The Art and Science of Yoga, with Sage Rountree

Yoga is much more than fancy stretching or breathing techniques—it can be a powerful tool to aid health and performance.

Pathways Logo Fast Talk Labs - Rest and Recovery Pathway Badge
yoga for athletes
Photo: Amelia Cassar

Is yoga just fancy stretching? Nope. Today we’re going to go into the specifics of why athletes should consider yoga, from the physical literacy it can provide, to the strength and conditioning element it offers, from the potential for an improved inflammatory profile to better recovery and relaxation.  

It turns out yoga is far more than fancy stretching or breathing techniques, it can be a powerful tool to aid health and performance.  

No episode about yoga would be complete without an overview of the many varieties of the practice. It often comes down to a simple question: How spicy do you like your peppers: mild, medium, or hot? 

We walk through the six major types of yoga and when each is the most appropriate, given the time of year, your ability, and your training load.  

Finally, we’ll discuss the risks of doing yoga. There are some, but thankfully they’re minor and can be easily avoided. 

Our featured guest today is Sage Rountree, an internationally recognized authority in yoga for athletes and an endurance sports coach with certifications from USA Triathlon, USA Cycling, and the Road Runners’ Club of America. She is the author of The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga among serval other books on yoga. 

We’ll also hear from eSports racer Jen Real, racer, elite cyclist and coach Jen Sharp, and our very own Colby Pearce for more thoughts on the benefits of yoga for athletes. 

Now, pick your pepper… Let’s make you fast! 

Episode Transcript

Chris Case  00:12

Hello, and welcome to Fast Talk your source for the science of cycling performance. I’m your host Chris Case.

 

Chris Case  00:20

Is yoga just fancy stretching? Nope. Today we’re going to go into the specifics of why cyclists should consider yoga from the physical literacy it can provide to the strength and conditioning element it offers, from the potential for an improved inflammatory profile to better recovery and relaxation.

 

Chris Case  00:41

It turns out yoga is far more than fancy stretching or breathing techniques. It can be a powerful tool to aid health and performance. And no episode about yoga it would be complete without an overview of the many varieties of the practice. Tt often comes down to a simple question: How spicy do you like your pepper, mild, medium, or hot? We’ll discuss.

 

Chris Case  01:05

We walk through the six major types of yoga and when each is the most appropriate, given the time of year, your ability level and your training load. And finally, we’ll discuss the risks of doing yoga. There are some but thankfully they’re minor and can be easily avoided.

 

Chris Case  01:22

Our featured guest today is Sage Rountree, an internationally recognized authority and yoga for athletes and an endurance sports coach with certifications from USA Triathlon, USA Cycling and the Road Runners Club of America. She is the author of “The Athletes Guide to Yoga” among several other books on yoga.

 

Chris Case  01:41

We’ll also hear from eSports racer Jen Real, racer, paralympian and coach Jen Sharp, and our very own Colby Pearce for more thoughts on the benefits of yoga for athletes. Now, select your pepper. Let’s make you fast.

 

Chris Case  02:02

Hey there listeners, we are on the verge of a new year, fresh start, a comeback. 2021 can be your comeback year. Let us help you come roaring back for 2020 become a member of Fast Talk Laboratories. We have a free Listener membership which is a great way to get started. Listener members get special benefits like searchable podcast episode transcripts and coming soon limited time member content. Our new Library membership unlocks access to online articles on training science and how-to videos. Join as a Live member and you can join live events like workouts, q&a sessions and webinars plus recordings of all the live events. Make next year your best season yet join Fast Talk Laboratories at fasttalklabs.com.

 

Chris Case  02:52

Welcome, Sage Rountree to Fast Talk, it’s great to have you on the episode today.

 

Sage Rountree  02:59

Thanks, Chris.

Why should athletes make yoga part of their routine?

Chris Case  03:01

And I want to start with the big question here. I think it’s worth noting that we’re taking on the topic of yoga, and we want to talk about the science but I also don’t want to have people turn off the episode because they saw that dirty word yoga. And a lot of endurance athletes, if we’re generalizing here, might see that and turn away and say, “Ah, that’s not for me. I don’t need that. What’s that going to do? That’s just fancy stretching.” Sage, why should an athlete, an endurance athlete, a cyclist specifically or a runner, why should they consider yoga as part of their habits, their routine?

 

Sage Rountree  03:41

Because yoga will make you a better athlete and dare I say it, it might even make you a better person by giving you tools to keep your act together when things get intense, to give you some tools for self regulation, for staying calm under pressure, and much of what Yoga has to offer goes beyond the physical. I know endurance athletes may be scrolling through their Instagram feed and see ladies in tight outfits doing handstands that could be a part of the yoga practice, but that’s not the point of yoga. The point of yoga is to be able to still the chatter in your mind so that you can really be who you are. So while asana, the physical poses, is part of the practice, a lot of it is about breathing and most of it is about self awareness on every level physical, mental, emotional, breath oriented self awareness.

 

Chris Case  04:31

That doesn’t sound like fancy stretching at all to me.

 

Sage Rountree  04:34

No, no, and in fact, in many forms of yoga aren’t really about stretching nor are they about strengthening. They’re more about learning how to relax and athletes are generally quite comfortable with not relaxing, they have a lot of trained comfort with the discomfort. But many of the approaches to yoga that I hope we’ll discuss today are actually teaching us how to be comfortable with being comfortable That’s really important for your recovery between workouts and just for your general life. Like I said, this is how yoga makes you a nicer person, a better person, makes you easier to be around for all the people who have to come into contact with you.

 

Trevor Connor  05:12

Yeah, I mean, that was really the question that sparked all this: is yoga just fancy stretching? And glad to hear you say it’s not. When I talk with athletes about strength training, there’s different approaches you can take to strength training, and I’m a big believer in generally, you want to do full body strength work. So you want to do exercises that use multiple joints, because then you work in chains. There is that more traditional belief of isolate muscles and just work one muscle at a time. Well, if all you ever do is go into the weight room and do bicep curls, and you don’t work any of the other movers in your arm, you’re actually going to be a very imbalanced person. And that in itself can lead to injuries, can lead to problems. So you want to work that full chain. When I think about yoga, using that analogy, the way it’s different from stretching is that stretching is that isolation, it’s one aspect. And when you do stretching work, that’s all you are working, its just muscle lengthening. Yoga is a little more like that chain, working the full body, doing a full body movement. Yes, stretching is part of it, muscle lengthening is part of it, but you’re also at the same time doing core work, sometimes yoga can actually be a little bit intense, so you can get a bit of a workout, you’re incorporating breathing – there’s a lot of other things that you are incorporating besides just stretching that’s going to keep you balanced because there’s a fair amount of research showing that if all you ever do a stretch, you lose a lot of stability, which can actually lead to injury.

 

06:55

Exactly. And so much of yoga is done in the context of agonist antagonist relationships, and bodyweight strength building. So while something is engaging, something else needs to be releasing, it’s all of these compares of opposites.

How flexible so cyclist really need to be?

Sage Rountree  07:09

But let’s see, why do cyclists even need to stretch? Like, how much flexibility do you need to ride your bike well?

 

Chris Case  07:17

Good question.

