Focus on Fitness: Yoga can round out any athlete’s fitness regimen
To a newcomer, yoga can seem intimidating. Named poses, flexible and experienced participants and a range of unique genres leave some sitting on the sidelines of this beneficial activity.
Stephanie Johnson, a yoga instructor at Old Town Hot Springs with 12 years of experience, wants people to know that practicing yoga doesn’t have to be viewed that differently from other group exercise. In fact, the discipline serves as an important cross-training tool for many sports popular in the valley.
“There are numerous health benefits to yoga, particularly to the activities people like to do in Steamboat Springs,” Johnson said. “Whether that’s running, biking, hiking or skiing, there are significant advantages for athletes who also practice yoga.”
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons acknowledges increased muscle strength and flexibility among yoga’s benefits as well as joint and bone pain relief.
“We often injure ourselves by being singularly focused on one activity. A great example is golf. Your body gets out of balance because you’re only working one side,” Johnson said. “When you’re out of balance, everything is off. Your muscles and myofascial tissue start to overcompensate and we develop aches and pains.”
Johnson explains she can often determine what other activity someone is in to from their yoga poses.
“Passionate cyclists often have a slightly hunched upper back and tight shoulders, creating restrictions in the body we’re not always aware of,” Johnson said. “Yoga helps to open up and balance the muscles so that we regain our full range of motion.
Runners are another group Johnson feels can benefit tremendously from yoga.
“Runners build large quad and hamstring muscles but can still be out of alignment in ways that threaten the ankles, knees and hips,” Johnson said. “This is often due to running on the outer or inner edges of the feet. When your body is aligned properly, you’re going to be able to run safer and longer without deteriorating your ankles and knees over time.
For skiers and snowboarders, the benefits are also there.
Yoga allows you to move easier and faster by keeping the muscles open and flexible,” Johnson said. “Snowboarders can get down into a more balanced position easier. You can fine tune your movements because you’re more aware of how to find particular muscular actions in your body.”
One benefit is also the role yoga plays in limiting injuries on the slopes.
“When you’re falling, and your body is more flexible, open and relaxed, you’re less likely to injure yourself.”
And if you do get injured, yoga helps in recovery.
“Yoga is really huge for injury recovery. During a knee or hip replacement, they cut into your body. It goes into a state of trauma. The myofascial tissue and muscles tighten up,” Johnson said. “Particularly after an injury, yoga is helpful because it stretches that myofascial tissue and muscles. It soothes the nervous system and calms the body so that it starts to feel safe again.”
Johnson really wants people to know that yoga shouldn’t be viewed as an intimidating activity.
Yoga is not competitive. It’s intended to be a reflective place. Each pose is going to look different for everyone because it depends on what’s going on in your body. It’s not about looking like what you think you’re supposed to be. It’s about getting to know yourself and your own body better and seeing the benefits.”
In an effort to introduce more people to yoga, Johnson is leading a four-class, beginner yoga workshop 5:45 to 7 p.m. Sundays, July 29 through Aug. 19 at Old Town Hot Springs. The workshop is free for the entire community. Yoga classes are offered seven days per week at Old Town Hot Springs.
Nick Esares is marketing director at Old Town Hot Springs.
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