I normally don't write about topics that can be construed as my personal viewpoint but after a year of skeletal bliss I just have to share one of the secrets to my kayaking experience.
All my life I have been very active and blessed with the the ability to take on most sporting activities with ease. Once could say that I naturally adapted to any physical activity and enjoyed what it did for my body and mind. However for the past 30 years I also suffered from chronic back related issues that usually took me out of action a couple times a year. You only have to ask Robyn or some of my closest friends and they will tell you of my suffering during these times.
Starting my kayaking adventure in the fall of 2011 was no different in terms of going "full tilt" into the new past time and right on schedule my back took a turn for the worst around Christmas time. In the past the remedy was muscle relaxants followed by several weeks of allowing my back to stabilize which it really didn't. It was almost like waiting for an earthquake and when the next back event came I would go through hell again. Doing the normal "guy thing" I tried to tell myself that it would get better on its own and only when I couldn't get in or out of my vehicle did I realize that I needed help.
Robyn suggested that I try her registered massage therapist and not having anything to lose I walked (hobbled) the 1.5 km to the RMT office since I couldn't get into a car. After the consultation, Lisa (also a Certified Bikram Yoga Instructor) went to work on me identifying the epicentre of my troubles. It was while I was on her table that she mentioned to me about trying yoga since my lower back had almost no flexibility and in her terms was "like cement".
In between my RMT sessions Robyn and I enrolled in a 4 week Yoga 101 course at Breathing Space Mind & Body. Although my back was relatively tender I immediately found that doing the yoga asanas on my terms started to improve the flexibility not only in my back but throughout my whole body. In particular I learned that the fascia (connective tissue that covers our muscles) was one of the sources of my problems for being so tight and injuring myself. Just like in an earthquake when the pressure builds up something has to give and in my case the muscle structure in my back was a series of fault lines.
Over the past year yoga has become a regular part of my life whether it is a formal practice at the studio or an early morning (05:00) home practice that prepares my body for the coming day. Now that I am performing more advanced kayak skills such as rolling, I think back to how inflexible I was and realize that there is no way on earth that I could be enjoying kayaking as much as I am now.
There are many variants of yoga practice and each has pros and cons but it comes down to personal preference. Robyn and I practice mostly Yin Yoga that focuses on the fascia connective tissue including ligaments and tendons of the spine and joints. During Yin Yoga the asana (pose or posture) are held usually for a duration of 3 to 5 minutes or even longer. We have found that Yin is the perfect way to recover from a weekend of kayaking especially after completing long distance paddles.
Like with all yoga practices, focusing on the breath is key to performing Yin asanas which allow for a deeper stretch to occur without experiencing pain or sharp electrical sensations. With regular practice Yin yoga can actually lengthen the connective tissues while increasing the range of motion which we have found especially beneficial for all aspects of our kayaking adventure.
Yoga.... is it for you? Only you can answer that question. Namaste :-)