 

07:19

I would say not that much, you know, just enough. You need enough to be able to get your bike up on the rack or on top of your car and to work on your bike, but beyond that, we’re not focusing on flexibility for the sake of flexibility. And we don’t want to get engaged in an endless pursuit of flexibility, which sometimes, now I’m a yoga studio owner, we can see in the yoga studio context where people get really excited about yoga, want to get into more and more sophisticated postures and start to think that more is more in terms of flexibility. But in the context of endurance athletes, we need just enough to get our shoes on and our bikes up on the car and back down. But we really don’t need much more. So yeah, we don’t want to think of yoga as fancy stretching, because we don’t really need stretching.

 

Trevor Connor  08:02

I still remember the first time I did yoga, I was up at the Training Center in Canada, and our coach decided to have a yoga session just for those of us who were in the center. And I actually loved stretching at the time I stretched like an hour a day. So I’m like, ‘oh, cool, I get to go and do this thing where I’m just gonna relax and stretch all the time.’ And halfway in I’m like ‘aait a minute, this is hard. This is a workout.’

 

08:29

Yeah, and often when I’m talking to people who are trying to find ways to incorporate yoga into an actual training regimen, I have to remind them that yoga for an athlete is not necessarily athletic yoga. And there are all kinds of styles of yoga that will really kick your hiney and have you breaking a sweat and feel quite humbling in their difficulty, and there’s a time and a place for that in the cyclists training season it’s called the offseason because you don’t want to spend all your chips as it were on the yoga mat. And you don’t want to beat yourself up if you’re also trying to achieve a certain outcome on the bike.

 

Sage Rountree  09:07

So when we’re thinking of yoga in the context of the athlete, we need to think of it in the full context of a periodized training plan and to slot it in in an inverse proportion. So that the more intense yoga practices are going in the offseason or the base, and the closer the athlete is getting to competition, the more mellow the yoga is.

Benefits of yoga

Chris Case  09:26

Let’s dive into some of these bigger benefits here of yoga. If you wouldn’t mind Sage, why don’t you walk us through some of those key attributes?

The best reasons to practice yoga according to Sage Rountree

Proprioception

Sage Rountree  09:36

Well, especially as it pertains to cyclists who are often really locked into the sagittal plane movement and sometimes literally locked in to the pedals on the bike, there’s only so much movement that happens in that plane and we can lose access to all the other multi planar potential realities that our bodies might take, and might need to do in the course of a crash or just daily life. So yoage can teach us proprioception, the awareness of where we are in space. And a well sequence yoga practice led by a teacher can also get you into a broader vocabulary of movement, a greater movement literacy, so that you’re able to do different things well, and that’s key to neuroplasticity to being able to activate different muscle fibers and being a more well rounded body and therefore a more well rounded athlete. That’s, I think one of the very biggest offerings.

Brain stimulation

Sage Rountree  10:30

Also just to stimulate your brain to move in new ways is is good on every plane, so you don’t get into a rut. Instead, you develop a really broad toolkit of ways that you might activate your body and different things that you can do with it.

Range of movement and flexibility

Sage Rountree  10:46

Along the way, we do gain some range of movement and some flexibility, so range of movement in the joints and flexibility in the muscles. But as I said, we don’t really need very much flexibility to ride the bike well. We definitely work the whole body, like Trevor was saying, we don’t want to just focus on one thing, we want to have these multi chain exercises, compound exercises, and much of what we do on the yoga mat is all getting translated through the core. Whether we’re standing or hand standing, we’re putting a load through the core and teaching our body how to stabilize through the core, that’s super important.

Relaxation

Sage Rountree  11:22

On the more mellow side of things, yoga is really good, if you practice the right kinds, at increasing your sense of relaxation, and therefore down regulating the nervous system, getting the parasympathetic nervous system onboard, and teaching your body that it’s okay to be relaxed. And the more time we can spend in that mellow state, the more we can tap into it, maybe before a competition when we’re starting to feel antsy, or when we’re lying awake in the night and need to try to bring ourselves back into that more mellow state.

Focus and presence

Sage Rountree  11:52

We also get practice with focus and presence. And these are some of the mental benefits of yoga. Not to get to like yoga philosophical, but these are also alluded to in the eight limbs, like the eight steps, of yoga. One is focus: your ability to maintain attention on one thing over time. And then the other is presence, your ability to be aware of many things simultaneously, many things at the same time. We can see that this has real direct application for cyclists, your ability to maintain focus is like riding a time trial. And your ability to maintain presence is like riding a road race, where you need to know where a whole bunch of other riders are on the course at the same time where the turns are, how much farther it is, and so on. And yoga practice teaches us facility in both focus and in presence.

Respiratory literacy

Sage Rountree  12:45

It also gives us a lot of awareness of our breath. So we talked about movement literacy or physical literacy, we could also talk about like respiratory literacy, just getting to know the mechanism of the breath, seeing how it works at rest, seeing how we can focus it, seeing how we can slow it down seeing what might happen if we speed the breath up and all of that can help you use your breath as an anchor, in the course of a workout or a race.

Jen Real’s experience with the neuromuscular benefits of yoga

Trevor Connor  13:16

Jen Real, who rides for The Pros Closet, Sara’s eSports racing team, ss a regular yoga practitioner. She talked with us about the neuromuscular benefits of incorporating yoga into her training.

 

Jennifer Real  13:29

I’ve been doing a lot more yoga lately. And I do it for recovery days. So a lot of times on my recovery days I’ll either do a really easy spin or sometimes I just don’t really feel like being on the bike I’ll go do some yoga. And I think it’s been really great for stability, and neuromuscular changes, I think in a way to just really control the body better.

 

Chris Case  13:52

And how often are you doing that a week?

 

Jennifer Real  13:55

Probably only once a week do I actually spend 45 minutes and do a whole yoga class. But I would say almost every day, I’ll probably spend 10-15 minutes doing some yoga stretch type work.

Core stability benefits

Trevor Connor  14:11

I want to dive a little deeper into a few of these things. So I’m just going to read something out of a study that I found showing benefits of yoga in athletes. Its reads “because yoga practice requires the movement of many major and minor muscle groups simultaneously, and focuses on proper muscular and skeletal alignment. It tends to differ from other conditioning methods that emphasize active engagement of only certain areas of the body.” So it was talking there about core stability and saying that yoga might actually work core strength differently because the movements really activate many muscles versus again, a lot of core work that tends to isolate. Could you take that a little further? Discuss that a bit?

 

Sage Rountree  15:00

Yes and I may wind up going off on a tangent of my own, so reel me back if I do. When I talk about the way that we use the court in terms of yoga practice, or really any mat based movement practice, so we can use yoga as a broader term to include like pilates and other mat style practices, we are looking either to use the musculature of the core to stabilize the relationship of the pelvis and the spine and space or to articulate the movement of the spine relative to the pelvis or the spine and the pelvis. So to put this in terms of yoga poses that people might know, if you think about cat pose, and cow Pose, which is just like a ripple in action in your spine, often key to the breath, that’s an example of an articular movement, as would be doing a crunch, or rolling all the way up to sitting from the floor, a pretty classic move for your abdominal strength. But then we also do things like planks and downward facing dog, and yes, even a handstand and all of that is to help to stabilize all the muscles together. So once you’ve developed that ability to feel when are we articulating the movement of the spine, and when we’re working to stabilize then we can feel how that gets deployed in a lot of other poses. And if you go to yoga class, that’s a flowing class that maybe has some salutations in it, for example, or that we might call a vinyasa class, there are a lot of movements on the front of the mat, down to the floor, maybe even up to the back of the mat and down again, a lot of time spent on moving from pose to pose and along the way, you’re engaging the core in different ways. Sometimes you’re articulating and then other times you’re stabilizing. So the course of a 60, 75, 90 minute yoga class gives you a lot of opportunities for both core stabilization and core articulation.

