Barry: Body can benefit from yoga

Published 9:47 am Sunday, October 28, 2012

I’ve always been the type of person who thrives from a challenge, especially a physical one. I learned back in my days as a high school swimmer, that the human body can do amazing things if we take proper care of it, fuel it with the right foods and, most importantly, the belief that we can achieve incredible physical feats. As swimmers, we would use visualization to prepare mentally, picturing ourselves dropping crucial seconds off our time at the next big race. To reach our physical peak, we would wear layers and layers of old swim suits and tights, change our dry-land routines, and switch up our workouts in the pool for maximum fitness and speed.

Years later, as a marathon runner, I applied many of the same endurance training techniques and mental visualization I’d learned back in high school. After a few races my speed would plateau until I changed up my cross training workouts, added hills, or interval training.

Though I first stared practicing yoga in college, it wasn’t until I was training for my first marathon that I got really into it. I found yoga to be a great cross train for running because it stretches, elongates, and strengthens my muscles all while soothing my mind and spirit. Yoga felt like a great release, and to my surprise, though I could run for hours on end, the yoga classes at my neighborhood gym were totally kicking my butt. It didn’t take me long to get totally hooked in the many benefits of yoga. I loved the way it made my body look and feel, and it toned up areas I never even knew how to work before.

I’ve always found exercises to be a great escape and stress relief, and yoga really took that to the next level for me. There is such an emphasis on quieting the chatter in the mind so you can just live in the present moment. I found it even more of a mental escape and release than running, swimming, or weightlifting, and all the while, you’re becoming super strong and flexible.

There are many things about yoga that I love: the mind-body-spirit connection, the way it efficiently works various areas of the body in one workout, the love and respect for all beings it teaches, and there are constant reminders of what amazing things the human body can do when the mind allows you to. Physically strong, properly instructed, and over my fear of getting upside down and out of my comfort level, I suddenly found myself doing headstands, handstands, and all kinds of crazy, break-dance-esque arm balances. Never able to do the splits as a child, my teacher talked me into them one day shortly after my thirtieth birthday.

Now I can do the splits easily, without much of a warm-up. There are so many amazing poses can do because I let go of anything in my mind that was telling me I couldn’t do them. To me, the best part about yoga is there are so many more poses that I’m still working on and learning to do. You can never plateau, never master all the poses, never stop working, elongating, getting stronger through yoga. It’s one of the few forms of exercise that always offers you another challenge or another height to reach physically and mentally. So, if you are bored in the gym, or you just feel like you’ve plateaued on your current fitness regime, I suggest you check out one of these great yoga events coming up in our area this month:

Tuesdays in Oct. 12-1 p.m.: Yoga for Cancer Survivors and Caregivers at Pleasant Street Studio, St. Joseph. Taught by longtime yoga instructor and cancer survivor Steven Welsh. This is a donation based class with proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.

Sunday, Oct. 28 2-4 p.m.: Yoga Basics Workshop at Tabula Rasa Gallery, Baroda. Join me as I break down Sun Salutation A and B series, as well as the key poses of yoga. $30

Sundays 4:30-6:30 p.m.: Deep Stretch and Relaxation Yoga Series at Three Pillars Gallery, Benton Harbor. Area veteran yoga instructor Maria Rosner is doing a three week series this fall. Each week has a different theme and covers everything from restorative to yin yoga. $20