Becoming a true Yogi....
March 16, 2009 11:26 AM   Subscribe

Yoga Experts: Help me navigate the world of Yoga...

I've recently decided to try to become more flexible and stable. I run (30-40 miles a week) and lift weights a lot, but I still can't touch my toes!

I'm looking for yoga that'll really work me over. I'm also interested in yoga that'll correct posture imbalances over time- I'm slightly bowlegged and I have a subtle forward tilt to my frame. Anything that helps me towards this would be preferred, or alternatively, if this is hocus pocus and yoga can't fix these, tell me that too.

I'm looking for the functionally strenuous- I consider myself to be in really good shape, so I wanted to be streched and strained- that said, I wouldn't have a preference towards something like the "hot yoga" unless it helped me accomplish my other goals.

So guys, where should I look? What styles of yoga should I be looking at? Extra bonus points for a good place in Dallas to go to.
posted by unexpected to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Hatha or anusara yoga are good bets for getting instruction in proper positioning and posture, but it really depends on the instructor.
posted by sulaine at 11:45 AM on March 16, 2009

If you aren't opposed to the DVD route, YRG might be interesting to you. I've been working on some of the easier DVDs, but it has increased my flexibility and jacks up my heart rate. Includes pushups and lots of core work.
posted by wrnealis at 11:56 AM on March 16, 2009

You might also look into Pilates. It's oriented towards strengthening the core, but you'd be amazed at the implications and ramifications of strengthening your core on your whole body, including your flexibility and overall body alignment.

I'm partial to the reformer apparatus. It looks and feels like hocus pocus when you first try it ... since you lift weights a lot you'll likely start out feeling like you're getting nothing out of it ... "what the hell ... this easy ... this is no workout!".

But give it some time and you eventually realize that it's a really hard workout when you're doing it right. It just takes a while to learn how to do it right.
posted by mcschmidt00 at 12:13 PM on March 16, 2009

Also, for posture imbalances you might look into something called the Egoscue Method.
posted by mcschmidt00 at 12:15 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind that pushing yourself to the limit and getting a strenuous workout are not really the point of yoga, though they can be a side benefit. It's more about meditation and looking inward and all that. That being said, I wouldn't be surprised if, after trying it, you decide to give up the running and the weightlifting to focus on your yoga practice.
posted by ekroh at 1:04 PM on March 16, 2009

some thoughts:

1) what's the reformer apparatus? google turns up nothing.

2) I'm not really interested in the meditative side of yoga: I'm not really into all _that_, which is why I don't want to end up with some slow Tai-Chi class about finding my inner peace. I don't really need that.

3) I don't think I'd ever give up my current routine. Yoga doesn't do a good job of building muscles (though I realize it can make you functionally, body-weight strong). I'm at a point in my life where lifting a lot of weight is a lot fun (I'm 24). When I'm an old man, I'm sure I dial it down and traditional yoga will be great for then.

4) Maybe Pilates is more what I'm looking for. What, exactly is the difference?
posted by unexpected at 1:09 PM on March 16, 2009

If you don't want the meditative aspect, then try bikram or yogalates (yoga + pilates). If you really want to try yoga, I've noticed that "power" yoga classes, which are usually vinyasa, are less meditative than hatha classes.

When I do yoga 3x a week, I measure 1-2 cms taller than when I don't do yoga. So, I think it definitely helps my posture.
posted by betweenthebars at 1:31 PM on March 16, 2009

I don't know much of yoga, but I like what I've done. Are you looking for classes to take, or something to do at home? If you're looking for classes, many yoga centers allow you to sample classes for a discount. When it comes to doing yoga in a class, the instructor makes all the difference. Also, if you go to a yoga studio, the folks there could talk to you and give you a much better idea of what would be suitable for you. The benefit of a studio over a DVD (or YouTube clips) is that someone can review your forms, which could be the difference between stretching well and doing nothing (to possibly hurting yourself). Sometimes it's just a minor shift of a foot or rotating your hand, which is the sort of thing I've overlooked while trying yoga from DVD. But with DVDs, you can pause and rewind, skip the parts you don't feel are as beneficial to your goals, etc. has a good overview of styles (hatha, vinyasa, ashtanga, iyengar, etc), and has a quick guide to yoga types (for Free Spirit, Gym Rat, Gymnast, Injured, Mellow, Meticulous, etc.)

