November 10, 2010
Do you, or have you ever gone to a health club? Whether you belong to a gym or not, it can be an intimidating place because of the way most health clubs are run. You enter through the front door and have to pass the front desk by either signing in or swiping a card across a laser, or having an employee enter a number into a computer for you. Now you enter the facility and it’s all up to you. Everyone is there for varying reasons, working toward different goals, and at different stages of attaining those goals. How do you know what to do once you join a health club? You’ve paid your money, you’ve shown up in your workout duds, and you’re in a sea of people off doing their own things. Some people may be coupled with personal trainers, guiding them through focused plans with supervision. The truth is, if you don’t feel confident that you know enough about your body and what brings results without hurting yourself or pushing you along that edge that will promote changes that you want, hiring a personal trainer is a good idea. And this brings me to Yoga.
No matter who you are, what level of fitness you are at, or what your physical fitness goals are, a personal trainer will tell you, among other things, that the suggested place to start is stabilization training. This doesn’t mean benching, or squatting, or curling, or pressing anything that comes near your maximal strength ability. Think of putting your fast twitch muscles on a temporary vacation so you can concentrate on your slow twitch muscles, the ones that require oxygen to work and can endure longer durations of use. These are the muscles that stabilize your body when you think you’re not doing anything, like standing straight, sitting upright, bending over, or moving your body to change positions for any reason. This is one of the reasons Yoga has become so popular here in the US as a fitness trend. As a whole, Americans do less from day to day because more of their work and home activities are becoming more automated, causing a deterioration in the conditioning of the stabilization muscles of the body. Yoga happens to condition exactly those muscle groups through the asanas, preparing the body for movements that can be built upon a strong core.
Of course, there are many different kinds of Yoga that one may choose to practice, and all or some of the above may not apply to your practice. Also, in order to build a solid stabilization base, very specific core adaptation variables have to be chosen for the possible goals of any individual. A general fact is that Yoga produces a stronger body, and is much larger in scope than stabilization exercise. Yoga goes beyond the body and tunes what can be referred to as the psychology, awareness, and spiritual aspects of living, something that is absent from all forms of conventional fitness training that deal only with the body, its systems, biomechanics, motor control, and flexibility. Yoga is not flexibility. If it is any one thing, it is steadiness. It is important to understand that while most people will be drawn to Yoga for fitness or social reasons, the goal is to move past all physical connotations and attachments, as these are only inroads to the destination. In the gym, the destination is just another road, and this is perfectly fine if you understand it.