Yoga and Fitness

If you are anything like me and you rely on regular physical activity to keep you mentally and physically fit, then there is nothing worse than getting an injury that puts you out of the game for a period of time. In the summer of 2014, I suffered a double injury on the left side of my lower back and piriformis during a friendly volleyball match.

Fitness 1Imagine the scene:

First time around, the ball is in play, strong outside hit cross court by a male player - I’m outside receiver on the other side of the court, in position within the three-metre line. Bam, the ball hits my forearms so hard that I fall back on my bum immediately on impact. The sharp stabbing pain was instantaneous. I try to save myself some embarrassment by quickly standing up and assuring my team members I was O.K. The opposition wins the point - of course.

Next ball: exact same play, serve, receive, set, hit, Sarah on the floor - only this time I fall on my back and not my bum, and I cannot continue playing. We lose the point.

Fast forward a few weeks of rest and a couple of physiotherapy sessions, my body seems to be on the mend, but I am paralysed by the fear of hurting myself again. I force myself back to training where the smallest rise in my heart rate sends me into a panic.

I stop all physical activity then for about a month, and I begin to notice the impact on my mood: I feel low, sluggish, unattractive and flabby. I am increasingly stressed about the final days of my PhD and I stop caring whether I eat pizza three nights in a row.

Out for coffee, a friend tells me about a Hot 26 class he has become obsessed with - he told me he Fitness 2would not miss a day and he felt great! I had practised Yoga in the past to improve my flexibility and muscle-recovery after intense gym and sports activities, and had tried hot Yoga once before. He looked so happy and wide-eyed that I decided to give it another go. I consulted with my physiotherapist who confirmed the benefits that hot Yoga was known to have on people with back injuries.

Within three classes, I was used to the heat and felt motivated again. Within a week I could feel lighter and I welcomed the slight rise in my heart rate during class. Within a month, I noticed better muscle tone and muscle shape. I soon discovered that a combination of hot and Vinyasa Yoga was helping me achieve many of the fitness goals I had had in the past.

So, if you ask me, from my experience, is Yoga good for overall fitness and for recovering after injury? Yes, absolutely.

That said, I cannot end my story without mentioning the gifts Yoga has afforded me, which I did not receive in all the years I dedicated to team sports and the gym: having a calmer mind and a lighter body, did more to my soul and my spirit than the recovery I experienced physically. Yes, I began to re-strengthen my core which has been helping me heal from my injury slowly and over time. But more than that, making Yoga part of my fitness regime and part of my life has helped me find self-love, body awareness, positivity and balance.

Fitness 3Like you I am sure, I have a full life with lots of demands, deadlines and detractors. Being physically active is important to me as it may be for you. Explosive, high intensity exercise helps to feel invigorated and to develop speed and power by activating fast-twitch muscle fibres. In Yoga, slow, controlled, breath-minded movement triggers slow-twitch muscle fibres which help with endurance and relaxation. Why not have both? 

For my part, I have made a new year’s resolution. Against all anxieties, I have decided to go back to fitness training, but this time, without fear of getting hurt again, in the place where I feel most safe and at home: my Yoga mat.

By Sarah Puello

Sarah completed her Spiralling Crow Vinyasa and Hot Power teacher training in 2016. She teaches Hot Power and Hot HIIT Yoga.

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