 

Trevor Connor  16:46

I think that’s important for cyclists. So you brought up the fact that cyclists don’t need to be overly flexible. But you look at core on the bike, core is absolutely essential. I constantly telling athletes that if you want to improve your performance, you want to get your power up on the bike, this is one of the biggest areas of opportunity that a lot of people ignore. But you are sitting on a saddle, you generally have your hands on the handlebars, you don’t need dramatic core strength, what you need is that stabilization. It’s actually those smaller muscles that allow effective movement that keep the core stable so that your legs have something to push against, that are actually the more important muscles. And that’s really what you were just describing.

 

Sage Rountree  17:33

Yes, it’s more like we learn to have core control rather than raw core strength so that we can stabilize and not add any excess rotational movement, or just generally any excess movement – that would be a waste of energy when our main goal is to drive the power down to the pedals.

Recovery: Yoga’s effects on inflammation

Trevor Connor  17:50

The second thing I want to dive a little deeper into here is on the recovery side. This is actually, of course, me being the science nerd, when I was going through the research this weekend, I kind of landed on this one and though ‘ooh, this is neat,’ and pulled up a whole bunch of studies on this. They have done some very interesting studies now, and this seems to be a lot of the yoga research is now really focusing on this, is looking at its effects on inflammation.

 

Trevor Connor  18:18

So the two markers that a lot of the studies have focused on are IL-6 and TNF-alpha, which are cytokines that tend to be indicators of systemic inflammation in the body. So we’ve done episodes in the past where we talked about how inflammation is important for muscle repair after training. But what you don’t want is that systemic body wide inflammation that leads to chronic illness. IL-6 and TNF-alpha tend to be markers used to look at that chronic inflammation, that systemic inflammation.

 

Trevor Connor  18:56

And I found a few studies on this. One, in particular, looked at very experienced Yogi versus people who don’t do it and found that their baseline inflammatory markers were much lower in the more experienced Yogi’s. Now there can be confounders there such as are they eating better, what are the other aspects of their life, but that study went a little further and had both groups do an intense workout and then looked at the impact of that workout on these inflammatory markers. And what you saw was in the group that doesn’t do yoga, they would do an intense workout and you would see a significant rise in these inflammatory markers, in the Yogi’s you really didn’t.

 

Sage Rountree  19:46

I think that might point back to what we’ve already discussed about movement literacy, we can even call it physical grace, and your ability to execute movements without drawing down your store so much to the point where you would create that kind of systemic inflammation. And I love also, Trevor that she said, inflammation itself is not the enemy, like we need the inflammation to get stronger, but we don’t want to be carrying those big loads of that chronic systemic inflammation.

 

Trevor Connor  20:16

Now, I can’t remember which study it was, but you brought up this point about the parasympathetic versus sympathetic nervous system. And one of the theories here is that yoga really causes a shift towards a more parasympathetic dominance and that may be helping to reduce this inflammation to keep the levels down.

 

Sage Rountree  20:37

Oh, most definitely. And some of that is coming with the breathe, with the slow breath that can stimulate the vagus nerve and help engage the relaxation response. And also with the state that we look for by the end of a physical yoga practice, and the posts we call Shavasana, or corpse pose or final relaxation gives us an opportunity to really settle and the more experience you have with settling, the easier that can come in any situation. And this is often the most challenging pose for folks in their first class or their first year of yoga classes because it can be very tough to be still and to notice how much mental chatter is actually present all the time. But that definitely gets easier with practice, and you find yourself more able to settle into it, and therefore just more able to access your parasympathetic nervous system.

 

Trevor Connor  21:27

Interesting. I didn’t realize people struggled so much with that pose. I always just fell asleep.

 

Sage Rountree  21:33

Well, the idea is to get almost to that point where you’re asleep, but not quite there. That’s it. Nothing horrible happens if you fall asleep other than you might snore in front of a roomful of strangers.

The different types of yoga practices

Chris Case  21:45

Now that we’ve had sort of the overview of the why maybe it’s best that we now talk about all this differentiation that’s out there. We use yoga as an all encompassing practice, I guess, but there’s many different types, some which would probably be more appropriate for endurance athletes and others that we might want to avoid, or at least avoid certain times of the season. So maybe we dive into to those.

 

Sage Rountree  22:14

As I said, you want to have an inverse proportionality of the intensity of your yoga practice relative to the intensity of your sport training. Otherwise, you’re just begging for like really excessive overload. So you need to be really careful at the styles that you choose and how frequently you do them – and we can break this all down.

Hatha yoga

Sage Rountree  22:33

So here in the 21st century West, most of the yoga you would encounter in a studio or a gym or online is going to be the physical practice of yoga poses. We call the poses asana, and we can sometimes use the just general term hatha, or if we’re Americans we would call it “hofa”. Hatha Yoga is just the physical practice of the poses.

 

Sage Rountree  22:59

Now, in that umbrella of Hatha Yoga, there are all kinds of, what we could call peppers, from like a really mild pepper to a really spicy pepper, right, and they’re all part of the pepper family, but something might go into a mild salsa and something might be reserved only for like a super spicy killer salsa. If you don’t know what you’re reaching for, you might reach for something that’s completely inappropriate for your palate, or you know, the recipe that you’re trying to cook.

 

Sage Rountree  23:25

So the smartest option is always to go for the more mellow. And for athletes who are listening to this podcast, don’t be shy to contact a studio, or to ask for a sample of an online service just to make sure that that pepper isn’t too spicy for you, because you don’t want to undermine your training while you’re actually trying to enhance your training with yoga.

 

Sage Rountree  23:48

That’s part of the beauty I think of the proliferation that we’ve had of online yoga, both in the last few years and especially in the course of the last year during the pandemic, is that you can try it without feeling embarrassed if you need to click away or modify it in ways that if you found yourself in a studio and you brought your ego all the way on to the mat, it might be embarrassing to leave things out and you might have your innate sense of competition goading you to do things that are actually beyond where you want to be at that point in the season.

 

Sage Rountree  24:18

So to go to the mildest pepper is to do something like beginner yoga, or yoga 101, or a gentle yoga class or even restorative yoga. Restorative Yoga is my absolute 100% favorite approach to yoga of all time. It’s very long holds of non stretching poses just kind of supported poses on pillows and blankets with candles and inscents and soft music and you stay in those poses for like 20 to 30 minutes at a time. Trevor would like it. I think it’s kind of nap time, and you get tucked in by the teacher and that’s the place where you really learn to rela. But that can be really tough for people who are competitive on the bike because it’s so polar opposite to what you’re used to doing in your workouts or even when you put on exercise clothes. Ao when you go to the studio and you’re like, “what I’m taking a nap?”

 

Chris Case  25:15

Now, my yoga literacy is pretty low, but in the past, I’ve taken some Yin Yoga, which is –

 

Sage Rountree  25:23

Yeah, okay, so Yin Yoga is a little different.

