And most of them have been hibernating all winter.
So it got me thinking about injuries – and most important, how to prevent them. It’s really easy to overdo it. The sun’s shining, you want to be outside and stay there. Movement just feels right.
I’m out there moving too, but not without a daily stop on my yoga mat, which has been my constant companion for more than 30 years. Yoga’s full-body stretching and strengthening can really help you prevent injuries by building both power and flexibility in the body.
There are lots of styles of yoga out there. At the Prana Center, we practice a safe, gentle form known as Kripalu (named after the center in Stockbridge where most of the Prana teachers were trained). It’s a wonderful way to ease your body into a higher level of activity. Yoga helps you to look inside, at your own body’s movements, to see where you need to gently tweak to stay safe and improve performance.
The other morning after class, one of my students (life-long Holliston resident Caroll Damigella) came up and told me a great story that illustrates another wonderful yoga benefit – increased lung capacity. Three years ago Caroll took up extreme hiking and since, has hiked all 48 of the 4,000 foot mountains in New Hampshire.
“For three years I have struggled with my breathing,” Caroll told me, sharing that she suffers from exercise-induced asthma. One month ago, she began to practice Yoga diligently, sitting on her mat without fail at least twice a week.
This past weekend Caroll went on a steep hike, warning her friends that she was always the last one up the mountain. But something else happened. “I kept up the pace! I never once reached for my inhaler. My legs started to hurt before my lungs. I was amazed,” she said. “I told my friends, ‘this is because of yoga.’ It’s the only thing I’m doing differently. In the past seven days, I came to yoga three times. It’s really amazing.”
Later on I spoke to my friend and Prana yoga student Bruce Rayner, who’s been a serious runner and triathlete for decades. I asked why he includes Yoga in his training. “I have my sights set on competing in my third Ironman next year when I turn 55,” he said. “Not only does it keep muscles supple and improves core strength, but just as important it helps keep me mentally centered.”
Bruce, a Holliston resident who’s “Chief Green Officer” of Athletes for a Fit Planet, said simply, “As in the past, yoga is an essential part of my training regime. “