Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I suck at yoga but that hasn’t stopped me from trying to get better each day over the last couple of months. Today, while trying to follow Gillian Clark during Pure & Simple Yoga I was again reminded of how bad I am at it. The upside is that in yoga it just doesn’t matter one bit. Ego aside, yoga makes me feel good and that’s all that matters.

While I’m bad at it, I’m definitely progressing. I’ve been asked to list just what I’ve been doing, so here you go. I should qualify this with the back story. I have a ruptured L5S1 disc, which caused sciatic nerve damage. From Jan-June, I could do very little stretching and no forward bending. When I began doing yoga in July, it had to start slow and easy.

I began with Rodney Yee’s Back Care Yoga. This is a one hour session that is broken down into three sections: flexibility, strengthening, and restorative poses. Restorative poses, essentially, use gravity to slowly stretch muscles. These are EASY. So I began using this 20 minute segment as my default practice, while pushing a little harder on days I felt good.

Once I assessed that I could do this without damaging my back, I began starting each day with one of Rodney Yee’s 20 minute sessions from AM Yoga. Yee is one of the old guard of the video yoga movement. He’s an excellent teacher and these videos are perfect for anyone looking to begin with gentle yoga.

Next, Romney bought me (well, us) the Athlete’s Guide To Yoga. This is also a gentle practice that assumes most of your training is done elsewhere. Since most of mine is, it’s great. The instructor, Sage Roundtree, is a little Berkeley-esque for my tastes but she’s thorough and I’ve come to really like this video. The many short routines are programmable for a myriad of workout options.

A mixture of these three videos has been the cornerstone of my practice, which until recently had been entirely focused on rehabilitation.

The progress I’ve made has caused me to move yoga up on my workout priorities. Now I often replace other workouts, even riding or running, with yoga. I figure that I can get that fitness back quickly anyway, so I should focus on the thing that will increase my ability in those areas to improve beyond where they were when I get back to them. This has necessitated a need to increase the intensity of my yoga practice.

For more workout oriented yoga, I’ve been using Clark’s Pure & Simple Yoga (part of the Yoga Booty Ballet series), Chalene Johnson’s Dynamic Flow Yoga (part of the Chalene Extreme series), and Tony Horton’s One on One yogas and recovery workouts. None of these are 90X-ian in their severity but more balanced practices and much better suited to my days where there will almost always be another workout outside. I am about to start adding Yoga X into the schedule, even if just to gauge how I’ve improved, since for years that was the only yoga workout I did. For me, however, the strength aspects of yoga are not my goals. I’m much better at these anyway. My goals are range of motion increase, improved balance and body awareness.

Neither Chalene or Tony are yoga instructors. While this probably makes their style hard for traditional yoga-ites to stomach, it’s likely very appealing to many who are turned off by the historical mumbo-jumbo and just want a workout. They both have a comical style, which you can see here if this link is still working for "Patience Hummingbird." Gillian’s approach is far more traditional. Her knowledge and passion for yoga is unbridled. She makes me want to get better at yoga.

So far, I think the adding daily yoga has been one of my better athletic decisions. It may not help my ability to suffer through the night on some endurance quest (though it may and certainly won’t hurt), but it’s definitely going to help me age with less pain, and it will help my climbing. As my friend Micah, an avid yoga practitioner, said, “for climbing, yoga is like cheating.”

pic: from


Lisa Romney said...

what ever would you do without that wife of yours? Sounds like you'd still be crippled on the couch wondering how you will ever be able to climb, ride, run again.

Micah said...

And the climbing gods will punish you dearly for this transgression pulling a foot, which you are oh so aware of, right off the greasy pocket of some highball boulder problem.... :)

But yeah, if you can dive into the yoga thing climbing improves dramatically for guys like us that have always been powerful and inflexible by nature. When I first got really into yoga (2 hours a day 6 days a week), I was only climbing once a week and I was still making huge gains on the rock. I remember the day I hiked The Grotesque Old Women, my hardest send at that point. It was totally unexpected and felt so straight forward.

So like a dumb dumb I quit climbing completely for 3 years and became a human pretzel. Turns out three years is a bit too long on the couch to maintain any finger power..... but my core strength got ridiculous. The first time I got back on the wall at the shed, Phil couldn't believe how much body tension I had.

Reedster said...

Micah, Bob was talking about your body tension the other day. So unfortunate that the climbing gods decided to pull it from you when you needed it most.

Steve, thanks for the post. I might look into some of those other programs. Since I only have the 90X Yoga and some other super mellow yoga tape I find that I don't do much because I want something between the two on most days.


Amy Evans said...

I always enjoy your articles, Steve. :) This one comes with perfect timing. Gillian's Pure & Simple Yoga dvd has been hovering in my shopping cart for a couple of weeks now as I've been in search of a yoga workout for the pure and simply yoga challenged! ;) Thanks again for the great info!

Andrea Romney said...

YAY for yoga!!! Great mental and physical training... If you get a chance take an Ashtanga class, men really enjoy this style :)"