 

Chris Case  25:25

Okay. Okay, so we’ll get there.

 

Sage Rountree  25:27

Yeah, we’ll get there. That’s maybe two notches up the pepper scale.

 

Chris Case  25:31

Alright.

 

Sage Rountree  25:31

So restorative is the least amount of movement and the greatest amount of relaxation, and then gentle might be the next one up.

Yin yoga

Sage Rountree  25:39

Gentle yoga, it’s all just generally pretty mellow. And, you know, if we had, hypothetically, a cyclist with very, very low ego, then I would send them to like yoga for aging adults or yoga for seniors class, which is sure to be gentle, and you’re not going to hurt yourself there, you’re not going to overdo it there. But I don’t know where we’re going to find that person. Anyway, gentle is a really good entry point.

 

Sage Rountree  26:01

But both in restorative and gentle, sometimes I hear athletes say, “Oh, you know, I went to class with my mom, and it was boring.” And I get a little huffy, and I say ‘It wasn’t it, the class was boring, you were bored in that class,’ – which is a very different thing. And being able to not be bored in a physical experience that isn’t taking you to your limit is really acquired skill and a very advanced skill. This is like, if you have an athlete, and you assign them a workout, they are always coming back with their numbers, you know, 20 watts higher than you wanted them to be, or 10 beats per minute higher than you really wanted them to be, because they’re not able to hold back to that degree that you would need to take a gentle class and not be bored. So gentle, can actually be hard even though on the pepper scale it’s not actually that hot.

 

Sage Rountree  26:53

So then there’s Yin – and Chris, that’s a great question – Yin can mean different things to different teachers. And all of these terms can mean different things depending on the area where you are, and the teacher and even the time of day, sometimes the practice can be a little different if it’s the last class of the day, or if it’s in the middle of the day. But the idea in Yin yoga is to do medium holds, medium long holds let’s say, of poses generally down on the floor, sometimes supported by props, with the idea of getting into the shape to an appropriate degree of intensity, so that we feel it but we’re not all the way at the edge, and then staying there for a while. And that while might be two to six minutes. Generally, it’s like three to five minute hold. So you can imagine if you’ve been to yoga class, and you’ve done the forward folding version of a pose we call pigeon posed, a nice like piriformis stretch, external rotators stretch, we would go into a shape like that and instead of holding it for five breaths, we might hold it for five minutes. And it develops its own intensity, kind of like if you put a pepper in the salsa, and you put this also in the fridge and you pull it out a day or two later, it might have actually gotten spicier, it’s that longer hold of the pose that makes it intense.

 

Sage Rountree  28:07

This is a wonderful experience for athletes who have some self awareness and control and are trying to develop their comfort with discomfort without overdoing it. But you do have to have that little bit of control, or else you’re gonna just push all the way to your edge and you’re gonna be miserable. And you’re gonna get yourself freaked out and instead of simulating the parasympathetic nervous response, you’re going to trick yourself into a fight or flight and all of a sudden, this thing that might have been a delicious, relaxing experience, or at least an interesting mental exercise becomes just hell on earth, and you hate yoga, and you never go back. So you have to be careful if you’re super competitive in a Yin yoga class not to go all the way to the edge to trust that time is going to bring that edge to you. Just like if you were going out for a 40K time trial, it should feel too easy at the beginning and it will not feel too easy if you just keep that wattage throughout. So you have to factor in the time that you’re going to be in a pose in Yin yoga.

 

Sage Rountree  29:09

But that’s a really nice practice vor mental skill, for breath awareness, for developing your focus and your presence. Yin yoga is a nice place to practice mantra – and we know as cyclists, the power of mantra, especially something rhythmic that might even go with your pedal stroke. So Yin is a great laboratory for developing those mental skills.

 

Chris Case  29:30

One of the other things that the instructor in that class taught me or that stuck with me was the fact that in our lives and especially I think as an athlete this applies, there’s a lot of – and people have probably heard this terminology yin and yang ,and Yang being very active, maybe not chaotic, but having a lot of energy to it. And so going into a yoga studio and getting more of that is not necessarily a good thing for an athlete where they might want this other Yin type of practice or a meditative, mellow, relaxing experience to balance some of that more energetic, chaotic practice that they see in the other parts of their life.

 

Sage Rountree  30:16

I love it. That’s a gorgeous way to point at what I was talking about the inverse proportionality. You don’t want to just put more fire in the flames, you’re trying to balance the fire with some water and some earth energy. The whole point of the yoga practice for our bodies and our minds and our psyches is to bring things into balance, to find the right balance between effort and ease. And as athletes were often really accustomed to the effort side of that equation, and not so accustomed to the ease. So that’s what your teacher beautifully was saying, it’s balancing the yang and the yin. And just adding more Yang to already yang is just going to be double Yang.

 

Chris Case  30:58

Sorry, Yang, not Yang, Jana replace it in the edting.

 

Sage Rountree  31:00

Either either.

 

Chris Case  31:02

I’m kidding.

 

Trevor Connor  31:03

When I was doing yoga weekly with the center, that’s what I always liked about it because everything we were doing was so intense. I mean, when we are training, we are training seriously and hard. When I was in the weight room, I was beating myself up, we would do these plyometrics sessions where you could barely walk out of it. I like that you’d go to the yoga, and it was fundamentally different. It wasn’t tearing yourself apart, it was the exact opposite.

 

Sage Rountree  31:31

Yeah, it’s so critical. And that’s why I think that the more we can get athletes into classes that maybe don’t feed their ego, because they’re called gentle or they’re called senior or they’re called basics, the more we’re actually serving them. At some point, there’s a zero sum equation, where somebody comes into the yoga room, and then they get kind of obsessed with theasana and and they want to get their foot behind their head and it’s like, well, do you want to do that, in the same season that you’re trying to set a PR on the bike or to ride your first century? Or to run a marathon in a certain time? It’s a spectrum and you can’t have both. And your body might eventually get to the point where you could get your foot behind your head, but it’s probably not going to happen simultaneously with setting those records on the bike or in your competitions.

Colby Pearce’s thoughts on yin vs yang yoga

Trevor Connor  32:23

We couldn’t do an episode on yoga without bringing in Cycling in Alignment host Colby Pearce, as expected, he had a lot to offer.

 

Colby Pearce  32:32

So Yoga is a broad topic that we can discuss. And I think that there can be a lot of benefits for a cyclist to integrate a yoga program into their off the bike conditioning. That said, we’ve got to be a little careful about what recommendations we make and we also want to be aware of the spectrum of what yoga does for you, the consequences – no, not consequences, the impact that yoga can have on your physiology and your overall function as an athlete.

 

Colby Pearce  33:10

I’ll say a few things broadly speaking first about yoga. One is that people as a general rule tend to glorify flexibility and mobility. And I, in particular, have been subject to a lot of this glorification because I am very flexible, although perhaps not in the way that people might think. But, man, I hear it all the time on group rides, “I don’t like to ride behind Colby, he’s so arrow.” I do write a very low handlebar, a big saddle to handlebar drop, and I give off virtually no draft compared to a lot of other riders. So look, man, talent comes in different forms. And some people have a big VO2 and have strong muscles and some people have an arrow shaped butt. You take it where you can get it. I made a whole “cycling career” out of being glorified hamstring-man and that is a result of my mobility I’ll say. When we talk about flexibility, are we talking about ligamentous flexibility or muscular flexibility.?In my case, if I do a nine point flexibility exam, which really looks at the range of motion of your ligaments, I score about a two out of nine on that, meaning not very good. But I have an exceptional range to ride and make power in a with a low handlebar position.

