My appraisal of yoga?
It’s funny you should ask. But really, I’ve said it before here, that if you’re optimizing your time, you don’t need to go and become a Yoga master to make yourself better at hockey. You can incorporate some of the wisdom from yoga practice into optimizing your body, FOR HOCKEY.
And I’ve also said it before, that Yoga is a great activity to give yourself some “away from hockey time”. For me, I love reading, learning, the outdoors. If Yoga is something you enjoy, then by all means, hit it up.
That aside, if you find yourself heading into a Yoga class because:
- You are a creep
- Your team is doing it
- You’re going with your boyfriend/girlfriend
- You wanna try it out
- Any other reason
…then here are some things to try out.
Why do you need this guide?
Ok, I’m not one of those people who is going to tell you that you could potentially hurt yourself from Yoga if you don’t pay attention to this guide. But, I will tell you that after practicing Yoga I have experienced:
- Delayed onset muscle soreness
- Muscular strains
Why does this happen?
Delayed onset muscle soreness is a phenomenon normally reserved for strength training and high impact training (plyometrics, sprinting). Particularly, the eccentric portion of a muscle contraction. Even though the effort in a Yoga class doesn’t have heavy or ballistic loads, the sustained stretching is an eccentric muscle contraction. With the repetitive, long, slow, sustained stretches + the relaxing setting of a Yoga class, it is possible to override your body’s normal stretch reflex and overstretch your tissues.
Muscular strains can occur in a similar fashion. A muscle that is not used to being stretched that far, is yanked out to a length it is not comfortable being. After the session, the muscle goes in spasm.
So I’m sore after my Yoga session…so what?
I’ve had some Yoga instructors say, “awesome…that’s the point…you’re getting more flexible”.
I get that intuitively it seems to make sense that stretching your muscles so much that they’re sore seems like a good thing. Right? Evidence that they’re getting longer! Without getting into the CNS explanation for flexibility that I get into here, I’ll just say for now that you’re not getting more flexible when you presently have delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). And you’re definitely not getting more flexible when you have a muscle in spasm.
If the purpose of your Yoga class is to make you sore, then ok, keep doing what you’re doing. But if the purpose is regeneration, recovery and flexibility…then you can’t afford to be getting DOMS or muscular strains afterwards! It will take away from other, important, aspects of your training like practices, skill development and workouts.
I’m not getting sore, but I’m also not getting more flexible
This is common if you fall into the “Tight as S#%$” category. The answer to this, and the above, the rest of the article will explain how to:
- Actually improve your flexibility during a Yoga Class
- Eliminate soreness and strains
- Actually have a relaxing yoga session
If you fall into the “Limber and Flexible” category, go read another article. I don’t know anything about your kind.
What to do:
- Redefine “your edge”
- Use contract and relax
The Yoga Edge
“Find your edge,” is something I have heard lot’s in yoga class. Here is an excerpt from Dusky Leaf Yoga explaining the “Yoga Edge”:
“Discomfort versus Pain
You will often feel discomfort when practicing asana. This sensation comes from stretching to a point of intense feeling yet not so far that you feel pain.
When you do nothing, you feel nothing. If you are feeling nothing, you are in your comfort zone. You want to sensitively journey outside of this zone, which will result in a certain degree of physical and mental discomfort. The more that you embrace this discomfort, the more you will create space and ease in body and mind.
Pain is a sign that you have entered dangerous territory, and you need to pull back or stop entirely. Ideally, you’d like to play your edge to the maximum point possible before the onset of pain.”
Retrieved from http://duskyleaf.ca/blog/playing-your-edge-in-a-yoga-pose/
If you fall into the “Tight as S#%$” category, I’m suggesting that this is actually not an edge that you want to be on. I’m suggesting that “TaS” people find a new “Light Edge”, between no tension and light tension. As explained in my article on stretching, using the breath and reducing tension is actually more effective than having your muscles under constant tension while stretching. Rather than focussing on getting your muscle to lengthen, the focus should be on getting your muscles to relax.
Use Contract Relax Stretching
Flexibility is actually due to many different reflexes in your body. You can trick your body into lengthening your muscles if you know a few simple “reflex hacks”. One really simple hack is to contract and relax your muscles while stretching. (Geek sentence alert!) This uses the power of both reciprocal and autogenic inhibition to attenuate your stretch response, thereby relaxing your muscle.
To do Contract-Relax Stretching you need to: (also read this article for The Ubyssey)
- Find your “Light Edge” by moving into a stretch that has light tension. Inhale from your belly as you do so.
- Contract the muscle being stretched and it’s opposing muscle group as tight as you can as you hold you breath. For example, if stretching hamstrings, contract hamstrings and quads as tight as possible. The idea is to generate lot’s of tension.
- Exhale as you relax the contracted muscles. See if you can gently increase your stretch without feeling any tension.
You can do this contract and relax stretching in your Yoga class unnoticed so long as you don’t gasp or grunt while contracting and relaxing. Meanwhile, you can effortlessly GAIN flexibility in a Yoga class…just as advertised!!
Now remember, this advice is for the TaS crowd. I consider myself in the TaS crowd, so I’ve used these guidelines myself to go from Yoga sessions where I strained my hamstrings and had DOMS for the next 2-3 days to Yoga sessions that were relaxing, comfortable and rejuvenating.
Find the light edge, use contract and relax and let me know how it goes.
Keep those Chakras spinning,