The Yoga of Gymnastics
At a certain point in life, you realize you just need yoga. Maybe you need it for the physical workout, maybe you need it for the spiritual connection, maybe you need it for the mental focus, or all of the above. But at some point, often when you’re feeling at the lowest end of the end of your rope, you give in and accept your friend’s longstanding invitation to try a class, even if posing on a matt and intentionally sweating all over yourself has never been your thing.
Because you just need it.
What you most likely needed when you went to your first yoga class was mindfulness, calm, peace, concentration, connection, at least as much as a super sculpted back.
Awareness brought you to this practice, and once you start growing that awareness and bringing it to other parts of your life, there’s no going back - you’re hooked, changed forever.
Kind of like when you fall in love for the first time. After that deeper chamber is opened, nothing is the same.
As you continue learning and growing in your personal practice, you may want to try some new things. You may even move out of the yoga world and into other areas of physical practice. That’s the point, isn’t it? To carry your practice with you? There are, after all, so many fun and exciting ways to challenge your body and keep that lean yogi physique you’ve worked so hard for.
But it can be tough to find a physical practice that shares the mindful aspect of yoga, while at the same time giving you the body you want, or better. Or it was, until adult gymnastics hit the scene.
Gymnastics and bodyweight-based strength and mobility training is like yoga for people who want to get seriously strong.
Even though practicing yoga builds strength, the focus is on cultivating flexibility first and often lacks equivalent attention to strength in flexibility. This comes from building not only the muscles, but the connective tissues. Conditioning the tendons and ligaments is just as important, or more so, than conditioning the muscles, but this deep tissue work is absent from most yoga practices. In gymnastics however, mobilizing these crucial areas - weak spots for most modern athletes like knees, elbows, ankle and toe joins, wrists, forearms, and facia - is part of comprehensive training.
Then there’s core strength. Gymnastics, more than any other sport or training technique, including yoga, demands absolute core activation. It’s simply impossible to hold yourself on the rings or attempt a manna progression, or do a pseudo planche pushup (i.e. Chaturanga on steroids) without the kind of abdominal contraction that forms beach lines in no time.
While yoga practitioners have a better starting point than most modern athletes, gymnastics takes that foundation to new levels of strength and flexibility, and is perfect cross-training for yogis who want to add some impressive skills to their repertoire.
But what about awareness? The mindful approach to the body and fitness that’s so refreshing about yoga? This is probably the biggest similarity between yoga and gymnastics. Neither can be done without an intense awareness of and respect for the body. Being in shape is great, but only if your mindfulness matches your muscles.
At a certain point in life, you know you just need yoga.
And at a certain point in yoga, you know you just need more.
More happens when you take the foundation you’ve built on the matt and add a touch of rings, beam, parallel bars and pommel horse. It doesn’t get much more holistic than that.
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