Time for yoga, but what kind?

When my hamstrings started bothering me a few weeks ago, I decided it meant I must be doing something right, since most runners talk about tight hamstrings.  This is called putting a positive spin on things!  Positive spin or not, my legs have been reminding me that they wanted attention.  I knew that the days before some action would be needed were numbered.

I had put corrective action on hold until the two half marathons I had scheduled were behind me.  Having now completed a relatively low-key local half on May 13 and a large, festive gathering of nearly 12,000 runners for the Ottawa Half on May 27, together with my husband, son, and brother, these are my take-aways:

1.   I do a LOT better running in cool weather.  (It was beautiful and cool for the local race and beautiful and warm in Ottawa!)

2.   It’s really fun to be part of Ottawa Race Weekend, regardless of the temperature or your time.

3.   It’s really, really fun to participate in a festive race with your family.

4.   It’s time to take care of my hamstrings.

Now, what kind of action does one take to whip those hamstrings back in shape, so they no longer feel like they’re about to cramp most of the time?  Going online, I can find lots of advice that sounds very similar to how one approaches any soft tissue injury: rest, ice, compression, elevation, ibuprofen.  And strengthen your gluts.  But I kind of feel as though, along with this standard self-treatment, maybe it’s time to try yoga.

Yoga comes up in all kinds of conversations involving flexibility and core strength these days.  I’ve had it recommended to me by several much younger running colleagues, both female and male.  People I know who have had no success in overcoming back pain and wanted to get back to their favourite sports activity have tried yoga classes in desperation and now swear that it made a real difference.

Of course, for many years – decades, in fact – acquaintances who were not sports oriented were devotees of yoga for what it brought to their lives: peace, centeredness, and flexibility.  And most recently, the topic of mindfulness has come to me from many directions: from Bhutan, from articles on mindfulness in leadership, and from those engaged in the practice of yoga.  It seems that in this increasingly frenetic world, where there is so much to distract us and keep us from focusing, ancient eastern philosophy has something to teach us.

For years, my feeling was that yoga seemed to be great for others, but not necessarily for me.  The vocabulary itself is hard to get into.  The philosophical underpinnings require acceptance rather than skepticism.  I did try a class once or twice, but by the time I figured out what position I was supposed to be in, the class had moved on to the next one.  And I couldn’t place my hands flat on the ground because of my arthritic thumbs, nor could I stay in some positions for long because of reflux issues, so why even try?  I clearly didn’t belong in the class.

However, I am now willing to admit that in order to benefit from yoga – as with anything new – I need to give it a chance.  For starters, I need to slow down in order to fully absorb what it has to offer.  Perhaps that is one of the tenets of yoga that is fundamental to its strengths.  I remember a friend of mine telling me years ago that if I didn’t have time for yoga then that was proof that I needed it.  She was an early devotee.

The bottom line is that I am a 66 year-old woman who would not be able to do some poses, nor would I want to.  But I believe I could gain improved flexibility, looser hamstrings, and a better understanding of mindfulness through some practice of yoga.  Maybe even a stronger core, now that we all know what our core is.  And if these benefits could help me keep running into my 90s, so much the better!

Now that I have come this far – ready to try – it turns out that it’s not as easy as just paying your money and joining a class.  There are so many kinds of yoga; talk about confusing.  One of my young friends has suggested that Yin yoga is best for runners.  Another young friend swears by Vinyasa yoga for helping get his hamstrings loosened up.  (I love that both these young friends are former students of mine.)  Meanwhile, another friend has started Qi Gong yoga and loves it.  When I look online there is a long list of possibilities, few of which are distinguishable from their descriptions.  When I look locally, there are endless options – and this is a small town.  There are larger classes, smaller group sessions, and private lessons.  How does one choose???

I know there are many yoga lovers out there.  Help!  Please!!  Namaste. 

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10 Responses to Time for yoga, but what kind?

  1. Francine says:

    Quand j’ai commencé les classes de yoga il y a deux ans, je me sentais exactement comme toi, pourrais-je être à la hauteur, et suivre les autres, mais c’est très important d’aller à son propre rythme et d’ajuster les pauses à son corps. Comme les autres commentateurs, je te suggère de commencer dans un cours de débutants avec un bon instructeur (ce qui fait la différence). Une fois initiée, le yoga fait partie du quotidien et peut être un complément au jogging,( aussi une dépendance…) mais surtout, un bienfait incomparable physiquement , spirituellement etc…

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Francine, merci pour ton conseil. Je vais essayer un atelier court à UNB en avance sur notre week-end de Qi Gong. Aussi, j’ai trouvé ce matin qu’il y aura un Jour de Yoga le 16 juin quand plusieurs des studios de yoga seront ouverts toute la journée, offrant diferent les types de yoga pour essayer. Je ne peux pas me décider si je suis la dernière personne dans le monde voulant essayer le yoga, ou s’il est juste que le monde entier veut essayer!

  2. Running in Mommyland says:

    I understand what Barbara said about trying yoga and disliking it because it went too fast, etc. This is a big reason why people don’t stay. Starting too quickly is frustrating and yoga should be anything but.

