So, I’ve made two pretty significant decisions in the last few weeks:
1) My very minor, “no restrictions on activity”-type case of plantar fasciitis did not respond well to 8- and 9-mile runs. I’d actually be okay while running, but it was taking several days of concentrated stretching, rest, and wearing compression socks to recover from these longer runs… so, I made the
awful mature decision to defer my registration for the Wineglass Half Marathon to 2015. Which means I am officially training for nothing.
2) I finally used up all 10 visits to a local yoga studio that I’d purchased on Groupon, and decided to just go for it and buy a membership.
The first decision was difficult – I have wanted back in this race for two years and was also very excited about a weekend getaway… but I knew my left foot did not want me to do it. Plus, being in pain is not fun. The second decision was so easy! First, the price could not be beat, and second, I have basically fallen in love, HARD, with doing yoga at a studio.
Yoga at the gym and yoga in a studio provide identical physical benefits. I can feel my flexibility and mobility improving while I’m also getting some strength work. Both also exercise a person’s mental focus. But what I’ve learned, now that I’m almost 20 classes in at the studio, is that there are so many different types of yoga, and so many other amazing benefits. The classes that I attend at the gym and work are Vinyasa flow classes, the one with more focus on flow (which translates as “heat” or “sweat”), the other focusing a little more on power/strength (um, that would be “burning muscles”). But there are so many other kinds!
Have you ever tried true Hatha yoga? It’s wonderfully stretchy, but also relaxing beyond belief. When I leave my favorite Hatha class, I feel like I’ve taken a long bath. My mind is calm, my body is looser, and I immediately want to do it again. “Restorative” is actually not a synonym for “easy.” It’s the way you really feel when you’re done.
Ashtanga yoga is another favorite. This one is more intense, more “heat-building,” and I love the way my teacher gets creative while leading us through a similar sequence of poses each class. It is always, always challenging, but I also like never knowing what to expect.
Then, this week, I had my first experience with Yin yoga. Which, for me, is by far the most difficult class ever! Yin yoga focuses on the connective tissues in our bodies rather than the muscles, and every pose is held for 1-5 minutes (at least in the class I attended; I think sometimes even longer!) for “deeper release.” I am not a flexible person by nature, running has not helped, and sitting in a forward bend for 5 minutes is just shy of hell for me. BUT the class I attended used every prop in the book to allow us to get deeper in the poses. And in true yogic style, I didn’t look around, but I’m sure I had the highest pile of blocks and blankets.
Like this, if she had 47 blocks under her forehead.
…which brings me to perhaps the biggest benefit of all this yoga I’ve done lately. My mind is becoming more flexible too. I am positive that a few months ago, when greeted with the 5-minute forward bend, or a teacher that says “we’re going without AC today to really build some heat” (yes, that really happened, and it was very sweaty), I would’ve been irritated at the very least, and probably would not have come back for more. Yet somehow I find myself wanting to do it again, because of how great it makes me feel.
I still go to my favorite class at the gym, because I like the teacher and the class, but the rushing-to-get-up-so-I-don’t-get-stepped-on-by-someone-in-the-next-class is a far cry from relaxing in a dimly-lit studio with music playing and candles burning. Honestly, some days joining a yoga studio feels like one of the most indulgent things I have ever done (and I totally realize the very First World Problem-ness of my complaints over the crowded classes at the gym. I am a very fortunate person to even be able to write about this stuff.), simply because of how good it makes me feel. It’s also, from a physical standpoint, a great counter to running (which I am still doing several times a week, just keeping the distance lower until my foot behaves) and, in most cases, that perfect low-impact exercise that my blood sugar loves so much.
Seriously. Go out and get a Groupon!