I spent many years taking dance classes growing up. I was graceful as a pre-teen and teen which I attribute to my fondness for ballet. I loved my ballet studio and spent 3 days a week there through the school year and 5 days a week during the summers taking multiple classes. I took jazz, modern, and even a Spanish dancing class. Sadly, although my feet were very good for ballet (high arches, high instep – honestly, the best in my class) my boobies created too large a moment of inertia for the art.
In high school I transferred my passion and experience with dance to the gymnastics team. It was on this team that I realized I was severely lacking in arm strength and never quite got the hang of the uneven bars. Gymnasts might be small, but they pack a punch! Some of the girls I saw at meets are still the most muscular women I’ve seen in my life. They all looked so strong and healthy, never the anorexic stereotype.
Fast forward to last year: I started yoga based on persistent curiosity and encouragement from a friend. Fortunately for me, it’s lived up to the hype. Yoga almost perfectly complements running as it marries the two key components of injury prevention: stretching and strengthening.
In one of my previous “I’m a runner!” phases I experienced extremely tight calves and hamstrings. And although I’ve enjoyed years of dance and gymnastics traning, I’ve actually never been able to do the sit and reach stretch. Straddles and butterflies were more my thing. I’ve actually always been able to do the splits (even now), but never that dang sit and reach! As of a few months ago, thanks to yoga, I can now comfortably do the sit and reach stretch. And I’m very close to getting my heels on the ground in downward dog.
Remember those weak little arms? No longer! I’ve got some tiny revolvers sprouting. When I started yoga I could only transition out of modified planks (think chick push-ups in plank form) in sun salutation. Now I’m so close to doing the transition from a real plank to the ground. I’ve got some muscle! I’ve also noticed a difference in other poses.
Yoga has taught me about my body. I’ve discovered that my arms are just plain weird. My elbows hyperextend, it’s hard for me to hold them straight without supination, and they’re extra short (or my torso is long?). Yoga doesn’t make me feel like I’m stifling natural movement like ballet. I still think ballet is beautiful, but yoga is real and organic. It minds the natural rules of the body.
I find yoga challenging and calming. It’s a wonderful change in pace from my other workouts since I never feel like I’m working too hard in any pose but always wake up sore the next morning.
I think I love it. :)