May 3, 2021
Diversity with Movement
The more the merrier. That statement applies to a lot of aspects of life, one in particular is when it comes to movement and training styles. Growing up playing multiple sports my whole life I was always active and as I got into high school, I began weight training as a means to strengthen my body. Little did I know that lifting weights was not the only form of movement I could’ve been implementing to support and improve my physical well-being and athletic performance.
It is very easy to get stuck in ‘our ways’ and stick with what we know or what we are familiar with. The human brain is a master when it comes to taking the path of least resistance. It is a quality that has helped our species evolve and survive for many centuries, which sounds like a great thing, right?
For the most part it is but, it can also be detrimental in some ways. We can find ourselves going down the same familiar slopes day in and day out, and the more we take the same path the deeper those grooves get, the stronger those habits become.
This applies to our training as well, whether it be weight lifting, yoga, pilates, cycling, or running. We tend to do what we know, what we are good at, and what we have become familiar with, therefore our strengths get stronger but our weaknesses get weaker and more susceptible. If we continually do the same repetitive movements over and over again without diversity, those muscles and movement patterns that we are exercising and ‘grooving’ will become overused over time.
Why is this something to consider? Overuse is the main reason why injuries happen, and this is where most of us find ourselves or have found ourselves.
When I discovered yoga asana when I was 18 years old, it was a game changer. First and foremost, being a male, teenage, American football athlete I was pretty closed off to anything that seemed feminine, and to me that is what yoga was. A soft-style practice that women did in tight-fitting clothes.
Thankfully, I had great male mentors, a personal trainer and my dad, who encouraged me to take my first class because of the flexibility benefits that would carry over to football. My dad actually attended my first class with me which I loved, it was an encouraging example. 75-minutes later, I was humbled (by the flexibility of others and lack of mine) and intrigued. I was surprised by how challenging the class was physically and mentally, and at the same time I felt like I was able to do a really good job with many of the postures due to the strength, conditioning, mobility, and coordination training I had been doing for the past four years. I wanted more! That class opened the door of possibilities for yoga being a pillar in my life.
Years later, as I was working as a personal trainer at a gym in Santa Monica, I was able to take all the yoga classes I wanted to, which was a blessing. Up to that point, the asana I had mostly practiced was Bikram, which can be very strict and extremely hot. A bit more fiery, which I liked at the time. It was not until a co-worker of mine took me to a gentle candle-lit class on a Friday evening led by Lauren that once again, my life and perspective changed. I had no idea that asana could be so relaxing and supportive. I felt like a child being cradled by the warm arms of a loving mother, pure bliss. Yet this slower pace of practice brought up a lot of chatter and some discomfort. The type of discomfort you feel when you are all alone in silence for prolonged periods with nothing but yourself and your best-friend, or your worst enemy.
I was introduced to another dimension of my being that evening that I had not spent enough time with and it was eye-opening in the best of ways. Not only did I realize that I needed to spend more time in solitude with myself and my thoughts, I was very aware of how good my body felt after that class. Feelings of restoration, relaxation, and rejuvenation, all of which were lacking in my training.
My strength and conditioning training was providing a lot of benefits, but it mostly consisted of intensely contracting and engaging muscles, a lot of grit and grind, not enough stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system. Balance was lacking in my training, and gentle-restorative yoga is what helped me find that balance between strength and flexibility, masculine and feminine, yin and yang.
The more gentle, yin, and restorative yoga I was practicing, the more prosperity I was finding in my strength and conditioning training. Experiencing this symbiotic relationship in my body and mind has been a catalyst for my work and service on this planet. I am sharing this story to encourage you to break out of old patterns and try something new or unfamiliar.
Know that it is not going to be easy and that you may not like it at first because it feels awkward or maybe you feel a bit self-conscious, and that is totally normal. Getting out of our comfort zone and treading unfamiliar territory is one of the most beautiful acts and has so much potential for growth and expansion. You will never know unless you try.
Below are some recommend practices as always: