Are You an Active Yogi?

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Almost every week, one of my new students expresses relief after class: "That wasn't so bad!" This isn't faint praise--I hope not, anyway--it's the student's realization that yoga for athletes is not necessarily athletic yoga. Even regulars at the studio where I teach, the Carrboro Yoga Company in North Carolina, are afraid to drop in on my class, because they hesitate to identify themselves as athletes.

But here's a secret: yoga for athletes is really yoga for anyone. Much of the tightness that athletes experience--shortened hip flexors, tight pectoralis muscles--appear in the bodies of anyone who sits at a desk or in a car. We can all stand to gain fluidity in the hips, strength in the core, openness in the chest.

However, if you are an athlete, yoga will complement your activity. So many of the common issues faced by runners, cyclists, rock climbers, golfers, tennis players, you name it, could be avoided by adding targeted yoga poses and smart sequences to your training. Beyond the physical, the yogic work of reaching a flow state, breathing to stay centered in the face of intensity, and learning your true nature will benefit your activity whether you're an Olympian, a weekend warrior, or are simply trying to keep yourself in shape.

All that said, depending on the time of year, yoga for athletes can be athletic. In the off-season, you can use your practice to increase strength, flexibility, and balance. During training periods, yoga is a natural complement to intense physical workouts, by bringing balance to your body and providing the meditative focus and awareness that makes you a better athlete. The trick is knowing when to apply which yogic tools when.

That's what Active Yogi is about. In this blog, I'llinvestigate common athletic complaints and issues, and recommend specific poses, sequences, breath exercises, and meditations that will help your yoga practice complement your training and your life. I want this to be as useful as possible, so please feel free to send me questions or requests so I can serve you best.

Sage Rountree is a yoga teacher, endurance sports coach and athlete, and author of The Athlete's Guide to Yoga. She teaches workshops on yoga for athletes nationwide and online at Yoga Vibes.