Part 5 of the Warrior Yoga series
Warrior Yoga: Yoga as a Performance Engine
by Mark Divine
Though Yoga is considered a workout by those who enjoy sweating in a Hot Yoga class or blazing through a vinyasa power yoga sequence, it is also being embraced by many athletes and warriors as a supplement to their hard physical training. The benefits are both external, in the form of increased flexibility and mobility, as well as internal in the form of reduced tension and a greater sense of control over life. The typical model is to get to the gym or box four or five times per week for the workout of the day, then drop into a yoga class once or twice with the idea of enhancing recovery and working on mobility issues.
This is definitely a good thing to do, in my humble opinion. But, I would also like to point out that it also falls far short of the potential that yoga has for enhancing performance and life in general.
One of the goals in writing my upcoming book, Warrior Yoga, is to present some “new” ways of thinking about Yoga training that aren’t so new really, but a revisit to the ancient roots of this science of the warrior mind. I want the time you invest in yoga to be understood as far more than just about flexibility or feeling good.
You see, Yoga at its roots was an individual training method to achieve optimum human potential. It was not trained in groups with sweaty bodies moving in unison, but solo as part of a deep personal practice to better oneself. The warrior used the many tools of Yoga, to include the functional movement, breath control, concentration, meditation, visualization and self-reflection to “earn their trident” of daily improvement and Self-realization. So the Yoga was custom molded to fit an individual’s uniqueness as a person. One size does not fit all.
How does this work for our Warrior Yoga? Well, I’d like you to think about the intention of the Yoga session and to choose the postural sequence and combination of breathing, concentration and visualization exercises that will produce the optimal impact for that intention. In the case of a post-WOD recovery session, after a taxing functional fitness workout constructed of compound movements performed at high intensity, you would select a sequence designed to draw energy into the body and restore balance to the joints and integrity to the spine. Performed after every workout it will calm your nervous system, build durability and help to avoid training-related injuries.
Here’s an example of a post-WOD sequence from Warrior Yoga. The pose names may not mean much to you but you can get a sense for what I am talking about. This is about 20 minutes of practice and not hard in any physical sense:
Box Breathing, Cat Cow, Camel, Wise Warrior, Hip Mobility Drill, Healthy Warrior, Bridge, Back Alignment, 1-2 Breath, Recap visualization of WOD and lessons learned.
Traditionally the Yoga student was taught which poses and other inner exercises were right for different situations – such as recovering from an injury, overcoming insomnia or low energy, calming down an agitated nervous system, etc. In fact Yoga and Ayurveda Medicine were inextricably linked in a science of optimal health. It is good news that Yoga is emerging into a new field called Yoga Therapy, which is resurrecting this ancient art and science.
Since it takes over a thousand hours to train a Yoga Therapist to know how to sequence for individual needs, there are only a handful of individuals who know how to do it well. For the new book, I have designed a set of “Core Sequences” (with the help of some of the best sequencers in the world because I am still learning myself) that serve the basic needs of athletes and warriors. From the basics like before and after workouts, to sequences that are ideal for a morning or evening practice; and to sequences for warriors who are preparing to face combat situations to a sequence designed especially for recovering warriors facing debilitating PTSD. I even have two favorites for when I actually want to use Yoga as a workout – one that includes a high-intensity interval WOD and the other self-defense fighting sets. All of the sequences combine poses, breathing methods, functional moves, visualization and meditation into a focused and intentional training session.
Applying the right sequence at the right moments in your training plan, and in life, is potent medicine. I can’t wait for the book to be done and in your hands (if you are interested)…but it will take the publisher until early 2016 to get it out. Until then I hope this short series on Warrior Yoga has opened your mind about the power of an authentic yoga system for maximizing your potential as a being. More information about it can be found inside our popular Unbeatable Mind online academy and at one of our new Warrior Yoga seminars. Hope to see you at SEALFIT someday for some training! Till then, train hard, stay safe and do more yoga!
Earlier posts on Warrior Yoga: