Hey whats good
everybody? I know that Writing 101
states that I shouldnt lead off with my most compelling argument, however my
goal is to prevent all of the fellas out there from clicking back over to illseeds
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, Id somehow end
up tying myself into a pretzel, or that Id 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, Ive actually found many other
benefits that have taken my participation level beyond that of a supportive
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, youll have a limited range of motion that will affect your athletic
performance and day-to-day activities. Youre also more prone to injury and
Although Im no yoga expert
by any means, during the few months that I have been taking these classes, Ive
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
Over time, youll 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
Youll also learn how to
breathe correctly. That sounds like a silly statement since youre 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. Its a fast paced
world, so having a place to let your mind be free is great for your temperament
Ok, so now that you know a
few of the benefits, hopefully youre ready to give it a shot. If youd 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. Theyre 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, thats 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 elses sweat).
Before proceeding into the
room, your first step should be to check you ego at the door. Yoga is about personal growth so its a
nonjudgmental environment. Its 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 dont 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 youll 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 wont 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 dont like to sweat,
you should sit this one out, since its practiced in a classroom thats 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. Its a great
workout, however youll 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 doesnt look immaculate, youll want to proceed with
class focuses on understanding the human body and how it functions. Theres 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
Vinyasa: This is the style of yoga that my girl
teaches. This practice emphasizes coordinating breath with movement. Youll
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 students abilities. Its also a very relaxing and non-stress
environment so youre 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 youre 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, Im
throwing on my backpack and heading to the store Im almost out of granola.
Until next time be good or be good at it.
Here is the MP3 soundtrack to go along with this editions
topic crunchy backpacker edition!:
Mr. Dobalina Del The Funky Homosapien
My People Erykah Badu
"Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)"- Digable
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.