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Bending for yoga extreme

Roger Marolt

This is twisted.

The Denver Post recently reported that the number of yoga injuries has increased substantially in the past few years. They suggested that the “4,000-year-old discipline has been co-opted by our fast, competitive culture. Lately, … the meditative side has been de-emphasized in favor of the physical, and much more of an aerobic workout than a slow stretch.”

Many yoga studios have even begun to turn up the heat, often times to a hundred degrees or more, so that participants can melt into positions that they have never been in before. People are gravitating to a more athletic style.

The gist of the piece was that people have to be careful not to overdo it. They need to seek out and follow the advice of experts. Most of all, people have to check their competitive instincts before undertaking a yoga program.

Well, pop my hamstring!

How can they put an article like this out there and offer it up as news? Is the Post’s primarily Front Range readership really that dense?

Welcome to the age of extreme yoga. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the position.

In Aspen, we have been yoga-aggressive for a long time. This Denver Post article is as meaningless to us as “The Rules of Golf” is to a 13-handicapper lying 6 inches out of bounds, on the 18th hole at The Maroon Creek Club, with a 50-cent press on the line against the club pro.

Every athlete knows that there are risks to competitive sports. Each time you strap on a pair of skis you risk blowing out a knee. If your elbow doesn’t hurt, you’re not swinging the racquet hard enough. Show me a runner without a limp, and I’ll show you a runner who should up the weekly mileage. A swimmer without green hair is really just a sunbather.

The threat of bodily damage in yoga is relatively mild compared to most other sports we compete in. Nonetheless, it’s undeniable that whenever you pull on the sweats, dial up the thermostat, and roll out the mat in order to be the longest you can be, there is a chance that you’ll be hopping home on one leg with the other one wrapped around your neck.

But, there is always a price for glory. Look at our malleable heroes. Would anyone know who Patanjali was if he had stopped when it started to hurt?

Look, I’m not saying we have to be reckless about this sport. Quite to the contrary, you have to take precautions to avoid injury, especially in practice sessions. It’s a long season and you can’t compete if you are sidelined with muscles that have been pulled and twisted like last month’s taffy at a traveling carnival. But, once you assume the lotus position between the woman in the earth-tone Lycra leotard and the dude with the Nike Air Swamis, you’ve got to have just one thing on your mind: Stretch like Rip Van Winkle smelling the espresso beans grinding.

We have long prided ourselves in this town at being world-class in all regards. This includes athletics. We train as if every cruise down Spar Gulch is the Hahnenkahm, every Cycling Club ride is The Tour de France, and each run up Aspen Mountain is for a gold medal. Why would we not take our yoga at least this seriously?

Yoga may well be Aspen’s second sport, after all. Folks here were doing yoga back when the rest of the country thought it was weird and kinky. This gives us a huge advantage over normal people.

It absolutely knots my quads that we started a yoga program in our schools last year only to discontinue it the very next fall. That was the beginnings of something great. Now we are just like every other town. Doesn’t it mean anything that when our kids get to college they are not going to be any more limber than classmates from less-enlightened places? Where is our town pride?

I know that there are people out there who disagree with me. They will gently remind us that yoga is not all about awards and accolades. They will tell us that it was originally about meditating and relaxation.

Well, the same things could be said about old-fashioned jogging, a scenic bicycle ride, or a hike in the woods. I miss those days, too, when nobody kept mileage tallies or training logs. I admit that there was some attraction in strolling leisurely to a mountain lake, sitting beneath the shade of a tree and smelling the cool pine scents wafting over the last patches of high-alpine snow in July.

But we have to be realistic. Things have changed. Those days are gone and they are never, ever coming back. If I want to look at beautiful scenery, I’ve got HDTV and plasma screens for my scheduled recovery days. It’s called progress, folks.

What is important now is how far we hiked, how many miles we rode, and how fast we ran this weekend. The most important conversations in this town are always on Monday and always begin with “what did you do this weekend?” A Saturday spent at home “relaxing” is not very interesting and proves absolutely nothing. Leisure is your grandmother’s yoga!

Whatever you’re thinking about now, don’t sweat it. This isn’t that much of a stretch.

Roger Marolt knows there’s a fine line between bending and breaking around here. Either way, it’s sometimes painful. Let’s chant at roger@maroltllp.com.


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