 

Colby Pearce  34:33

Ostensibly, this is what a lot of people equate yoga with: that ability to get low, get in the aero bars and increase your range of motion. And I think that yoga can play a role in that equation, but we should know that mobility is not to be glorified. Mobility and flexibility, just like anything are on a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum, we have really tight athletes, they tend to be very muscley and have a lot of fast twitch fiber and this leads to a lot of muscular binding, generally speaking. On the other end, we have more slow twitch athletes and those athletes can at times be quite mobile. And what’s the challenge? If you introduce too much mobility or flexibility into any system, remember the body is a cybernetic system, it’s a system of systems, you introduce too much mobility into that system and then you try to acquire strength, the facial tension, or tensegrity, the ligamentous integrity is what directs that strength, it’s what gives it structure, you can have a really strong muscle, but if it doesn’t have a strong platform or structure to work from, the force won’t go in the right place, you’ll have an unorganized movement, and that is sloppy and inefficient. So you can be quite strong, but lack global tensegrity, meaning facial structure to your body, and you can be too flaccid, we’ll say but quite strong and your strength will be ineffective. You may not be able to actualize that strength into cohesive movement. So this is where flexibility goes too far. And so we can go to one end of the spectrum or the other. And just as in all things, balance is key.

 

Colby Pearce  36:16

When we’re talking about yoga, on the whole, we need to be a little conscious of what we’re defining. And I don’t want to speak too much out of my area of expertise here. I’m not a yogi, I haven’t studied yoga in depth, but I know enough to know that what we think of as yoga in the Western world has been commercialized. We’re really talking about Asana, which is movement with breath. And a lot of people have missed the breath part, they basically think of yoga as a series of stretches. And that is one very, very small aspect of yoga. In the viviano tradition, for example, yoga is really considered preparation for meditation. You do yoga, so that you can sit in a meditation posture for hours on end, and handle it, physically. Your back doesn’t hurt, your knees don’t blow out, your hips don’t blow up. And when I say sit in meditation posture, I mean full lotus. So that’s what Yoga is really theoretically for what we’ve done is turn it into this sports performance enhancing thing. And I’m not saying that’s bad. I’m not saying it’s good, I’m just calling a spade a spade. So know a little bit about what it is. If you want to investigate more about the eight limbs of yoga, you can go forth and make the mudras and find out. There’s a lot there, there’s a lot to unpack. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a way of walking through the world.

 

Colby Pearce  37:38

But when we’re talking about the movement practice of yoga, Asana, there are some other basic things I’ll say. One is that the biggest potential pitfall for someone who is a competitive cyclist and athlete who has a very yin mindset, who has a mindset of I’m going to use this as a tool to improve performance, the risk is you go into yoga, adding it to your Yang to do list and you look at it as another thing to conquer. And the most important concept about a yoga practice of physical Asana movement practice with yoga is that it is non competitive. You are not there to accomplish, you are not there to win, you’re not there to make the perfect down dog… You are there to actually do the opposite; it is to release, it is to work with yin energy and it is to relax.

 

Colby Pearce  38:34

Well I’ll say there are many yoga practices that throw this out the window ,Bikram or hot yoga being some of the classic examples. Those are very Yang forms of yoga. And you are by definition, because you’re listening to this podcast, an endurance athlete who is Yang dominant, already, in all likelihood, the chances are overwhelmingly high that that is your dominant energy paradigm. So when you choose to take on an activity such as yoga, my advice is to seek the yin yoga, that is the restorative, regenerative yoga, not the doing, not the dividing, not the conquering, not that to do list, not that adding more fire, we want to complement all those doing that you do on the bike and in the gym. We want to complement and offset all the doing you do in your daily life, the driving the kids to soccer, the mowing the lawn, the fixing the broken derailleur, the reading the book about aerial performance. So ideally, I think yoga can play a role in restorative and regenerative movement and make you a better athlete on the whole. And one of the biggest integrations in that is breath.

 

Colby Pearce  39:48

So if you are looking to find a yoga practice, I would encourage something that’s more regenerative or restorative and also focuses on using breath with movement.

 

Chris Case  39:59

So what’s the next pepper on the list?

 

Sage Rountree  40:02

The next pepper would be something similar to Hatha yoga, an alignment based yoga, a Iyengar Yoga, Iyengar was the last name of a famous yoga teacher.

Vinyasa yoga

Sage Rountree  40:13

Then you move on to the more dynamic styles. So these have, they’re a lot of words we use to describe them. But it might be flow yoga, or vinyasa yoga, or power yoga. Sometimes we take all the three terms and put them together. So power vinyasa flow. And I can’t tell you what the difference is among each of these, it really depends on the region. And some places power means you’re going into strong poses and holding them a little longer. And flow means you’re only ever in the post for a breath or so. But in other areas, the terms are just used totally interchangeably. There’s some brands of yoga that are flow styles of yoga, like baptiste yoga or jivamukti yoga. And those are all  in the like a medium spicy salsa category. You build heat in this classes internally.

Hot yoga

Sage Rountree  41:04

And then even spicier pepper is to do flowing yoga class or to hold some deep poses in the hot room. And some athletes just are really drawn to the hot room because its intensity. And just like you were saying, Chris if we’re used to, like used to operating in the yang sphere and building heat in our workouts and making stuff happen in our lives, we may just be fanning the flames even more if we take that mentality and that state of being into the hot room. It feels very familiar, because it’s like, oh, this is a method I’m comfortable with and I like to sweat and I can hold this longer than anybody. But I think we need to be careful, especially as we reach the competitive season and in the peak races, not to overdo it in the hot room. I think the hot room has a time in place. It’s like Minnesota in January, great. You are riding your bike outside, that’s the time that you might look for the spiciest peppers.

 

Sage Rountree  42:05

In general, we want that inverse proportionality. So the closer you are to an event on the bike that you really care about, the more mellow your yoga practice should be.

 

Trevor Connor  42:13

So that hot yoga, that’s Bikram yoga, is that right?

 

Sage Rountree  42:17

Bikram is one style of hot yoga, yes. And then again, locally, there are lots of other styles of hot yoga, I couldn’t even begin to rattle off the names of all the places that have hot yoga, but you’ll see hot or the logo will, we’ll have orange and red is often a tell that this is a hot studio.

 

Chris Case  42:34

I think you should trademark your pepper analogy. And every yoga studio should have a pepper rating,

 

Sage Rountree  42:41

Wouldn’t that’d be nice. Like at your favorite Thai restaurant, you’re like, ‘Oh, I know, two is plenty coverage for me at this restaurant.’

 

Chris Case  42:49

You’re onto something there.

