Yoga Articles

Journey of a Reluctant Yogi

by Kevin S. from Arizona

"You need to do yoga," said my chiropractor. It was stated plainly, without emphasis and without emotion as if it was the only logical and accepted prescription in this universe. Yoga! What good could yoga possibly do for me when I was already a four-time-per-week gym rat? Sure, my back ached every morning, but by afternoon I was usually feeling better and ready for that evening high-energy spin class. I may have been willing to accept his advice, except he placed a vial of fish oil against my chest and then raising my arm suggested that I was also omega-3 deficient. "I need to find a new chiropractor," I thought.

However, with a few months of back discomfort under your belt, you're more accepting of "outside the box" suggestions. There is a tipping point where pain weighs heavier than the disagreeable notion of adjusting your core beliefs. For each of us, this point is different. For all of us, we'd be better served not holding too tightly to any belief. I found myself saying, "I'm going to a yoga class just to prove that quack wrong!"

Power Yoga, read the schedule. "Hmmm," I thought, "this is a good place to start." One and a half hours later I found a new respect for yoga. You have to respect something that kicks your ass (not very yoga-like, huh?). I couldn't remember the last time I found something so challenging. Balance, Strength, Flexibility - the physical trifecta. How could I allow myself to exist on this earthly plane without trying to master the basic skills required to navigate our gravity-rich environment?

Balance? I should be able to lift one leg and balance on the other. Strength? I should be able to hold a squatted position without going into cardiac arrest. Flexibility? I should be able to touch my toes without bending my knees, right? And so my journey of yoga began.

I must admit, that I, like many of my sex (boys will be boys), occasionally daydream about being a superhero. We've all seen the movies—superheros are strong, flexible and can balance on the head of pin. Should I ever be called upon to perform some "superhero" duty, I must have these skills to succeed. Nowadays most of my superhero duties include things like opening a jar, reaching for the top shelf, or climbing a ladder (see, you do need strength, flexibility and balance). Regardless of the task, our bodies are designed to have these qualities. And, with a bit of maintenance, they can and will.

Why is it that so many of us want to look like superheros, muscles bulging, but can't perform the simple task of touching our toes with straight knees? All those muscles won't provide health to your spine and joints. Believe me, when you get just a bit older, you'd rather live each day without back/joint pain than be able to bench press a Mini-Cooper. Exercising just a bit of anticipatory intelligence about your work-out routine can change your life.

After a few yoga classes I realized that my time at the gym is better spent exercising my body rather than my ego. However, I must admit that it was my ego that pushed me in the right direction. I just couldn't allow myself to be ill-equipped at the most basic and important attributes of human physicality. And, by the way, not only did I discover that yoga increases flexibility and improves balance, it's also a tremendous cardio workout and strength builder. Whether it's seated, calming, stretching Yin yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Bikram yoga, or Power yoga, there is sure to be something challenging and healthful that you will connect with. I have not yet found a yoga form that I dislike.

Back pain? What back pain? It didn't take too many classes before I learned that my chiropractor was right about yoga. The jury is still out on my omega-3 deficiency.