I met an interesting guy in my French class during my junior year of college. He was a member of the UC Berkeley track team. We discussed (in broken French) his training regiment with the CAL track team. It involved extensive cardio and strength training coupled with a strict diet. A few months later we happened to run into each at a yoga studio where I was working at the time. Classes at this studio were 1.5 hours long. He entered the class then suddenly exited it forty-five minutes later. He was exasperated, sweaty and had a look of resignation. He entered the yoga class feeling confident that his athleticism would circumvent any possible strenuous poses yet he left the studio looking dubious. My first yoga class was a similar learning experience. As a competitive soccer player since the ripe age of 7, I was surprised by the physicality of yoga and the limits of my own athleticism.
Traditional perceptions of athleticism in congruence with misapprehensions about yoga fail to see the symbiotic relationship between different types of exercise. Athletes focus on cardio and strength exercises, which can sometimes neglect the certain areas of the body. In fact, there is a growing trend among Olympic athletes who are spending their time off the field in the studio. Goalie for the Olympic USA women’s soccer, Hope Solo, has expressed her love for yoga.
“As an athlete I like to keep my speed and my agility and that dynamic part of who I am. A lot of times, simple stretching takes away from your speed, so for me, dynamic yoga gives me the ability and empowers me to keep my speed and elongate my muscles. Several years ago, it wasn’t as popular for professional athletes to do. Now, you’ll find in day and age, people are starting to realize it really benefits them on the field.” *
I have no doubt that the misperception that yoga fails to challenge a person’s athleticism still persist. And that the only true way to get the body in shape is to over indulge in cardio and strength training. However, as we are already seeing, I believe in the near future people at all stages of health will begin to see the clear benefits and challenges of practicing yoga. They will realize that this art form is more than just something to “stretch” you out but, more of a way of life that challenges both the mind and body.