Yoga and the Triathlete

Monday, August 23, 2010
For lots of compelling reasons, Yoga can be a triathlete’s best friend. From greater flexibility to enhanced strength to improved concentration, Yoga, along with massage, proper diet and sleep, can be the difference between a good triathlon experience and a life-altering discovery of one’s ability to perform. And so, with good reason, our coach recommends at least once-weekly yoga sessions to balance out the rigorous training that Iron Man demands. And it is good – but I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that it’s also hard on the ego. In fact, it’s always a humbling experience for me. For one, I don’t have cool yoga clothes. And for another, because I am an American male who grew up admiring the Clint Eastwoods and John Waynes and R. Lee Ermeys of the world, I will never have cool yoga clothes. Like some relic of 6th grade gym class, I wear running shorts and a t-shirt to yoga class while Melissa, my svelte and bendy girlfriend, wears form-fitting clothes of high quality technical fabric that move with her and cover her no matter what pretzel-like pose she strikes, leaving her always looking competent and appropriately clad. My apprearance, on the other hand, brings to mind a soup sandwich – just a total mess. At certain angles and during certain moves, such as those requiring legs in the air or otherwise held partially aloft, my shorts and t-shirt, commanded by gravity and my own poor form, fall back to reveal more upper thigh, stomach and back than anyone needs or certainly wants to see. And so I spend most of the class in a Sisyphean effort to tug material back into place while furtively glancing around the room in the sincere hope that no one is staring in muted shock at the inappropriate swaths of exposed, albinotic torso and gelatinous underbelly as I struggle mightily, with convulsing limbs, to do the Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported shoulder stand) or the Setu Bandha (Bridge pose).

I actually feel sorry for those around me and sometimes feel the urge to apologize to those in my immediate vicinity as soon as class ends. Just yesterday, as we were doing the Anantasana (Side reclining leg lift) and my left leg was lifted as high as I could get it (admittedly, not very high), my shorts lay predictably gaping at the leg holes, exposing the participant directly behind me to a full view of my, um, junk. Luckily I had on running shorts with interior lining so that I didn’t cross the line from merely offensive to something punishable by jail time. Still though, it couldn’t have been pleasant for the poor lady.

And then there is the Marjayasana (Cat pose) wherein one positions oneself on all fours, alternately arching the back while inhaling and flexing the back while exhaling. It never fails to make me think of Ned Beatty, circa 1972. Looking up this move on a Yoga website, I was informed that the Cat Pose “…is sometimes paired with the Cow Pose on the inhale for a gentle, flowing vinyasa.” I don’t have the slightest clue what a gentle, flowing vinyasa is, but I’m pretty sure R. Lee Ermey never experienced one.

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