Metta Meditation at Wanderlust 108 Atlanta

September 29, 2014 – 11:41 am | Permalink | Teaching, Yoga
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Neda, Octavia, me, and Keith

It was a glorious day and a wonderful crowd for the inaugural Wanderlust 108 Mindful Triathlon in Atlanta yesterday. There was a 5K run/walk through beautiful Piedmont Park; an inspiring talk by Keith Mitchell; a rollicking concert by the Good Times Brass Band; and very sweet yoga focused on connection and a healthy dose of fun led by Neda Honarvar, Octavia Raheem, and MC Yogi. I absolutely loved having the opportunity to lead the group meditation. What a view it was to look out on 1,000 students practicing together!

We practiced metta meditation to strengthen our ability to treat others with loving kindness. To get better at running, you have to practice. To get better at asana, you have to practice. To get better at being loving, kind, and compassionate, you have to practice. Just like I’d write a plan for my athletes with workouts to develop strength for hills and ability to maintain race pace, metta is a workout to build your capacity to love.

To practice this mediation, you’ll visualize several people in various categories and send them love and well wishes:

May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you be whole.

Remember, yoga means union, connection, wholeness.

Various approaches to metta will work in different orders. For the Wanderlust crowd, we started by warming up with the easiest category: loved ones. From a comfortable meditative position, sitting or lying down, imagine someone dear to you. Draw up their image clearly, and send them metta: May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be whole. Then move your attention to another dear one, and repeat your well wishes. Continue for several rounds.

Now check in. How are you feeling? Shift your position if you need to.

For the next category, turn your attention to neutral people—folks you see alongside you on the train or at school pickup; the cashier at the grocery; a bus boy at a restaurant. Visualize them as clearly as you can—this is harder than for the loved ones, of course—and send them metta: May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be whole. Continue for several rounds.

Again, check in, and notice how you feel now. Shift position if you need to.

Next, practice sending loving kindness to yourself. Self-compassion can be very difficult. Try breaking it into smaller pieces, sending love to yourself in your various roles: as a child; as a parent or a mentor; as a friend; as a lover; as a coworker; as an athlete; as a student. Send yourself metta: May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be whole. Continue for several rounds.

Notice the state of your body, mind, and breath now. Again, shift position if you need to.

In running intervals, we always want the last one to be the best. Now that you are fully warmed up to loving kindness, send it to those you may find it difficult to love, people with whom you have conflict. These can be people you know or those you don’t. Draw up the image of one of these people, and notice if the process leads you to tense up. Soften your physical body, and send them metta: May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be whole. Continue for several rounds.

Finally, observe how you feel. See the recipients of your love arrayed all in front of you, and send metta to all of them, either silently or out loud.

To get better, keep practicing! If you have a mala, one nice approach is to choose one person per bead. As you touch the bead, imagine this person and send them loving kindness. You’ll be surprised that you can choose 108 people to love so easily, and you’ll feel more full of compassion and love when you finish.

Thanks to the staff of Wanderlust for capturing this amazing view!

Thanks to the staff of Wanderlust for capturing this amazing view!

Please share your experience with this beautiful practice!

Watch: Free Yoga for Trail Runners Video

September 23, 2014 – 11:29 am | Permalink | Coaching, Media, Training and Racing, Yoga

Page 66 of the October issue of Yoga Journal features four poses I love for trail runners. You can also see a gorgeous slideshow illustrating the poses here. To complement the story, I recorded a twenty-minute practice featuring each of the poses, and my friends at YogaVibes have graciously made it free to you! If, after enjoying this video, you’d like access to more of my yoga classes for athletes and everyone, please use the code sagefreemonth and you’ll get a thirty-day free trial.

trail

Yoga Class Description

Coach Sage Rountree, author of books including The Runner’s Guide to Yoga, leads this short online yoga practice designed to develop strength and flexibility for trail running. You’ll improve your alignment; challenge your balance; strengthen your hips and lower legs; and stretch your entire body in this short practice. Include these exercises after your run a few times each week for better connection and control on the trails. Check out Sage’s article in the October 2014 issue of Yoga Journal magazine for a breakdown of the 4 yoga poses featured in this class! (21 mins.)

Watch the full practice here.

Watch: Even More Free Yoga for Athletes Videos

September 22, 2014 – 11:05 am | Permalink | Coaching, Media, Recovery, Training and Racing, Yoga

The conclusion of my yoga for athletes video series to accompany the August Yoga Journal feature on training for a triathlon:

Week 9: Bike Form
Week 10: Run Form
Week 11: Breathing for Swimming
Week 12: Breathing for Cycling and Running

Plus these bonus videos:

Race Plan
Prerace Preparation

plan

See the rest of the series:

Week 1: Swim Sequence
Week 2: Bike Sequence
Week 3: Run Sequence
Week 4: Poses for Recovery
Week 5: Healthy Wrists
Week 6: First Transition (T1)
Week 7: Second Transition (T2)
Week 8: Balance in the Water

Plus bonus videos!

Using a Mantra
Drishti for Open Water

You’ll also find beautiful “cheat sheets”:

Swim Sequence
Bike Sequence
Run Sequence

And four-week plans:

Phase 1
Phase 2
Phase 3

restoIf you are a TrainingPeaks user, you’ll find a similar approach to the sprint triathlon and other distances (many with yoga) here.

If you’ve followed the plan, I’d love to hear your thoughts and race reports!

New Site: sageyogateachertraining.com

September 12, 2014 – 1:21 pm | Permalink | Media, Teaching, Yoga

syttfrontNew today: my professional development courses for yoga teachers have a home of their own at sageyogateachertraining.com! Whether you want to specialize in yoga for athletes or learn ways to up your game as a yoga teacher, you’ll find resources to sharpen your vision and confidence, jump-start your sequencing, and help you continue to grow.

Please click on over and let me know what you think!

The Value of Testing

September 12, 2014 – 9:37 am | Permalink | Race Reports, Training and Racing

Racing_Wisely_coverThis intriguing article in last week’s New York Times Magazine talks about the value of pretesting. The results of pretesting help refine the learning process and lead to better outcomes on final exams.

It strikes me that the same goes for endurance sports. There’s huge value in pretesting your training. The race itself should not be the only examination of how your work is going—just a final exam, and sometimes one that’s not that weighted. Testing isn’t always fun, but it doesn’t have to be hellacious. It’s a critical part of honestly assessing things as they actually are—and that’s mindfulness.

Racing Wisely, my book on mindful racing, covers testing in depth. Here’s a sample.

Testing

In order to adjust your training so you can achieve your best performance on race day, you’ll need to have a clear, concrete idea of how your training is working and what your abilities really are—not what you wish they were. Quantify and track your performance by repeating a time-trial test every few weeks. A time trial measures all three of our potential variables: intensity, time, and distance. Fix two variables of the test every time you repeat it, and look for improvement in the other variable. Depending on your sport and target race, tests could look like this:

  • swimming 100 yards or meters all out for time; or swimming 5 x 100 yards or meters on short rest all out, looking for the best average time per 100
  • swimming 500 yards or meters all out; or swimming 3 x 500 on short rest all out, looking for the best average time per 500
  • riding a 3K time trial as hard as you can and measuring time
  • riding a 40K time trial with your best effort and measuring time
  • riding a five-minute time trial as hard as you can and measuring distance or power
  • riding a forty-minute time trial with your best effort and measuring distance or power
  • running a mile at your best effort for time
  • running 5000 meters at your best effort for time
  • running 30 minutes at your best effort for distance

All of these tests should be preceded by a warmup that culminates in a few short, fast efforts and a slightly longer, target-effort interval. You can complete them during your regular stepback (or “rest and test” weeks), or wherever they make most sense. Spread them out at least three weeks. Repeat your tests on a fixed course: the track, an open stretch of flat road, a trainer or treadmill (use the same treadmill every time if you can). Give each test an honest hard effort, without excuses. You need to know exactly where you stand in your training. Your best effort in a test will leave you feeling quite drained by the finish. If you can speed up considerably at the end of the test or realize you had more to give, you’ve learned something useful; if you slow down or stop, you’ve learned something else useful.

Track your tests. This can be done in a notebook, on an Excel spreadsheet, or in an online program like Training Peaks (trainingpeaks.com). Watch your progress month to month. Don’t get hung up on a single poor test—we all have bad days. Often we learn more from the tests that don’t go well than from the tests that do. Bad tests give us the opportunity to look at the training cycle that led up to them and assess whether we should make adjustments. A downward trend of poor tests indicates a need to adjust the stress/rest and consistency/variety balance in your training. I outline these adjustments below.