 

Sage Rountree  42:50

And my yoga studio, we actually have ratings like that for our classes. We have two ratings, one is a challenge rating, and one is a chill rating. Because, not to maybe complicate this even further, but some classes have both. So if we’re talking about restorative yoga, the challenge in restorative Yoga is quite low. It’s like a zero or maybe a one because there’s a little bit of mental challenge if you have trouble staying still. But the chill is quite high, the challenge is low and the chill is high. It’s a five out of five. But then if you’re going to the advanced practice class where they really are working on their handstands and their one handed arm balances and all that that’s a whole lot of challenge, maybe a five out of five, and very little chill. But much of what we offer at my studios are all somewher in between, and some of the classes are kind of half and half, like a flow and restore. So we’d spend the first half of class doing movement based stuff. And the challenge might be a three out of five or four out of five. But then we take the last half of class to do just one or two long held supported poses. And they’re the chill might be up at a three or four out of five as well.

 

Sage Rountree  43:54

So if if your listeners are looking at a studio schedule, and trying to figure it out, and they don’t see a pepper scale, have them reach out to the studio. One of my favorite things when I’m in charge of answering our studio emails and voicemails is when people call and say, here’s my deal: “I’m a cyclist who’s working on x and y, and we’re trying to find the right class and I can only come on I’m under Friday. So which class should I come to?” I can help match them with the pepper level that’s going to be most useful for them. So don’t be shy to ask.

 

Trevor Connor  44:27

So to back up a little bit of what you’re saying here, just from a purely scientific standpoint. There was actually a study just published this year in the International Journal of Exercise Science where they took hot yoga and did that same inflammatory marker test and saw the same thing where typical yoga will reduce those inflammatory markers but hot yoga actually increased IL-6. So if you are an athlete who’s already causing a lot of systemic inflammation by doing a lot of high intensity work, and you’re using this at least partially for recovery, that hot yoga really sounds like something you want to avoid.

 

Sage Rountree  45:10

Yeah, yeah, I’m afraid so.

Finding a yoga practice that is right for you

Trevor Connor  45:13

Talking to this endurance sport audience, if they were going to go to a studio, if they were going to start with yoga, what form should they be looking for, as we’ve already talked about a couple.

 

Sage Rountree  45:24

If it’s your very first experience with yoga, and it’s an option, a basics series, or a 101 or whatever the fundamentals is, or the intro to yoga is always a good idea. Because it’ll make you feel more comfortable then moving into regular classes. If you are far away from competition, I think you have a little more carte blanche about what you try without unduly sapping your energy. But I would look for things that are more floor based like the restorative, the gentle, the yin, or slower moving like an alignment class or a slow flow class instead of vinyasa flow or a power flow or something that is more advanced. So even always, say at the door, like I need the beginner thing. I need the yoga for tight guys thing. And their studios that say like it’s yoga for tight people. This is yoga for bodies that don’t bend, or even just straight up yoga for men. You need to be careful sometimes when you see like a yoga for athletes. Check that the teacher actually understands that it’s not athletic yoga that athletes need, but instead yoga to help with balance. And I think that it’s pretty clear quickly what is an athletic conditioning class and what might actually be like an antidote for athletes kind of class, it would be a lot more mellow, you wouldn’t really break a sweat. It might even happen if the studio is very canny on a day that folks typically take as an off day. So I teach a class on Monday nights. And I’ve been teaching it since the studio opened 16 years ago. And it used to be called yoga for athletes and then you’ll go for athletic balance, because I didn’t want the word athletes to scare people away. It’s actually a very beginner friendly class. It’s a very aging, population friendly class, there’s not a whole bunch of up and down. And we take our time getting into the poses, we take our time moving between the poses, and we take our time unwinding, especially at the end. So most places will be able to help you if you say “yeah, I need the one for cyclists, like I need the beginner one, I need the one for tighter bodies.” Those are all good options.

 

Trevor Connor  47:37

Yeah, I think the purpose is important. I’ll tell you from my own experience I did the beginner beginner beginner course for about a year and a half. Finally, I went ‘okay, I’m getting this, I know how to do this.’ And I went to the intermediate course. And only ever did one session. It was too fast, too hard, not what I’m looking for. I want it slow and easy.

 

Sage Rountree  48:01

We have folks who have taken our yoga 101 for years, they just keep signing up for it. And it’s so well taught because we have wonderful teachers that I am quite sure they learn something new, every single session, just keeps unfolding for you. And the beginner level is a lovely level to get stuck at. It’s not like Red Cross swimming lessons, where you really need to move up the chain to feel like you’ve made progress, you can just stay at that first rung of the ladder and and have a beautiful practice that it’s really complimentary to your endurance sports training and really healthy for your body.

 

Chris Case  48:37

We’re all competitive people. But I feel like this is one of those realms where you should leave your competitive component of your personality at the door. It’s not about necessarily advancing from the 101 to the 201 to the 301 and charging ahead to those upper levels of classes, you might very well do your best to get stuck, quote unquote, at that very beginner level, and that’s where you’re going to get the most out of it.

Jen Sharp and how cyclist can incorporate yoga into their training

Trevor Connor  49:06

Jen Sharpe started as a road and track cyclist and has now become a coach. But she’s pivoted a few times in our athletic life. Starting as a competitive boxer Jen struggled with injury and transition to the bike where she raced at the elite levels of the sport. She’s also a teacher and firm believer in the benefits of yoga. She talks about how our active athletic career has become more well rounded, the more she has incorporated the focus of yoga into her training.

 

Chris Case  49:31

How do you effectively incorporate a yoga routine, a yoga regimen into training specifically for cycling?

 

Jen Sharp  49:41

Great question. So I would say that I actually got into yoga because of injury. And I had a lower back injury that continued to flare up over the years. And I found myself looking for something that I could do that was low impact, but also have a big impact at the same time and I ended up going through yoga basically throughout my athletic career as a way not only to get through these injuries and become more mindful of what’s going on in the body, but also to get in touch with what’s going on mentally. And when you can really hone in on, you know, not only your breath work, but also really getting in touch with what specific muscle group is maybe flaring up, and then being able to address it and also being, you know, super conscious of mindful movement versus just pushing through. As athletes, we often just push like, we’re used to pain, right? We’re in endurance sports, which means there’s a high level of pain that we encounter. And we’re often taught to overcome that or kind of bypass that. But with yoga, it allows you to slow down and tune in and figure out okay, is this pain? Or is this just discomfort? And there’s definitely a difference between those two.

 

Jen Sharp  51:05

As far as how often I definitely do it all year round. During the regular season, I would tone it down to maybe once or twice a week. And then in the offseason, gosh, anywhere up to six to seven days a week. But within that different types of yoga. So not always, really strenuous type of yoga, but also restorative yoga, or yin yoga or something that tunes into your parasympathetic nervous system. We’re often hit with so much on the bike or in life, that we need a way to down regulate what’s going on in the body and the mind and yoga can provide that for you big time.

Pain verse discomfort

Chris Case  51:51

I’d like to go back to that notion that pain and discomfort are very different things. Could you expand on that?

 

Jen Sharp  51:57

Yeah, so I guess for me with an injury, like, there’s usually a point where you might have discomfort – like for me, in my lower back, I pretty much have discomfort every day. I wake up with a little bit of back discomfort. If I have pain, it’s more acute, for instance, could rate it on a scale of one to 10. And I do think that there’s something to be said about the type of the language that you use around pain and discomfort. And when you are able to kind of take out the emotion that attaches to whatever you’re feeling in your body, then you’re able to reason with – and we’re going to psychology here, but -reasoning with the chimp brain versus the professor brain, if you’re familiar with those dogma. Discomfort is more professor. And pain is more chimp brain, “Oh, stop, this hurts too much” versus “Oh, okay, I have sensation in my legs. And I’m gonna keep pushing, because I’m not going to die.”

