As skiers we are always trying to find ways to improve our training methods and our results in racing. Up in Whitehorse some of us on the ski team have been trying out yoga once a week for an hour and a half. We go into a small condo complex with a room filled with yoga mats laying on the floor and a large mirror up against one wall. The instructor is a short, fairly skinny man named Sabu who always has a smile on his face. Sabu usually starts class with breathing exercises which he believes helps balance out the body and brings oxygen to the brain.
Mid way through the class we start to do sun salutations which are a series of exercises designed to move your body in many different directions to warm up your muscles before we start to do the poses which stretch them out. During this Sabu will be telling us to breath through our noses and to use yogi breathing. Yogi breathing is supposed to be deep breathing through your nose, inhaling and raising your diaphragm and exhaling, emptying your diaphragm.
After sun salutations we start to to various poses which stretch our bodies in every way possible. Some positions are very painful for us skiers who are generally not that flexible and have certain muscles which aren't flexible at all. In these positions most people, out of reflex, stop breathing during the pain. The key to surviving however is to keep breathing deeply pushing the energy into your muscles as Sabu would say.
At the end of each session we end with final relaxation where we lie on our backs with are legs spread two feet apart and arms spread one foot apart. We start with deep breathing and try and concentrate and calm our minds. It is said that if you have mastered yoga and your mind that you can completely leave your body and come back not knowing where your are and what you were doing. I personally feel very relaxed. When I leave yoga I feel like my body is more capable and my mind is more at ease.
When I first started yoga I could barely touch my toes and nearly every pose or position was extremely painful for me. I am now able to do a variety of positions comfortably included the head stand which looks difficult but becomes quite easy with practice. I still have a very long ways to go until I am a master yogi or even flexible in every direction but I can already feel the improvements in my training which come from the skills I have learned in yoga.