Yoga is for Athletes, too. Here’s why…

posted by Jennifer Wilford

602989_10201328334755070_55565187_nWhen I rolled out a yoga mat five years ago, it was quite simple, I longed for longer hamstrings.

I looked at it as training. My teacher called it a practice. Regardless, when I started, I wanted out. Pronto. Faster than I could finish a 400-meter jaunt around the track.

I could outrun every of my fellow students with one shoe tied behind my back. But speed mattered not one iota as I was totally out of my element on the yoga mat. I was the least flexible by a marathon distance. Everyone else could fold themselves in half, breathe a lot deeper and would leave class with a smile, nod of the head, and a “Namaste.”

It was disheartening and a little frustrating to my A+ tendencies to be the student in the class who was the equivalent of a last-place finisher. But as a distance runner, I wasn’t about to give up on this. I WILL BREATHE DEEPER, FOLD FARTHER, NAMASTE MORE ENTHUSIASTICALLY. I would conquer yoga.

However, after about six weeks, I stopped trying to do poses with reckless abandon and realized I wasn’t in competition with anyone from Cirque du Soleil. It was probably one of the first times I had ever granted myself that luxury. And in letting go, I started paying attention to the tiniest things – my breaths, which number a mind-numbing 20,000 a day. I was oblivious to all of it, much like a driver reading text messages long after the stoplight has turned green. In noticing my breath, inhaling a bit deeper, and exhaling a bit longer, it allowed me a rare chance to slow down.

And ironically, as I slowed down, I also sped up.

I ran longer miles, but honored my recovery. I don’t think it’s coincidental that as my yoga practice came along, I ran a 3:18 marathon, which was a huge PR chicago croppedfor me when I was 43 years young. I do think I was able to log 70+-mile weeks uninjured because of enhanced body awareness. While never a pretzel person in class, (and I’m still not) my my muscles had a touch more flexibility and mobility that helped ward off injury. The enhanced ability to focus on the mat translated into clueing into marathon pace running. Better balance helps me to navigate the trails I love to run.

We’ll explore both the mental and the physical benefits in my upcoming Yoga for Athletes workshops at Inspire Yoga in Highland Village on Sunday May 15th and Sunday May 22 from 2-4pm. This is not about turning athletes into kale smoothie drinking, full splits practicing yogis. It’s all about how the benefits of yoga can help you in your given sport. In these workshops, yoga will be made accessible, and even enjoyable with an instructor who understands tightness engrained in the demands of our sports.

CLICK to sign up for “YOGA FOR ATHLETES” on May 15th and/or 22nd!

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Jennifer regularly puts her students at ease understanding what it's like to the be least flexible person in a yoga class. That's where she was at the start of her yoga journey in 2011 as a Boston marathon runner with snappy tight hamstrings and hips. Her competitive nature initially wanted to better her physical practice, but it was her curiosity about attentiveness and connection, not poses, that led her to teacher training, which she completed in 2013 through the Inspire School of Yoga. She greatly enjoys teaching Renew classes at Inspire and gives back with open community-based classes at Luke's Locker where she leads her students in deliberate stretching laced with humor and genuine understanding that simple yoga poses may not be easy. She also has taught yoga classes to teams and individuals with sport-specific needs. Jennifer currently is pursuing additional certification teaching Yoga to Athletes with Sage Rountree in addition to 300 additional hours of training through Inspire. Jennifer graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri (go Tigers) and lives in Flower Mound with her son, Dylan, and adopted dog Tori. When not teaching, she works as a certified running coach devising customized plans for all ability levels and does freelance writing. A cook and foodie, she believes meals are best shared with good friends, ideally over a cold IPA or fat zin, depending on her mood.

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