In the past few months, I have been so busy that I have not been able to make it to a yoga class. I have been practicing yoga (in some way or another) for 9 or 10 years now. When I started, I took class two times per week and never missed a class. As my practice progressed I moved from one style to another until I got to the point that I was done with classes and only took private lessons. That continued for a few years until I moved away from classes and teacher lead practices all together.
I never stopped practicing yoga on my own, but my time away was occupied with other activities that precluded me from getting to class. (That is a really nice way of saying that yoga class was not my top priority because we all know that if it was a top priority, I would have made it happen). Nonetheless, I only practiced on my own. I would hit up a class every now and again, or go through a 4-6 week jaunt where I got into a more regular schedule, but nothing more than that.
I then, more recently, got back to wanting to make it to class once/week, but when tax season hit, I didn’t have the time. Well, now I do – and I realized I was nervous; nervous that in my time-off, I would have lost some of my flexibility and core strength.
If you don’t live in a city with a plethora of yoga studios and amazing yoga teachers, then you are missing out. Boston is a yoga haven. The teachers are exceptionally good and because of that, the student’s skill is unmatched. As a result, my two teachers teach classes that on any given day will challenge me, provided I am up for the challenge. (That is the other amazing thing about yoga, you can make any pose less or more strenuous).
This past Saturday I made the decision to get my butt to class – Todd’s class that is. Todd is an amazing yoga teacher who teaches an advanced class. The class not only incorporates quite a few advanced poses but is physically demanding. However, I wanted a rigorous class – and Todd did not disappoint. I had an amazing class and what was even more exciting is that I moved into a pose I had never been able to master. Eka Pada Sirsasana (I think) – foot behind the head in a forward fold. (I must admit, my pose did not look quite as graceful, but I am almost there).
While there are still plenty of poses I want to master, this small achievement really got me thinking: I’ve been focusing on other athletic things yet when I got back to a class, was able to make an advancement.
But the fact remains, I had taken my focus off of yoga. Yes, I still practiced on my own (20 or so minutes a day after I’d workout), but I was not trying to improve. Actually, I was using yoga for mental sanity and for flexibility and joint/muscle health, and nothing else. But when I got back to it, I was right where I left off and ready to move forward. As a result, while my focus was elsewhere, by not foregoing yoga altogether due to the fact that I couldn’t give it my full attention, I was able to maintain and prime myself to improve. (How often do we give up on something all together because we cannot give it our full intention? Boy am I glad that I did not fall prey to that line of thinking this time, like I have done so many other time.)
Interestingly enough, I just went through this same experience with lifting. As I’ve mentioned, I streamlined my training over the past few months. My lifts have been full body lifts that incorporate plyometrics and agility with the goal of sucking wind and elevating my heart-rate without compromising the integrity of my lift. Prior to this, one of my focuses was to increase shoulder strength. However, I knew that any strength gain focus had to take a back seat when my program changed.
To my pleasant surprise, when all was said and done, my shoulder strength did increase. I lay the groundwork in Nov/Dec by increasing my weights in a typical strength building workout format. However, during my recent training, I either maintained that weight or only slightly decreased it (remember when doing a metabolically taxing full body lift filled with plyos, the weight you use in an overhead press half way through the workout is not going to mirror that which you would use for straight sets). My intent was to lift to my fullest potential, while maintaining good form, and that clearly did the trick.
The other day, as I was setting up some crazy giant set, it dawned on me that the weight I was overhead pressing for 10 reps was that which, in December, I could barely eek out for 10 reps while doing straight sets with plenty of rest.
In the end of the day, while we cannot always focus on everything all the time, that does not mean we will lose that for which we have worked so hard. And while I would tell, and have told, clients/friends/anyone else this is true; I’ve always found it a hard concept to believe applies to me. And so I imagine you might find this concept difficult to grasp as well.
While I don’t think an Olympic or even Pro-athlete can rest his/her laurels on this concept, I think the majority of the world can. You cannot focus on everything all the time (whereas the Olympian/Pro is paid to do so); there are times when things you really love have to take a back seat. But, that does not mean all is lost. Maintenance is a very real and attainable option. While I had not purposefully set up a plan to maintain my flexibility, I had set up a plan for my shoulder strength. I made sure I lifted with integrity every single time; perfect form and to failure; which paid off. On the yoga side, my daily routine has become second nature to me, so in retrospect, I should not be surprised with Saturday’s new pose. And while the point of my post was not to plug Jodiojo and Company, I will say that we do put together some amazing maintenance programs to help get you through those murky times when something else has to take center stage. So regardless of what has to take a front seat in your life, there is always a way to maintain and possibly keep improving.