It's been six months since Connect Yoga opened it's doors. Being married to the studio owner, I get to take as many classes as I want, so I take a lot of them. Almost every day. So what are the results? There are plenty of obvious yoga benefits that I've felt and I will list them in a minute, but the single most important thing I've gained from all that Yoga Tune Up® is something I didn't even know I needed or wanted: body awareness. It certainly doesn't sound sexy, not something you'd normally see in a yoga studio's marketing. But having a better understanding of how my body is supposed to work has changed my life in more substantial ways than any other gains I've had from the 20+ years of yoga that I've done prior to YTU.
Connect Yoga classes focus on functional movement. I haven't done very many traditional bendy yoga poses in the last six months. In a typical YTU class you're forced to move your body like it's supposed to, not to get into some weird twist because of yoga tradition and it's supposed benefits. YTU forced me to realize that despite decades of traditional yoga practice, including a good six year run of Bikram Yoga, my body was very weak in important areas, particular the core and hips. It's helped me to think about how I walk, sit, stand and breathe.
The lessons I learned in YTU have spilled over into my daily life. One day recently I became aware that I no longer sit while on public transit. It wasn't advice from a teacher, it was my body telling me not to. Instead I was grabbing a hand railing and practicing tightening my core, tucking my pelvis, maintaining good posture and focusing on my balance and core strength while the subway stopped and started. I take breaks at work, stretching out my shoulders with some of the simple exercises that I've learned. I practice diaphragm breathing every day. Whenever I feel an ache or pain coming, I know how to quickly get rid of it with the YTU balls that I keep laying around my home and work. Most importantly, I know what muscles like quadratus lumborum and tensor fascia latae are, what they're supposed to do, and how not to injure them. (I certainly can't spell them, but I can show you where they are.) Before YTU I never even knew I had a thing called a psoas, but now I'm aware of it every day. When you get to know your body parts, you start listening to them and they start talking back, constantly giving you feedback about what they need and how you're using them wrong.
The other unique YTU benefit I have been surprised by is emotional release. Not since working long, hard and deeply with YTU balls in hidden parts of my stressed out muscles did I understand the full depth of the of the mind body connection. Working out that muscular stress releases emotional stress as well.
As with other yoga, pilates, or movement courses there are more typical benefits that a regular practice will offer. Greater strength, flexibility, increased range of motion, calmness, etc. But because of the focus on functional movement at Connect Yoga instead of yoga tradition, the greatest strength and flexibility gains have been in the parts of the body that matter most, like my core and glutes, areas that I know from experience are greatly underused or used incorrectly in many other yoga practices. While my past experience with yoga was preparing me to do fancy yoga postures better, YTU has been preparing me for everyday life.
A final confession. I am aware that many people who have done a lot of yoga are resistant to YTU because much of it seems too easy and that rolling around on balls is no big deal. I felt the same way. We live in a fast paced world with busy lives and I believe we start thinking that we have to max out our limited exercise time and push to the max. At first I resisted trying the new stuff that my wife was learning because I felt that I was already a pretty darn good yogi and what I needed was to work harder on perfecting those yoga poses.
But I kept with it and pretty sure I'm never going back.