    I would strongly recommend a beginner class in the hatha style. As you start to learn the poses you’ll gather enough knowledge that you can take with you to practice on your own. The poses build upon each other. After a while it will click. That’s when it gets really good!

    I love that you are giving it a try! I need to get working on my article for others in the same position. Yoga is so rewarding. Obviously in the physical respect, but in so many other ways, too.

    Look forward to hearing how it goes!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Hi Martha. Thanks for your input. Your post a while ago about a teacher you had in Maine and how she made it really make sense to you helped me reconsider. Now I have to put my money where my mouth is! BTW, congrats on your success in building on your original blog. Looking good!

  3. snowbirdpress says:

    Dear Jane, I have a spinal condition which at one point left me struggling with paralysis. You are right the the East has much to teach us. Mindfullness was the tool I used to walk again. Walking into the pain. Another thing Eastern philosophy can teach us is that it does not matter if we “succeed”… it only matters that we experience it. Let it teach you things about yourself … from an objective point of view… outside looking in. That way if one doesn’t work, it’s taught you something about yourself and when you try another you will gain even more information that if you hit it off right the first time.

    As a runner you must know how much the body requires rest to heal. During that rest let the mindfulness enter and take over your body without forcing an outcome. Just experiencing what your body is trying to tell you. It took me a long time to figure out what my body needed. I have a feeling you’ll be an easier student than I was. 🙂

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I am so glad you found me! First of all, your drawings are absolutely stunning. I need to work a lot harder to move my Robby Robin illustrations to your level! What is a haiga? It is the combination of a haiku and its illustration? Re your yoga experiences, I have a number of friends who have found a yoga instructor who had helped them live with arthritis and other impediments to movement and relief of pain, but your situation goes to the head of the class! Wow. I really love your description of taking every step along the journey of recovery/acceptance/improvement as a lesson. That is how I felt as I tried everything I could find on the Internet in 2010 to overcome some overuse injuries. There is something out there for everyone, and you really get to understand your body as you work through the process, making it easier to care for yourself on an ongoing basis. I am looking forward to this new yoga journey. Thanks so much for your comment. Jane

      • snowbirdpress says:

        Hi, Jane, I don’t think of my drawings as illustration. That gets me into a lot of trouble since then I start getting manuscripts people want me to illustrate. I call them drawings and they are my little poems. I’ve been drawing all my life and just find it relaxing and healing and since I think I learned a lot from the birds while I was paralized, found the drawing would come to me when I’d read a haiku or a tanka I liked. Yes, a haiga is a haiku (sometimes a tanka) out of which a flow of the ink might bring a painting or just an expression of the brush. Some of the most exciting haiga are just that…simple brushwork flowing out of the poem.
        I’m glad I found your blog too. As a runner you will be dropping little hints of what works to keep moving… and those can only be beneficial. I try not to get injured. I try to stay within my limits…but to push against the boundaries so to speak. I don’t strive for big break-throughs. Just simply moving a fraction of an inch in a direction I want to go.
        Most youngsters give up drawing because they can’t acheive what’s in their mind. But I was more fascinated with what would come each time I drew something. It was never what was in my mind but was interesting. But along the way I learned a lot about what to aim for…. all of these things are life’s lessons. So it’s great to have input from others along the way.

        • Jane Fritz says:

          What a lovely concept: a haiku or tanka out of which a flow of ink might bring a painting … A delight for sure; I have learned something new. Thank you. I am also drawn to birds. We have feeders right outside our windows and I spend a lot of time watching them. I’ll look forward to more. 🙂

  4. Barbara Trenholm says:

    Hi, Jane. Lovely to see you posting again! Sounds like you were describing me with respect to yoga. I hated yoga when I tried it many years ago. It went too fast for me and I am not the most coordinated or flexible (actually the opposite) person to begin with. Last fall, I took a “yoga for over 50 class” at UNB. It was outstanding and small enough that we each got personal attention. I now love yoga. It made a difference for me in terms of some of the shoulder and other limitations I was dealing with and I miss it if I don’t do it. I am also looking for another yoga class to be offered again like this one and will let you know if I hear of one. In the meantime, if you ever see yoga offered by Alina Cress, snap it up quick. She is the best yoga instructor and understands the body very well. She also supervises the personal trainors at UNB and I just finished a round with a personal trainor she chose for me who helped me work further on my shoulder issues. My personal trainor (Hannah Connon) also helps Alina with the body and bones and yoga classes so might be an interim option if you don’t find something in the near term to meet your needs.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Great input, Barb. Did you have the small class with Zsuzsanna? Dan Murray said she is good. I have this concern about getting into a class and just not getting it. Not getting the pose, not doing it right, just getting frustrated. So now that I am convinced that I should do this – and you are confirming it in spades – I want to put myself in a situation where I can “succeed”. Thanks a lot. Sometime we should share shoulder issues as well! 🙂 I found that retiring helped, among other things. 🙂

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