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Shape Up: The Yoganator – Russell Simmons Gets Fit with Yoga, So Can You! Check the Tecnique

yoga_woman_000

 

Hey what’s good

everybody? I know that Writing 101

states that I shouldn’t lead off with my most compelling argument, however my

goal is to prevent all of the fellas out there from clicking back over to illseed’s

rumors too quickly. 

 

So with that said, let me

just start by saying that many pro sports teams now incorporate yoga into their

training to increase flexibility, strength and balance. Also, Def Jam founder

Russell Simmons has been practicing yoga for over 14 years, and he managed to

pull Kimora Lee – so enough said, right?

 

This edition of Shape Up is

an introduction to yoga. Like many of you, I thought that if I ever took a yoga

class, aside from being laughed at by all of my male friends, I’d somehow end

up tying myself into a pretzel, or that I’d have to start wearing a backpack,

burning incense and eating lots of granola. To my surprise however, not only

were there other guys in the class, I was actually better at it than I thought. 

 

Admittedly, I only took

that first class because my girlfriend was the instructor and I was willing to

bend over backwards…. literally to get those digits (mission accomplished,

holla atcha boy!).  Aside from making my

way into her cell phone contact list however, I’ve actually found many other

benefits that have taken my participation level beyond that of a supportive

boyfriend.

 

The biggest change that I

noticed was in my flexibility. Flexibility is heavily regarded as one of the five

key components of fitness (the others being aerobic and cardio endurance,

muscular endurance, muscular strength and body composition).  If your muscles and joints and constantly

tight, you’ll have a limited range of motion that will affect your athletic

performance and day-to-day activities. You’re also more prone to injury and

cramping. 

 

Although I’m no yoga expert

by any means, during the few months that I have been taking these classes, I’ve

noticed that my hamstrings, back, shoulders and hips are now much looser, which

allows me to pile on more weight in the gym and maneuver around defenders

faster on the court. 

 

As a result of this extra

range of motion, my strength has also increased. Many of the yoga poses involve

supporting your own body weight for extended periods of time, which will help

to develop and tone muscles without making them overly bulky. If achieving that

look is your goal however, the added strength will help you pack on size easier

as well.

 

Over time, you’ll also

begin to notice an increase in balance. This is especially important as you

grow older and that ability begins to diminish. The same can be said for your

posture and the ability to hold yourself upright. Yoga will help remedy

slouching and various physical ailments by realigning your body and relaxing

tense muscles.

 

You’ll also learn how to

breathe correctly. That sounds like a silly statement since you’re born knowing

how to breathe, but most of us take relatively shallow breaths. Yoga however

forces you fill your lungs and actually focus on your breathing which is good

not only for your conditioning, but also for reducing stress. It’s a fast paced

world, so having a place to let your mind be free is great for your temperament

and psyche.

 

Ok, so now that you know a

few of the benefits, hopefully you’re ready to give it a shot.  If you’d prefer to start off in the privacy

and comfort of your own home, you can probably find a quality DVD online or at

your local video store. The only downside is that they might not come with a mat

for you to lie on, so you may want to invest in one. They’re relatively cheap and will provide you

with a softer surface that will come in handy during certain movements. Some

video packages even come with mats included, so search around. Other possible

pieces of equipment you may want are straps to help with certain stretching

postures and blocks, which assist in balance movements.

 

Of course, that’s a lot of

paper to invest if this is just going to be an experiment for you.  In that case, your best bet would be to

locate a gym or a yoga studio near you. Most of those places will have mats

that you can use (although depending on the level of cleanliness at your

facility, you may want to spray these items down before using them to avoid

coming in contact with someone else’s sweat). 

 

Before proceeding into the

room, your first step should be to check you ego at the door.  Yoga is about personal growth so it’s a

nonjudgmental environment. It’s not a competition to see who can tie themselves

into a knot first, so try to relax and just get in tune with your body. Even

though it might be hard to let yourself go in a group setting, the advantage

over watching a video is that a live instructor can assist you and talk you

through movements so that you don’t hurt yourself.

 

There are many different

styles of yoga, so that might cause some confusion as you try to narrow down a

class to take. All of the styles share a common lineage though so no particular

style is necessarily better than another; it’s simply a matter of personal

preference. The primary differences usually pertain the emphasis of the class,

such as focusing on coordination of breath and movement, strict alignment of

the body, holding the postures, or flowing from one posture to another.

 

More important than any

style is the connection that you’ll build between yourself and the instructor,

so if you sense a bad vibe from the start, beyond normal first day jitters of

course, that may not be the best class for you.

 

There are many yoga websites

out there that will list the various types of classes, so I won’t bore you with

a full history and description of every discipline, however here are a few

styles that you might want to check out: 

 

Ashtanga: This is

also referred to as Power Yoga in some facilities. This style of yoga provides

a serious workout as you jump from one posture to another in order to build

strength, flexibility and stamina.

 

Bikram: This is

also referred to as Hot Yoga, and has been getting a lot of hype recently since

a lot of celebrities have jumped on the bandwagon. If you don’t like to sweat,

you should sit this one out, since it’s practiced in a classroom that’s heated

between 110 and 120 degrees Celsius! In each class, the same 26 poses are

performed in order to help cleanse the body from the inside out. It’s a great

workout, however you’ll need to make sure that your facility is absolutely

spotless. The extreme heat provides a breeding ground for germs so if the gym

holding this class doesn’t look immaculate, you’ll want to proceed with

caution.

 

Iyengar: This

class focuses on understanding the human body and how it functions.  There’s an emphasis on symmetry and alignment

using props such as straps, blankets, blocks, and chairs to achieve postures.

Each pose is held for a longer amount of time than in most other yoga

styles. 

 

Vinyasa:  This is the style of yoga that my girl

teaches. This practice emphasizes coordinating breath with movement. You’ll

flow from one movement to another but at a smoother and slower pace than you

would in Power Yoga. This style is great for beginners, as each pose is chosen

to suit the student’s abilities. It’s also a very relaxing and non-stress

environment so you’re less likely to feel uncomfortable or intimidated.

 

There really are many more yoga disciplines than the few

that I just highlighted so be sure to do your research. Whichever style you

choose, try to approach the situation with an open mind and take what you can

from the experience. And if you’re a single guy, is being surrounded by dozens

of women breathing heavily ever a bad thing?

 

Anyway, I hope that you all give it a shot. As for me, I’m

throwing on my backpack and heading to the store…I’m almost out of granola.

 

Until next time be good…or be good at it.

-Darrell

 

Here is the MP3 soundtrack to go along with this edition’s

topic – crunchy backpacker edition!:

 

“Go!” – Common

“Mr. Dobalina” – Del The Funky Homosapien

“My People” – Erykah Badu

“Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)”- Digable

Planets

 

Darrell W. Butler is a

certified personal trainer and strength coach with the American Council on

Exercise (ACE).  He is the founder of

Industrial Strength & Performance (I.S.P Fitness) and has trained at

facilities throughout the nation. You can find out more about his work at www.isperformance.com.

 

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