One of yoga’s biggest advantages for Mudders: strengthening and lengthening exercises that help stabilize muscles. Using yoga means rocking muscles you wouldn’t normally work when lifting weights or running. When done safely and with proper alignment, yoga postures are designed to create stability, mobility & flexibility, all of which help prevent injuries.
Ben Curtis and Cassie Fireman are wellness pros and co-founders of Soul Fit NYC. The Manhattan-based company offers wellness services in the convenience of your home or office focusing on the mind-body connection. The end result: being unstoppable in achieving your goals. Who wouldn’t want that?
Ben says that while it’s hard to define the word “yoga” in English, it can be translated as “to yoke,” or to calm the mind. And, contrary to popular perception, there are many different types of yoga, not just the one-size-fits-all. Here are three yoga disciplines that Ben and Cassie feel are most effective for Mudders:
Ashtanga yoga is very physical, a constant moving and flowing that is both mentally and physically demanding. It involves a very specific set of postures; intricate, yes, but it’s actually great for muscle building, stamina and flexibility.
Iyengar yoga has an emphasis on precision, stability and alignment. Iyengar attracts those interested in proper technique, form, and alignment. It can be done late into life, as it uses props, such as belts, blocks, blankets and the wall, allowing you to go deeper into poses with safety and stability. The teachers of this discipline go through a very lengthy process of training in India, learning from direct descendants of its founder, the late B.K.S. Iyengar. Iyengar is also great for recovering from injuries as well as injury prevention.
Restorative yoga is simply that – restorative. Done mostly with props and blankets while lying horizontal, restorative yoga is about aligning the physical and mental through stillness, release, and gentle movement for extended periods of time. It’s very meditative and healing. The props help you hold poses longer. It provides a great balance from the intensity of physical training that comes with prepping for a Mudder.
No matter which style of yoga you choose, know that we all have different needs on different days. Ben and Cassie recommend some all-encompassing rules of thumb:
Include visualization in your routine. See yourself at the Mudder event, being successful, jumping over those walls, running through those tires, climbing up ropes and whatever other challenges are in your way. Visualization can really help build momentum. Why? It’s actually proven to work: Olympians swear by it, especially those who participate in events that are short and precise, like diving or gymnastics. If you can see yourself succeeding, your chance of succeeding immediately increases. A lot of what we feel and think affects our performance. Visualization helps build confidence and pushes you beyond your comfort zone.
Never overlook the importance of stretching. You’ve got to warm up your muscles and create blood flow before you jump into the race. Otherwise, you can seriously injure yourself and/or pull a muscle. Prevention is really simple: take 15 minutes to stretch, both before and after your activity.
Listen to your body. It’s giving you so much information, all the time. When, in the heat of performance or exercise, your body may send you a message to slow down or pace yourself but your mind may be pushing you keep going. While a positive mindset and determination are vital to your success in achieving your goals, it is important to check it with your body as it can be your greatest ally. Your body is as alive as your mind and if you work toward that mind/body balance you can tap into your greatest potential and break through new barriers. Fortunately, your teammates will be there to help you break the tie.
There is such a thing as being too flexible. Some people are overly flexible and tend to be the ones who get injured the most. If you’re a Gumby, be sure to do strength building exercises to help draw those loose joints together. You want to stabilize those muscles with a healthy stretch while being mindful that you’re not overdoing it. An important rule of thumb: if you feel acute pain while stretching, stop.
Ben and Cassie agree that when you accomplish something as challenging as Tough Mudder, you feel a surge of self-confidence and accomplishment. Yoga is key to maintaining your body and mind leading up to the event – and beyond. Tough Mudder values teamwork and has designed obstacles that encourage it, so help each other as you overcome your fears while developing your inner yogi.
Find out more about Soul Fit here.