Thursday, March 15, 2012

Yoga, One Year Later

Bridget Lyons, Anusara Yoga Instructor

This morning’s 7:15 AM Level 2 yoga class was my last yoga class in Teton Valley until I come back for a visit in May. My favorite yoga instructor, Bridget Lyons, taught class today and took it to another level. I am just going to say’s class fucking rocked! How many people can say that about their yoga class? We eased into class with a few warm-up poses and then moved through a rapid succession of poses that got our heart rates up and our breathing noticeably more audible. Sweat dripped from my forehead and the windows steamed up. Bridget touched all of my favorites: Warrior I & II, Hand stands, Backbends, and then lots of stretching to wind it down. Several times during today’s class I thought back to a year ago when I sheepishly walked into the Yoga Tejas studio for the first time and didn’t know what a Downward Dog was.

On February 19, 2011 I had to stop racing the 24 Hours of Old Pueblo after only 9 ½ hours due to severe pain in my lower back. Lower back pain during endurance races was not uncommon for me but I had never DNF’d as a result of it. I was pissed. Once home, I dove into “research mode” and sought the opinion of several experts. The problem is that there is simply not a lot of data on endurance athletes and when you tell a doctor that something hurts because you rode your bicycle for 100 miles, or 12 hours, or 24 hours, a typical response is “Well, don’t do that.” That is crap.

The Thursday after getting back from AZ I was getting a massage from Jen Fisher of Teton Therapeutic Massage and I explained to her what happened. After working on me for a while, Jen basically told me “you’re a mess”, and bluntly said, “You need yoga in your life”. Jen handed me a pamphlet from Yoga Tejas in Driggs and there happened to a 5-day Beginner Intensive starting the following Sunday night. Jen, thanks for the kick in the ass.

My preconceived idea of yoga was that it was too “fluffy”. Bridget Lyons changed any misconceptions that I had about yoga very quickly. I immediately latched onto the fact that Bridget is a mountain biker, skier, and runner, as well as being a yoga instructor. I remember being very sore from the first few days of class...and I liked it. Yoga challenged me.

I dove in and completed the Beginner Intensive and then attended two or three Level 1 classes per week for a while. Within a few months I decided to try the Level 2 classes because the time slots fit my work schedule better and, although I was in over my head at first, I immediately loved the challenge.

Teton Valley is truly lucky to have a certified yoga instructor of Bridget’s caliber and a professional studio like Yoga Tejas. I consider Bridget a friend now but I have admired her professionalism and dedication from day 1.

Has yoga cured my lower back pain while racing my mountain bike? It is still a work in progress. One year after starting yoga from scratch, my balance is better, my overall flexibility is better, my posture is better, and my core strength is better. I still feel some discomfort in my lower back during sustained hard efforts but it has not been debilitating as it was during Old Pueblo so I believe that I am on the right path. In a society where people often want others to "fix" their ailments and/or problems, yoga encourages you to look inward and fix yourself. I plan to continue with my yoga practice at least twice a week once I find a studio/instructor I like in Boise.

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