Are there any risks to practicing yoga?

Chris Case  53:10

How can you do this the wrong way? What are the risks associated with yoga for cyclists? If they were to take this up could they get themselves into trouble?

High hamstring tears

Sage Rountree  53:20

Oh, sure people get injured in yoga all the time. And in fact, one of the most common injuries that we see is a high hamstring tear, which is a very familiar injury to those of us who are runners, it can be an overuse injury, or it can be an acute injury that you pick up when you begin a sprint, or even a direction change if you’re doing some multiplanier running like soccer. The spicier styles of yoga include a ton of forward folding, it puts extra stress on the hamstring tendon and that’s an area that you don’t, you might not notice it being injured in the moment when it happens, but then you feel it after, like the next day. And unfortunately, it feels like something you could stretch out. And I’ve had more than one students say, “Hey, can I ask something? What’s a good stretch to get right here” and they’ll turn around and present their rear end to me and put their finger up on the sitting boat and I’m like, ‘Oh no, no, it’s too late. You’ve already done too much stretching for that area.’ So we have to be really careful not to overdo anything. And the problem is when you’re feeling good in the class, or if the room is hot, you might not even feel that you’re overdoing it in the moment. So less is more, less aggressive, always staying a good few notches away from your edge is really important.

Rotator cuff injuries

Sage Rountree  54:38

Another injury that we see pretty commonly in yoga is injuries to the rotator cuff. And that can do with a lot of the movement we call Chaturanga, which is the lower down from a high plank to like the low pushup position that gets repeated many times over the course of a power class or a vinyasa class or a flow class. And if the upper body isn’t balanced front to back, and ready to handle the amount of load that maybe 20 rounds of that would give the body in the class, then something is going to give. And so I would worry as a cyclist, take good care that you’re working on your upper body strength, that you are doing some resistance training and ask your teacher to watch your movement. See if there’s some way that you could clean it up a little bit or engage in different areas, or just skip – do a few of those each class and not every single one that’s offered, which is an ego issue I know. But like you said, you don’t have to try to progress doing every single thing as it’s called out, it’s always okay to modify it downward.

Yoga “bingeing”

Sage Rountree  55:36

Another mistake that people make is bingeing on yoga. So going only to yoga once a week or every other week, and doing like a 90 minute session or 90 minutes in the hot room. Just like you wouldn’t progress very much at your cycling, if you only rode once a week for 90 minutes, you’re going to get a lot farther with your yoga practice and you’re going to balance your body way better if you did more days of yoga, and less duration of every session. So while I think it’s good to take yoga in person with a teacher’s eyes on you, so you can feel confident in your movements, I think it’s even better to figure out some things that are especially useful for your body to do at home a few days a week. And that might mean that you’re doing 3, 10 or 15 minute sessions over the course of the week. Maybe once you’ve got your bike, hung up in the garage, you come in, you throw down your mat, and you do this 10 or 15 minute session, instead of trying to lump it all together on a Monday night or weekend, when you already rode that morning and then this was just the class you could make on Saturday afternoon. And that’s too much at once, and it doesn’t get a chance to really get digested by your body. So another mistake people make is to just kind of do it sporadically and not systematically, and to binge and not instead, budget it out as a snack, a little treat that you give yourself several days a week instead of just once a week or every other week.

 

Chris Case  57:02

So it’s like chocolate. You don’t want to eat eight pounds of chocolate on Saturday, you want to have chocolate, a little bit of chocolate every day, Trevor.

 

Sage Rountree  57:10

Exactly.

 

Chris Case  57:12

I like to pick on you.

 

Trevor Connor  57:15

You said that you don’t want to eat eight pounds, of course, I want to eat eight pounds of chocolate on a Saturday!

 

Chris Case  57:20

That’s probably not the best way to consume your chocolate.

 

Trevor Connor  57:23

Oh, so should I eat eight pounds of chocolate on a Saturday? No.

When should you practice yoga?

Chris Case  57:27

What about the timing of all of this? You’ve hinted at it a little bit. And I don’t know if there’s any more clarification you would like to provide here on the timing of when to do the different practices we’ve described, where to do them in terms of what is best and most ideal. I know this is a different time right now hopefully we move past this time when people can get into studios when the teacher’s eyes can help them get through this. But what are your tips here for when and where?

 

Sage Rountree  57:59

Well, it depends on the purpose of the yoga. So maybe you’re like “mmm I feel really good when I do a few rounds of sun salutation before I get on the bike.” The sun salutations are a sagittal plane movement and that can be a nice dynamic warm up before you roll on out of your driveway. So that would be a before thing. It’s a prime for movement. But you wouldn’t want to do a 20 minute shavasana  or 20 minute restorative yoga pose, and then try to go produce a bunch of power on the bike. It’d be like getting a massage and then immediately heading out for your workout.

 

Sage Rountree  58:30

So you think like, okay, is this designed to be an upper or a downer kind of experience? And I mean, down or positively, you know, is it is it exciting or is it calming? And if it’s exciting, it’s something that could go just before you got on the bike, just make sure it’s not too exciting. But then things like working on some core strength, working on some hip flexibility and range of movement, working on some really mellow stuff they can go after. Either right after your workout, the core stuff, the hip stuff, or long after your workout. Like once you’ve had your lunch and your shower and you’ve got your cozy clothes on, then you might get down on the floor roll around a little bit, you know, notice your breath and take a couple of longer holds of floor poses.

Is yoga better in a studio or online?

Trevor Connor  59:13

So another question for you. And I actually have a bit of a bias here but and I’m asking you knowing that you own a yoga studio, what is your feeling about going to a studio with instructor versus they now have tons and tons of yoga classes on YouTube that people can take?

 

Sage Rountree  59:33

Well, there’s some planned obsolescence in the in the yoga studio. Like I want to empower my students to feel like they can do this at home or that they can follow along, maybe not with a free video on YouTube, but one of my many paid videos online.

 

Sage Rountree  59:48

That said, I think that the kind of people who really get into the studio experience are really unhappy right now while we’re not having much time in the studio because there’s something about the power of the group and hearing other people breathing, and kind of moving together like a school of fish that is really conducive to the sense of connection that we’re looking for in yoga. We’re looking for interpersonal connection, , among our classmates when we can all move together, but then also this intra personal connection of like, I am aware of my body and my breath as a discrete entity. So I think that the studio practice is always going to appeal to people who like that, people who maybe grew up with team sports and enjoy that sense of human connection.

 

Sage Rountree  1:00:33

But I think there’s a lot to be said for not needing the power of the group to carry you through, not needing the instructor even to tell you what to do and instead learning to listen to your own internal teacher and think this is how long I want to hold the shape today, or this is the way my body feels like moving today, or this is the right amount of rest for me to take today. So I think that they both have their time and place.

