For Those about to Rock, We Sun Salute You


Like most outdoor athletes, my desire to go outside and bang the crap out of my body started very early in life. The spirit of ‘wahoo’ was cultivated in me while jumping off rooftops into snow banks, climbing trees, sliding down the hills in the school yard, trying flips off the dock into the water. You were probably the same. We had what seemed like an eternity of youth in front if us and thus we didn’t have a concept of whether things were good or bad for us, just fun or boring…

It’s a fact that the fun gene is out of control for outdoor sports enthusiasts like us. Being out in nature doing our thing is our high and makes us feel hyper alive. However, it’s also an unfortunate law of the universe that there is a hangover for every high in life. The hangover aspect of all of our outdoor fun is the toll it takes on us – the impact to our joints along with injured, sore and tight muscles. That’s why I was elated when I discovered yoga. It was an activity that would greatly extend my lease on my body. It was like the outdoor athlete’s RRSP.

After university I moved to Hawaii to experience the complete stoke of a life with adrenaline coursing through my veins as I windsurfed in the giant swells of Maui’s North Shore. I didn’t know it before I moved there, but Maui is one of the hotspots in the world for Ashtanga Yoga. I had tried yoga in university and liked it, but never considered it a form of fitness. When I tried Ashtanga (sometimes called “Power Yoga”) I was hooked.

My friends gave me grief, asking me why I was going to going to go do that lame-ass yoga stuff and sleep for an hour and a half. But as I struggled through the class with a mat so wet from sweat that you could have used it for a back yard banana slide for a third grade summer birthday party, I knew this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was so complete. It was like going to the gym, the temple, the university and the massage therapist all at the same time.
A lot of athletes still can’t make the connection between yoga and the sports they love to do. Once you try this stuff at least five or six times, you will be hooked. It is the ideal complement.
For one, it is perfect maintenance for an athlete. Yoga provides a buffer to all the pounding and banging our outdoor activities do to our bodies. You wouldn’t leave your bike outside in the rain all winter to rust… why would we not at least take as much care with our bodies?

 

Secondly, it is a perfect cross training sport. If you want to increase your fitness through yoga try a Power of Ashtanga yoga class where the pace is steady and the movements are linked together in a flow. If you already feel fit and just want to work on flexibility or chilling out, try a more gentle style. You can complement the outdoor activity of the day with a less vigorous practice or do it more intensely for general fitness.

Thirdly, with its emphasis on breathing and mind control, outdoor athletes will be able to keep their wits about them in high stress situations. A positive attitude never hurts.

What I really love about my yoga practice is that it allows me to channel my athletic energy in a smart way. I used to spend a lot of time hucking myself off big cliffs on a snowboard or banging myself up on the North Shore Gnarl on my mountain bike. These activities have a heavy “fly now, pay later” element. Being banged up all the time was not the best way to age.

The yoga I practice (Ashtanga/Power Yoga) has a high gymnastic element to it. I can get my athletic fix doing things in my yoga practice like going from dropping back from standing position to back bend to hand stand to downward dog and working back to standing. My point is, it is not boring and I see myself doing it when I am eighty. Instead of destroying my body for the sake of my sports, I am actually nurturing it and still feel athletically challenged.
If you feel like the only thing stopping you is the fact that you are too stiff or tight, I can only say, “don’t be ridiculous.” Think it through… if you wait another ten years, that stiffness and tightness will only get worse. It will ultimately prohibit you from enjoying the very sports you love to do outdoors. Besides, saying you are too stiff to do yoga is really like saying you are too broke to start saving money… it’s a perfect reason for doing it.
Go to a class. Try a few. Find what works for you. As a nature lover, you are already a type of yogi. Step one is to get the body and mind working together, step two is to feel more connected to everything out there.


Bliss Out,
Eoin Finn

Eoin Finn teaches yoga in Kitsilano and Tofino, BC. He runs ‘yes’ retreats (yoga – ecology – surf) around the world. For information about yoga or to purchase yoga dvds, or download free mp3 yoga routines, visit his website, vancouveryoga.com