Like many others, it was repetitive injuries sustained from running and high impact exercise that brought me to my first yoga class. Over the years, I had unknowingly developed compensating movement patterns that allowed me to continue with my exercise regimen for as long as I did. After two years of long distance running, my body felt like it was breaking down. At just 21 years old my right hip, left knee and both shins were screaming with pain. I felt like my body had quit on me. I was devastated and desperate. In an effort to heal my body I turned to yoga. In dabbling with different styles, I discovered Vinyasa yoga and was immediately hooked. The interplay of strength, flexibility, balance and focus gave me the challenge I craved while my body healed.
After 3 years of steady practice, I got certified to teach and 14 years later it’s the one thing that has remained constant in my life. As much as I love practicing and teaching yoga, I love being in the gym. I love running, cycling, strength training, and anything that can get my heart rate beating 160+ BPM. Yoga has been instrumental in allowing me to continue doing these things that I love so much; just not to the extent that I would have preferred. After all, I couldn’t run more than 4 miles without the dull ache in my right hip resurfacing or spin more than twice a week before noticing a twinge of discomfort in my left knee. It was disheartening, but I continued my practice of compassion and grew to accept my new limitations. After all, I was fortunate that I could move.
And then, in late 2013, I stumbled upon Balanced Athlete® through a yoga workshop. The program immediately resonated with me like none other as it appeared to encompass components of all my prior training and education (it literally connected the dots of coaching, physical fitness, sport psychology, yoga, and bodywork). I went on to obtain my level one coaching certification last fall and have been applying the principles to all areas of my movement training ever since.
The Balanced Athlete® program is focused on structural integration (connecting the “dots” of your body), movement efficiency (quality over quantity) and mindfulness (focused attention on breath, gaze, and kinesthetic). Through its specific set of exercises, my body has re-learned how to move in an integrated and efficient way. I can more easily recognize and correct patterns of dysfunction and as a result can run longer distances without pain and cycle more efficiently. I lift smarter, feel Mountain Pose in my body like never before, and I’m even closer to my goal of sticking a handstand for more than a few seconds!
Now, you may hear the title Balanced Athlete® and think to yourself, that’s not me. Perhaps because you don’t play competitive sports, or you don’t train in a gym or on a field. Heck, maybe you don’t even get off the couch much. The truth of it is, we are all athletes. Our bodies, regardless of our individual structural differences, were designed to move. When we move with integrity, efficiency and mindfulness we are equipped to tap into the potential of our inner athlete, no matter what age or fitness level.
At the most basic level, we are all human beings created to walk, run, jump, squat, twist and bend. As we know, these aren’t movements saved for the gym or yoga studio! In fact, for the majority of the population, successful completion of day to day tasks is reliant upon our ability to execute such movements with ease. Put simply, when you move better you tend to feel better and who doesn’t want to feel better? You don’t have to be an athlete as defined by Wikipedia to find success with the Balanced Athlete® program; you just need to have a body.
“IF YOU HAVE A BODY, YOU ARE AN ATHLETE.” – NIKE
Balanced Athlete® is now offered at the York studio, Wednesday Nights at 7pm.