As life has had to adjust to a new reality due to the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic we've all raised up to the challenge of 'how to stay fit and motivated' while complying with the new restrictions put in place such as social distancing and shelter. This crisis has taken a toll not only on our bodies, now forced to a more sedentary lifestyle, but also on our mental health. The uncertainty about the future and the development of this global pandemic can generate stress, anxiety and depression.
oga practice can be traced back to over 5,000 years ago and today still holds a significant role in the fitness and wellness industry. We wanted to understand why and how it has survived all these years and if ot can be of benefit to us today, or any day. We've asked Ted McDonald, an endurance athlete, yoga expert, and wellness coach to tell us more about the practice of yoga. Here is what he has to say:
'People have asked me for years, “Ted, I know yoga can help me, but how often should I practice? Once a week? Twice a week?” Well, as runners, what would you say to someone who asked you how often they should run? Once a week? Twice a week? You know as well as anyone else that to improve your running, you’ll need to get up to 3-6 days a week, sometimes more depending on what race you’re training for. Yoga is similar. If you want to see significant improvements from your yoga practice, you have to commit to at least 3 times per week. What are those benefits you ask? Great question! Here are just a few of the benefits of a regular yoga practice:
Often times people come in to yoga classes because they want to increase their flexibility or heal from an injury. On a surface level, yoga definitely accomplishes those two goals. Obviously, each individual and each injury differs, but more flexibility is just one of the many benefits to a regular practice.
Increased Core Strength
A physical benefit that people don’t usually come to yoga for is an increased core. After 23 years of a regular practice, I can tell you that my core is incredibly stronger than I ever thought possible. I’m able to hold arm balances much easier because I’ve trained my body’s core muscle groups to work together. This is not normally taught in regular fitness practices, but it’s definitely helped me, not just in my yoga, but in my running as well. One of the first things I tell my running clients is to engage their core, especially while running uphill. Try it next time, it definitely helps!
If you can control your breathing, you can control your mind. At least that’s what they told me in the beginning of my yoga practice. I can tell you that by being able to control my breath, I’m able to relax deeper into a more difficult situation, such as a half marathon or trail race. If you’re competitive, whether with yourself or with your friends, the more you can relax and save some energy for the end, the better off you’ll be during those final miles. Yoga has taught me how to control my breath and thus be a better racer.
This is possibly one of the greatest benefits of all. So often, whether we are racing, training, or simply living, our mind can take over and sometimes fall into critical self-talk. Yoga trains us to relax in a difficult situation, which then gives us the ability to handle life’s unexpected with more grace. It becomes a super power.
Finally, the most powerful benefit is a decreased level of stress. Every yoga class I’ve ever taught or practiced in ends with Shavasana. It’s where you lie flat on your back, legs a bit wider than your hips, and arms out to the side. All you have to do is lie there and relax. It’s one of the most powerful, rejuvenating experiences of the day. When you finally come up from Shavasana, you will absolutely feel better and less stressed than when you started class. This state of calm and contentment has a residual effect. You start to see the brighter side of things and feel lighter and lighter as you continue through your amazing life!
So, how often should you practice yoga? In my humble opinion, 3-5 times per week if you can. I know that’s a heavy commitment and not always possible. Start with one or two times a week. Find a teacher that you vibe with and follow what they’re doing. There are so many teachers out there. Since the COVID-19 shut down, I’ve been live-streaming 6 days a week on my social channels. Feel free to join us!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ted is an endurance athlete, yoga teacher, and wellness coach. He brings the benefits of yoga and mindfulness to athletes everywhere. He’s run countless marathons, triathlons, trail races, ultra marathons, and completed an IronMan.
He is the founder of Adventure Yoga Retreats and owns 5 Point Yoga, the premier yoga and fitness studio in Malibu, California.
If you’re looking for personalized coaching and advise you can reach him directly through his website teddymcdonald.com or Instagram @teddymcdonald.