My pre-Christmas running binge turned out to be a bit of a folly. After 24 days of running my right knee swelled up like a balloon and I've had to opt for something a bit less high impact.
Just before Christmas I took in a yoga class run by one of the parents from my son's school. I've been meaning to give it a try for a while, mainly on the testimony of a colleague who swears by it. Despite the fact that his wife was a qualified yoga practitioner, he'd never shown interest until she dragged him along after he'd been moaning about his back. It turned out to be a revelation and he's now turned into the most flexible Fifty-something in West London.
If it could work for my friend, then why not me? I've at least a decade on him.
After the pre-Christmas class, today saw me back on the mat in a packed class in the centre of Colchester. From the informed position of having taken two classes in my life it seems as if there are a few things going on here.
It's a mix of the mental and the physical. Yoga seems to help with flexibility, but there is a lot of emphasis on breathing, relaxation and visualisation. This leads to some odd instructions like being asked to try and envisage breathing out of your back or from behind your knees. Perhaps you need to reach the next level of enlightenment for this to work.
It's gentle, but intense. The class was full of a real mix of ages and the teacher Ceri offers a number of options for each exercise to ensure that people work to their level. You can take it easy, or you can really go for the stretch, although given the overall philosophy, I expect it's not encouraged to go crazy in the first few lessons - see my running experience for further details.
It's a different type of work out. I'm used to exertion and being physically wrung out as an indicator of how worthwhile a session has been, but yoga isn't like that. You can feel you are using muscles, but it's not a cardiovascular burn. For me, it's probably something I will do in conjunction with more intense activities such as running, cycling and swimming.
Having said that, I definitely feel like I have done something that exerts me. I think I'll sleep well tonight.
Flexibility is a good thing for all of these CV heavy activities anyway, and you're less likely to do yourself harm if your body is a bit more elastic.
Another observation is that because your body is being twisted around in ways it is not quite use to, there can be occasional involuntary releases of gas.
I don't think it is yoga etiquette to ruin the moment by guffaw at these, and look round for the culprit.
It wasn't me anyway.