What Yoga Taught Me

imageOnce upon a time I played football in college. Six games into my junior year, I had the misfortune, or fortune as I look back on it now, of blowing out my knee. During rehabilitation all my trainer would preach was, “We need to get you mobile first. Then we can get to work on getting stronger.”

About a month later they brought a yoga instructor to the campus rec center. All I knew at that point was that yogis are the most flexible people on the planet. While developing the ability to tie myself in knots would by no means boost my athletic prowess, something short of that could turn out to be good for my repaired knee.

I ended up taking a class or two, and I was hooked. Not only did my rehab speed up, but the functionality and performance of everything else got exponentially better. My joints responded to contact better. I also became much more limber which afforded me the tools to move better on the field.

Yoga’s benefit to the body is well established: fascial release, the opening of joints, lengthening of connective tissue, enhanced recovery, etc. The list goes on. However, it’s what yoga has taught me and brought to my life outside the physical that has truly enhanced my life on a daily basis. Here are the three most important things I’ve taken from yoga:

Clarity – once you get away from what is going on in the room physically, you are then able to attack how you breathe. Breathing not only frees tension in the body but also in the mind. This freedom, this creation of space, truly gives me the opportunity for expansion. As a coach and an entrepreneur, diving deep into neglected training practices or expanding the scope of my practice are next to impossible to manifest with an unclear mind. When I lose touch with my physical self and control my breathing amidst what would otherwise be a chaotic or nervous situation, that is when I’m able to really manifest progress.

Calm Courage – there was a time when I would do all kinds of crazy things to satisfy my ego. When I put lessons learned in yoga into practice in the gym, all the grunting, yelling, and gyration (which I still do from time to time. Old habits die hard, what can I say) that I felt was a must to hit a max lift, have fallen by the wayside. I have visualized, and hit the lift countless times in my mind before I even approach the bar. This practice has proven itself over and over again, without the element of visualization and the confidence I draw from it, I will almost surely miss, or the lift will be way more difficult than it needs to be.

Perspective – at the end of the day, what the person next to me is doing is of zero consequence. Yoga has taught me through posing and stretching a little further and a little deeper over time to accept progress for progress’ sake. Regardless of how little or how much better I get, the bottom line is, I’m getting better. That little bit of progress, that one new member, that five pound PR, that new found willpower to opt for a healthier choice than I would have made yesterday, that is indeed progress. And guess what? It should be celebrated!

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