Yoga takes the edge off
I fell asleep. Twice. Neither time made it very far, but if I wasn’t woken, I would have hit that level four R.E.M. sleep very quickly.
But I wasn’t trying to stay awake through a King of the Hill episode: I was doing Yoga.
It was a Monday evening in Kimba Schuster’s yoga class, located in Active Family Chiropractic Center.
More and more people are doing it and it’s not just for general health. It’s also being picked up by athletes as ways to avoid injury, improve performance and to overall perform at higher levels. There are videos called “Cross Training with Yoga” and another called “Yoga Conditioning for Athletes with Rodney Yee,” whoever Rodney Yee is, “Yoga Conditioning for Athletes,” a book called “Serious Yoga for Serious Athletes,” and a whole style of Yoga called Power Yoga.
If you look for anything on the Internet about Yoga, you’ll quickly learn that it’s become a cure-all, fixing all problems by a Yoga session. The jury on whether Yoga really is going to dramatically change your life or not like an instructor may claim is still out to lunch. But the verdict that has been returned is that your body is better off with the type of stretching that Yoga provides.
“Starting with strength and flexibility, (they) are the yin and yang of Yoga,” Schuster said. “But the advantages of yoga and being an athlete, is that you’re going to prevent a lot of injuries. You’re going to recover from injuries a lot quicker. You’re able to relax and center yourself. You’re able to get grounded.”
Schuster teaches in the top floor, a converted attic, really, of the chiropractor office. She has students from all walks of life.
“Most of my clients are local, so they’re physically active, that’s why we all live here, so most people are coming here to distress from work or stress from their physical activity,” she said.
One of Schuster’s selling points for Yoga is that it’s good for skiers, climbers, runners, cyclists and virtually every other type of athlete out there.
“Particularly with skiing, because it’s such an adrenaline pumping and creating (sport), you’ve got this speed adrenaline kind of activity going on,” Schuster said. “You have all that lactic acid and adrenaline going on that’s still in your body. Your body’s in a state of fight or flight, which is a stress response in your body, so naturally by doing yoga, instead of going out and having a beer you can go out and breath through that stuff. Calm yourself down, get that adrenaline out of your system.”
Anne Marie Sheridan is another Truckee Yoga instructor. She just started this month in Truckee at Lotus Studio after teaching in King’s Beach and Tahoe City for a few years. Before that, she was in Santa Cruz. Sheridan is an avid climber, skier, mountain biker and runner and a former gymnast.
“One of the things I noticed first was when I was running I’d pay more attention to my breath-work,” she said. “Yoga will bring in mental clarity, or just an awareness or focusing of the mind, whether it be in balancing the posture or, pushing yourself to the edge or increasing your flexibility.”
The flexibility that Yoga creates is imperative to avoid a too stiff of an athlete.
“It’s also important that those muscles have maneuverability,” Sheridan said.
Yoga taught Sheridan a little about her body that she didn’t know before.
“When I first started out in gymnastics, my left leg was really, really much more flexible and stronger and I didn’t even really notice it until I started doing yoga postures and then I noticed one side was a lot more forgiving than the other side,” she said. “So it really focuses on balancing your body and not making one side of your body or one part of your body more developed than the other.”
Sheridan’s increased flexibility has let her enjoy her sports a little more, as well.
“Beyond the breath work, when I was learning to teliski, I fell a lot and I thought ‘it’s a good thing my knee can bend that way, because otherwise that would hurt a lot,” she said.
Sheridan first taught eight years ago in a Santa Cruz climbing gym.
“It really focuses on balancing and muscle control and having stamina,” she said. “The climbers loved it.”
Most of Schuster’s students noticed a difference once they began Yoga.
Blair Vaughn broke her back in March 2001. She jumped a rail going too fast and tried to land on the end of it for a railslide. But the excessive speed threw her up in the air too far. She cleared the rail entirely and butt-checked, resulting in a back compression. Now Yoga has a dual-role in her life: Damage control and preventative maintenance.
“This is my way of rehab. It strengthens (my back) and the rest of my body, so maybe when I do ride, I won’t break it again,” Vaughn said.
She said taking a Yoga class has been the best way of doing it for her.
“If I to come to a class, I’m more apt to do it than at home,” she said. “A teacher can watch you and correct your posture. Plus, there’s no dogs or telephones, there’s no interruptions in here, so it’s better to get somewhere.”
She attributes her recovery to Yoga.
“Today (Jan. 13), I hit my first railslide since I broke my back,” Vaughn said. “I had to do my breathing to calm down. Mentally, it helps.”
Some are still checking it out. David Smith, of Truckee, was in only his second Yoga class. The first one for the skier and cyclist was a two-hour Yoga for athletes workshop in the Bay Area.
“Honestly, I’m just exploring the whole thing,” he said.
Both Sheridan and Schuster hold weekly classes in Truckee.
“Yoga isn’t just flexibility,” Sheridan said. “Like an athlete might seek out yoga for increasing strength or increasing stamina but also to just increase their well-being and their awareness of their body.”