Regular performance tests are wonderful for building mental skills. Repeating them once a month or every other month will give you a race-simulation experience, from the apprehension beforehand to the satisfaction after, while encouraging you to push yourself based on exactly what you have to give, not how others are doing around you. Pay careful attention to the mental process before, during, and after your time trial. Are you having negative thoughts? What exactly are you afraid of? Is it in your control, or out of your control? Can you recast your thoughts to see the time trial as an opportunity, not a crisis? I ran my personal best mile on the track in the midst of high-volume Ironman training, because I figured I had nothing to lose—I was training for long, slow distance. To be candid, I even asked myself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” and envisioned some cataclysmic outcomes that might happen. They didn’t. I did learn that there’s much more in my legs, lungs, and heart than I expect, which was a valuable lesson for the Ironman.

Read more in Racing Wisely.

Watch: Yoga for Athletes Teachers’ Lounge: Before, During, and After

September 8, 2014 – 10:41 am | Permalink | Media, Teaching, Training and Racing, Yoga

My newest class at YogaVibes talks you through timing. You’ll learn techniques to practice before, during, and after a workout, as well as hearing why I chose them. If you were at the free classes I offered during last winter’s tour of REI stores (thanks, prAna!), you’ll get a refresher on the sequences we practiced together.

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Yoga Class Description

In this class for athletes, teachers, and everyone, filmed on Day 4 of Sage’s Teaching Yoga to Athletes intensive, we investigate yoga to do before, during, and after a workout. Learn dynamic warmup routines; practice focus techniques that work in a training session or competition; hold static stretches appropriate for right after a workout; and explore a series of reclining twists for deep release and relaxation around the hips, spine, and shoulders. Along the way, Sage explains exactly why and how these poses benefit athletes. Have a block, bolster, and blanket available. (69 mins.)

Suggested Yoga Props

block, blanket and bolster

Watch the entire class at YogaVibes.

Read: Comfort and Affliction

September 6, 2014 – 1:07 pm | Permalink | Media, Teaching, Yoga

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To help students progress, a yoga teacher (or a coach) needs to know when to push and when to back off. I wrote a piece on developing this skill that’s online at the prAna blog.

Journalist Finely Peter Dunne famously said the job of a newspaper is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” This double-pronged purpose applies equally well to social activists, coaches, clergy—and yoga teachers. Each student needs a teacher who’s ready to remove unnecessary suffering, whether caused by misalignment in a pose or a misguided notion that says something needs to look or feel a certain way or proceed at a certain pace. Teachers play a powerful role in helping students feel comforted and comfortable. At the same time, students need a teacher who isn’t afraid to challenge them to see things more clearly, to break them out of mindless habits and help them move toward self-awareness. Here are some ideas for finding the balance between comfort and affliction as you help your students grow.

Read more at prAna Life.

Read: How to Keep Your Teaching Fresh: Yoga Instructors Share Their Secrets

September 1, 2014 – 10:35 am | Permalink | Media, Teaching, Yoga

Yoga teachers will find some nice insider tips from experienced teachers in this post on Thrive, the Kripalu blog. I added my voice:

Sage Rountree, author of several books on yoga for athletes and yoga sequencing:

Our practice grows when we have a good balance of consistency and variety. First, we need the consistent elements of a class: a warm-up, standing poses, mat poses, and a closing sequence. Then, we need variety to keep students engaged and adapting. Too much consistency and the class gets stale; too much variety and the students are confused.

Read the full piece here.

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If you’d like to spice up your sequencing, join me at Kripalu later this month for Sequencing Yoga Classes from Welcome to Namaste. Or, if travel is out of the question, enjoy the course online anytime!

Read: “Stretching Is Overrated”

August 27, 2014 – 12:20 pm | Permalink | Coaching, Media, Training and Racing, Yoga

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I’m quoted in this nice piece in The Atlantic: “Stretching Is Overrated.” Despite its sensationalist title, it’s about pre-exercise static stretching being overrated, not stretching in general (although we could have that argument, too). As I told Ian, there’s certainly such a thing as too much flexibility; at some point stretching can become gratuitous. For my usual population of endurance athletes and others who either sit at desks or engage in repetitive movements, too much flexibility is rarely the problem.

Read the story here.

Watch: Yoga for Athletes Teachers’ Lounge: Releasing Hips and Shoulders

August 26, 2014 – 9:35 am | Permalink | Media, Teaching, Yoga

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Yoga Class Description

In this gentle yoga practice, recorded at the end of Day 3 of Sage’s Teaching Yoga to Athletes intensive, you’ll explore range of motions, compression, and tension in the hips, spine, and shoulders. These gentle movements will help you feel balanced, free, and ready to move on to other asanas—or right into savasana. Have blocks, a bolster, blanket, and eye pillow available. (21 mins.)

Suggested Yoga Props

blocks, a bolster, blanket, and eye pillow

Watch the entire video at YogaVibes.