What to say if people are resistant to yoga

Chris Case  1:00:59

Do you have a case study that you could bring to us of someone maybe that was resistant to the practice of yoga, an endurance athlete, someone quote unquote from our audience, from our crowd, people with the same type of mentality: “I’m a little resistant, I don’t think it’s useful for me.” Do you have someone that you could use as an example of how you work with that person to help them understand why this was so beneficial?

 

Sage Rountree  1:01:28

Generally, the folks who come to me are coming because they know it’s going to be good for them. So like a straight up answer is no… I coached an ultra marathoner up to the 100 mile distance, who was like, “I would never do this on my own, but I want you to be my coach, because I know you’re going to put meditation in. And I know you’re going to put yoga in.’ That said, in working with team sports players and coaches even, that’s, I think where it’s just been told to the football team, or the basketball team, or to the basketball coach by his wife, you are going to do this now. And there’s a lot of skepticism coming out of that kind of like macho bro, like basketball world or football world where they’re like, that is such a girl thing. And then they wind up getting really into it, because they learn that they get to relax and what they’re doing in the yoga part of the weight room is so different from what they’re doing over on the machines, that it’s a really welcome change for them. So that’s where I’ve seen the biggest, like, conversion stories is coming from the from the team sports world more than the endurance sports world. I think it’s because as endurance athletes, we’re used to the principles of meditation, if not the actual practice of meditation, that we get ourselves into a situation, maybe it’s sitting on the floor for 20 minutes, or 30 minutes, or maybe it’s heading out on a ride or going into the woods for a two hour run, we get ourselves into that situation, we intend to stay there for a while, we come up with some kind of technique to keep our minds focused. And it might be repetition of a mantra or awareness of the breath, or remembering the goals that we had set for the season or the race or the workout. And then we just kind of keep going with it. So I think that the  endurance athletes are already primed for that kind of meditative awareness and connection that Yoga has to offer.

 

Trevor Connor  1:03:28

You look at this, and you laugh at it, and you want to do this old tough guy mentality, and I’m just gonna go beat myself up on the bike or in the weight room. But sometimes there’s stuff that you think looks a little silly is gonna make you that much tougher.

 

Sage Rountree  1:03:42

I can almost hear people’s eyes rolling when I’m like, breathe into this area. And it sounds ridiculous until you need to try it and you try it and it works. You know, and your breath isn’t literally going into your hip or your foot or whatever down into the pedals. But the energy that rides with that awareness is very, very powerful. And once people get a taste of that, yeah, then they’re more sold on yoga.

Take home messages

Chris Case  1:04:07

Absolutely. We like to end our episodes with take home messages, the most powerful thing, most powerful message from a given episode. That was basically going to be my take home, which is: I don’t do it often, but when I do find the time for it, I wouldn’t say I’m a binge eater, but I don’t have the habit of snacking weekly on yoga, but when I do it, and I get into the rhythm of doing it,when I get into the habit of doing it on a on a weekly basis, the reward is great. You just have to set some things aside as an athlete, I think that competitive spirit and it will click. If you don’t do that maybe this is wouldn’t be the reaction you would have to it, but for me, it really is rewarding. It is very relaxing. I do the type that complements the stuff that I do on the bike or on the trail. And so it does help bring about this balance. It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot somewhat vague, perhaps, but until you know what that means, I guess it is somewhat elusive. And then it clicks and you have this experience, and it really works out well.

 

Trevor Connor  1:05:37

Chris doesn’t often do yoga, but when he does he is the most interesting man in the world.

 

Chris Case  1:05:44

I probably am the most interesting person in a yoga studio, because I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. But no, also, I really liked your point about the fact that so many times the athletic mindset is to do the maximum or if the target is x, you do x plus 20%, or x plus 20 watts or x plus 10 heartbeats. And a lot of the styles and types of yoga, you mentioned are all about holding back and settling into a – it’s not a lesser place, but it’s a mellower place and that is a lesson I think a lot of endurance athletes and athletes in general can take great benefit from. That’s what I think helps me appreciate Yoga is not pushing.

 

Trevor Connor  1:06:47

Well, we did an episode, what was it last winter with Menachem Brodie and we brought up yoga cuz we were talking about muscle lengthening. And that was really the issue that he brought up with yoga is too often we go to classes where instructors push you to do too much too soon and too advanced before you’re ready. So great to hear you say no, as athletes who are just starting this, go for that beginner, go for the old person’s yoga.

 

Chris Case  1:07:21

Yeah. And I’d say, beyond that, go there with the intention of taking that class and don’t start thinking that’s a stepping stone to something else, because that might be just where you need to land and stay.

 

Chris Case  1:07:40

So sage, I’ll turn to you what, what would you say is the most important message here from this discussion we’ve had today?

 

Sage Rountree  1:07:48

Don’t ever do it. Don’t take your competitive mindset onto the mat, leave it outside the door. And you might be surprised at what you learn and what you’re capable of doing both physically and mentally. Once you have integrated this practice into your training year, it’s a very powerful practice, it will surprise you, it surprised me deeply when I ran my first marathon after taking yoga regularly throughout. Yoga was all the difference in the world. And it wasn’t that I was like busting out a Down Dog at mile 20 it was that I could keep it together as things kept getting harder and harder and harder. And I was able to maintain pace and like beat my goal because I had developed that ability to maintain mental focus and presence throughout the whole course.

 

Chris Case  1:08:37

Yeah, it’s a powerful tool in that way. Something an endurance athlete can really tap into. Trevor,  what would you like to close with?

 

Trevor Connor  1:08:49

So I’m going to try to bring in a couple points throughout the episode. One is that we often isolate or separate. So when we’re stretching, we’re just doing muscle lengthening, when we’re in the weight room or just doing strength work, often isolating muscles. One of the things I learned about yoga that I appreciate about it, that’s what really got me into continuing it is the fact that it really incorporates a lot of things. It brings in this nice balance. I’m a Gestaltits, that’s the whole idea of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And I think you get some of that with yoga.

 

Trevor Connor  1:09:31

I know some people resist these sorts of things, because they don’t seem tough, or they don’t seem cool. I’ll be honestly with you I did yoga for years when I was racing full time. And I’d never at the time particularly enjoyed it. I know there are some people that absolutely love this session. I didn’t love the sessions. But wow, what it did for me, the way it made me feel, the way it helped my recovery and my performance. I was there every week.

 

Chris Case  1:10:02

Very good. Well, thank you, Sage. It’s been a pleasure, that was very great to have a person of your caliber in the yoga world, but also with your background in athletics and sports to bring those two worlds together. To you that might not be a stretch, no pun intended for our audience, and maybe we could be making a vast simplification, but I feel like sometimes there’s a void between those two and I think you’ve helped us bring those two worlds much closer together. So thank you.

 

Sage Rountree  1:10:41

Thanks. It’s my pleasure. Thanks for the great questions and conversation.

 

Trevor Connor  1:10:44

Thank you. We enjoyed this.

 

Chris Case  1:10:48

That was another episode of Fast Talk. Subscribe to Fast Talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcasts and be sure to leave us a rating and review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk of those of the individual. As always, we love your feedback. Join the conversation at forums.fasttalkslabs.com to discuss each and every episode of Fast Talk. Become a member of Fast Talk Laboratories at fasttalklabs.com/join and become a part of our education and coaching community for Jen Real, Colby Pearce, Jen Sharp and Trevor Connor, I’m Chris Case, Thanks for listening.

Related Pathways