I can’t touch my toes. In fact, I sometimes struggle to get much beyond my shins. This didn’t trouble me, I’ve never felt the need to ask any more of my hamstrings than they have previously provided. However, recently I met with a personal trainer to discuss my sorry abilities at Taekwondo. A series of uncomfortable exercises and stretches later and he had discovered that my primary failing lay in my tight hamstrings.
The trainer delighted in setting me painful stretches, failure to deliver on these would lead to some teeth sucking and the introduction of a further, more excruciating, stretch. Informative though this was, I was left feeling somewhat lacking in the hamstring department. “No trouble”, was the trainer’s response, at a steep hourly rate he could fix all my ills and provide me with tendons the likes of which Achilles would envy. This sounded fantastic, all except for that steep hourly rate thing.
Clearly, I needed to make some changes if I wanted to develop high agility. I’d neglected stretching and in doing so reduced my mobility. Staying flexible and fluid are central to my aims, clearly martial arts training alone wasn’t getting me there. A trainer would have been a great way around it, and I’m sure would do me lots of good, but it’s not my primary focus and I want to develop a sustainable routine to reap long term rewards.
I needed to add some stretch into my routine and Yoga seemed to offer an answer. I’d noticed that many of the stretches used around the gym were Yoga positions anyway and, though Yoga classes are still pretty woman dominated, guys seem to be increasingly venturing onto the Yoga mat.
Yoga is a deceptive discipline. It doesn’t seem anything like as demanding as it very quickly becomes. Some positions your body falls into naturally and others your body immediately screams at you to stop. You can quickly gain confidence, only to have it dashed shortly afterwards when directed to adopt some unlikely pose.
The benefits though are remarkable. The effect is infinitely more meaningful than any form of massage as the movements often press in like a deep tissue treatment. The stretching is prolonged and the approach systematic. The perks of Yoga are oft recited to the point of cliche, developed from the Buddhist tradition it is intended to compliment meditative practice; as with all things Buddhist to experience is key.
It’s early days, my mobility still less than ideal, but Yoga seems the answer to my ills. Touching my toes seems so prosaic when compared with the appeal of adopting an anatomically incorrect animal form on an overused gym mat. Yoga can take a number of styles and variants. It offers exciting possibilities and the potential for huge benefits.