There is also, which describes Pilates as a form of exercise, developed by Joseph Pilates, which emphasizes the balanced development of the body through core strength, flexibility, and awareness in order to support efficient, graceful movement.

I think the reformer apparatus is the first item shown, but I could be wrong.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:20 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

(Just a note that if you're not into the "meditative" side, you won't become a "true" yogi - but that's ok!)

I've done yoga for eons, and the 100% absolute best DVD I've ever found is Yoga Mind & Body which is taught by yoga master Erich Schiffmann.

To get the most out of yoga, you really have to allow yourself to connect with the meditative aspect on some level, though you certainly don't have to go to the extent of "moving your life force" or whatever. This particular master class is fairly light on the spirituality, and surprisingly strenuous. I've been doing this workout for years (on and off - I'm bad at keeping routines!) and I still struggle with some of the poses requiring hamstring flexibility.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:55 PM on March 16, 2009

It sounds like a good Iyengar yoga teacher would suit you best. As in so many things, the instructor really makes more difference than the specific discipline. I mention Iyengar mostly based on what I've heard from people who practice it: Very particular about postures, complements physio/pilates well, demanding, and strength rather than aerobic.
Bikram yoga is rapidly popularising in my area of the planet: It's a pretty rigid set of postures done in an hot and humid room. Bikram is really good for stretching you out, and does demand you are fit enough to take a workout in a sauna.
I have taken hatha yoga classes that wouldn't tire anyone but the elderly or infirmed (hatha being more typically for strength), and I weekly have my ass kicked by Kundalini yoga (which is of the more 'spiritual' flavour). Ask around in your area about instructors, google for websites, talk to friends-of-friends in your area. IMHO: starting out on a DVD or CD route is not going to be very efficient and may just lead you into bad habits, or at worst, injury.
posted by tamarack at 2:59 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't want to go the DVD/Book route, b/c as other people suggested, I feel like it won't be the same thing- I come from a multi-sport background, so I just appreciated real life "coaching" more.

I will definitely look into Iyengar and Bikram yoga. I guess a lot depends on what's close and convenient to me.

This has been very helpful in learning the different styles, though.

....and the title was hyperbolic- I mainly want this to be ancillary to my current efforts, rather than a core focus. A good cross-training activity for triathlon training, for example.
posted by unexpected at 3:10 PM on March 16, 2009

Seconding tamarack's comment about getting a -good- instructor. Early on the point of having an instructor who's worth something is they will keep you out of trouble. A good instructor can look at you and tell whether you are at risk of doing something nasty to your body. I don't know how they do that but they do.

There's a funny flow in a yoga class where if you stop thinking and just listen to the instructor s/he will provide the right way to get from pose A to pose B; the really really good ones will say something that you think is complete nonsense but is true. Once I was told "move your hands in a sparkly way..." and I -thought- "bullshit" but when I did it it *was* sparkly.
posted by jet_silver at 4:17 PM on March 16, 2009

My thoughts on this, as a runner/triathlete/weightlifter who has done yoga regularly for a few years. If you are looking for something that will totally work your body over, you might be looking in the wrong place. But beyond that, you just may never get flexible enough to touch your toes (I insert here as Exhibit A the example of my husband, a seriously good runner/ironman triathlete who will never come anywhere NEAR his toes during yoga practice). Yoga tends to stress the point that people just come in at different areas of flexibility, which can be unsatisfying or even frustrating for competitive type-A people.
However. I don't want to discourage you from doing yoga, because it is awesome. You will get more flexible, and over time, you will become aware of your body in a totally new way, which will translate into better posture. I just felt the need to warn you (as others have here) that it's not really about working over your body so much as accepting it for what it is. Go into it with an open mind and you will get a lot out of it.

