AO Friend Tammy demonstrates how she mixes Yoga and Stand Up Paddle boarding on Lake Dardanelle.

Finding Your Center

All Sports Productions - Legend Highlands
AO Friend Tammy demonstrates how she mixes Yoga and Stand Up Paddle boarding on Lake Dardanelle.
AO Friend Tammy demonstrates how she mixes Yoga and Stand Up Paddle boarding on Lake Dardanelle.

A couple of weeks back I was unfurling my yoga mat at the back of the room when I heard a familiar name. Knowing, or trying to get to know a lot of people in the outdoor sport community, often means that wherever athletes gather, I know someone. Low and behold I was working on perfecting my chatarunga and finding my center with none other than 3 Bridges Marathon organizer Jacob Wells.

It’s not unusual these days to find people who identify themselves as “runners” or “cyclists” in a yoga studio. Many are finding the benefit of yoga in aiding balance, improving strength and stretching tight muscles which helps prevent overuse injuries that plague endurance athletes. I’ve noticed special event classes designed especially for cyclists being held at local bike shops. Barefoot Yoga Studio’s West Little Rock location has classes geared toward runners. At the inaugural Race the Base Trail Run, Cassandra from The Floating Lotus Yoga Studio came to lead runners in a warm up stretch before they took off for the rocks and roots of the trail. A few years ago I fell in love with stand up paddle boarding and last year I bought my first board. Now, I’d like to be able to do more yoga on my board like AO friend and mountain bike champ, Tammy Hottinger.

Little Rock’s newest studio, the Arkansas Yoga Collective, recently opened with a schedule that in addition to well known yoga descriptions, also includes meditation, therapeutic yoga, and Bagua Zhang: a martial art practice focused on footwork. One of the teachers at the new collective, Steve Kirk,  is also well known in the outdoor sport world as a great rock climber, runner, and the race director for 3 Days of Syllamo. Many athletes are finding that yoga practice supplements regular training by stretching and elongating the muscles shortened by frequent running. Cyclists frequently have weak abs and lower backs which can both be  bolstered with core strengthening. I have found that holding poses that engage my shoulders and upper back have helped my technical skills for mountain biking and the balance work in yoga practice is invaluable for the same reason. Another perk is mental focus. As many times as the phrase “endurance is more mental than physical” has been used, the tools to achieve that level of mental acuity are not often demonstrated. Athletes are finding that the focus and breathing techniques central to yoga practice are also effective in pushing past the physical limits of endurance cycling or running.  Also, doing a headstand can be a great trick when a group of  mountain biking friends says “I bet you can’t….”

Arkansas Cycling & Fitness.

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If you’re looking for a new cross-training scheme or want to work your focus and balance, check out a class at a local yoga studio.

(Tammy, in our cover photo wants you to know that Soul2Soul Yoga Studio in Russellville is where she works on yoga techniques)

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