I like to exercise. Weight training, yoga, and walking make me feel better. I enjoy feeling my muscles contract. I love being fit enough to do things – hike in the woods, do a cartwheel, move the couch if I want to redecorate. But I never thought of myself as an athlete. Athletes are Olympians and sports professionals, right? Sure, but not exclusively.
Despite the fact that yoga is non-competitive, people who practice yoga have many of the same goals as athletes. Yogis and athletes both value focus, endurance, flexibility, and strength. Both yogis and athletes benefit from daily efforts to make gains in these areas. Hmmm, if it walks like a duck…. Maybe we are, in fact, yoga athletes?!
There are many potential benefits for thinking so. Embracing an athletic identity is important, according to Jim Afremow, a sports psychologist and author of “The Champion’s Mind,” because it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Studies prove the more individuals identify as athletes, the more they are motivated to exercise and do so with greater frequency.
Fitness is sometimes derided as a yogic intention for not being more spiritual. But having an athletic goal is not shallow. Becoming stronger or more flexible is part of the conditioning we need to endure the marathon of aging and life. Both are most certainly a part of the union of mind, body, breath, and spirit we are striving for in the practice of yoga.
Try it. Start considering yourself a yoga athlete, playing for Team Yoga Libre. Add a little intensity to your practice, and perhaps a little more frequency. Use active stretching to build strength and endurance. Think about your practice differently. It’s not just Dancer pose, it’s balance training. It’s not just a lunge, it’s a hip strengthening/flexibility program. Every time you get a little more skillful, you make the whole team better. Sounds like a win to me!
Team workouts are fun, so I hope to see you on your mat this week, and every week. Let’s train together for the ultimate win – feeling good during a long, happy life. My inner athlete salutes yours.