My suggestion for you based on what you wrote above is power/ashtanga yoga because it's fast-paced and trends towards the more intense. I'm nowhere near Dallas, but I googled "power yoga dallas" and did come up with a few hits, specifically American Power Yoga.
posted by smalls at 5:39 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Listen. This is the internet. We can't tell you anything about types of yoga until you experience it.

Find a gym that offers multiple types of yoga and just go to the classes. I thought Astanga yoga sounded stupid until I did it. Just go do it, and stop over-researching this.

One thing I NEED to point out, because it's important. If you're running and working out that much, you're just going to undo the gains made by yoga stretches. Tightening up your muscles is the opposite of what yoga does for you.
posted by phrakture at 6:46 PM on March 16, 2009

I practice Ashtanga, but I would agree with the recommendation that you try out different types of yoga. If you love running and weights, remember that those activities tighten your muscles, so the purpose of your yoga practice may be just to keep you limber and flexible enough so that you won't get injured easily during other sporty endeavors. I would suggest trying Iyengar and a simple Hatha class first. The former is very precise and meticulous with strong emphasis on the right alignment. I do not enjoy Bikram and wonder about it's long term effects, but I know many athletes who love it. I enjoy Ashtanga because it is rigorous but yet I am able to practice at my own pace. Two very important things to keep in mind - it can be some time before you see results so be patient and a good teacher is important, which may mean that you have to talk people and try different teachers to figure out what is good for you. Good luck!
posted by serunding at 7:06 PM on March 16, 2009

I've seen some classes here in Chicago as "yoga for runners." (One was offered last year by a local running organization that a lot of folks use to train for the marathon.) You might be able to find something like that, which would be targeted specifically at complementing your running.

I don't practice yoga regularly (though I keep thinking I really should) but I've learned some of the basic "sun salutation" poses from's online classes (particularly those led by Adi), and also we used to do a little of that in my acting classes in college many years ago. I do a little of that sometimes to stretch and warm up before my own weightlifting workouts.
posted by dnash at 8:06 PM on March 16, 2009

Iyengar teachers tend to be very careful about getting every detail of the posture exactly right, that sounds like what you're looking for.
posted by paultopia at 10:01 PM on March 16, 2009

A lot of good info already, but I'll try to go in depth into what I've learned about yoga styles so far:

Iyengar yoga uses multiple props (straps, blocks, etc.) to make sure you're in proper alignment in poses. I've found this to be incredibly helpful in getting better at yoga and exercise in general (I have some knee issues and yoga has helped me learn how to run better too!)

Ashtanga yoga is highly regimented sequence of poses that you go through at a quick pace (Sun Salutations A and B, balance poses, stretches, backbends, inversions, repeat at next class...that may not be the proper sequence but you get the idea). So far its my favorite type of yoga because, doing the same poses each time, I can see objective progress, which feels GOOD. It also gets my heart rate up fast and the focus on linking breath and movement makes it both a physical and somewhat meditative experience.

I recently tried Baptiste yoga, which is a "power" yoga style. Its a flow of sequences very similar to Ashtanga but done in a 90-95 degree room. I liked it a lot but its not meditative in the least (and don't make the erroneous assumption that meditative = less vigorous. Not true at all, especially in the world of yoga!) and I felt barked at quite a bit. It does make you feel very powerful, but lots of type A personalities in there.

Finally, my friends just tried Bikram. Each class is the same sequence of 20somethingish poses (not like Ashtanga where as you master a pose, you add a new, more difficult pose into your practice.) Bikram is at 100-105 degree heat and lead in a very bootcamp-y way (I've heard this from many people.) If you do any hot yoga, make sure to be VERY WELL hydrated and get your proper dose of water the day before.

From the sounds of it, Ashtanga might be your best bet. Its physical but it also gives you the other benefits of yoga (read: meditative and body awareness). You mentioned not wanting the meditative, but don't knock it till you've tried it - its not how its portrayed in popular culture and has the added benefits of helping you become more aware of your breath and your body, which comes in handy for...well, everything! :) Good luck!
posted by Eudaimonia at 9:48 PM on March 17, 2009

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