Fitness classes making you worse?

As a Yoga teacher I have began to question whether group classes are making us worse rather than better. Delivering a class for up to 200 students is quite normal with online technology. The pandemic has rapidly moved us towards this form of fitness and it seems convenient and practical.

I feel that each individual person has complex needs and imbalances in their lives. We have weaker muscles in places and some areas of the body that our muscles are very strong, this makes our frame often out of line. When the skeleton is out of balance we suffer joint pain in several joints. We have different levels of weight and many variations of current medical conditions, injuries and traumas. 

To enter into a class which is one size fits all is a recipe for disaster because non of us are the same . Online classes mean that the teacher cannot often see you and you are quite likely to injure yourself and unlikely to balance the precise areas that need aligning for you.

I also feel that we are weakening our own ability to self motivate when we are just following along. To take instructions and do as the teacher says is not communicating with your body. We are motivated by results and it is disheartening when we just aggravate our condition rather than heal it.

As a unique individual, it would be better to work with a specific plan that would benefit your precise needs. No one else has walked in your shoes, slept the same, eaten your exact diet, suffered your stress or felt the pain you feel.

It is also important to realise that there is only you who can unravel the puzzle of your own condition. You know where the pain is, what triggers it, how it effects your life etc but you are not listening when you are following others. Listening externally is actually taking you on many diversions and away from your own solution.

I will share with you an example of how I started observing my own pain and this is after many years of ignoring it for the lure of expert advice.

As a Yoga teacher I was challenged by the fact that my own classes could flare up my arthritis and fibromyalgia. I began to adjust them to make them more and more gentle to see if I could support the problem. Although this was much better, I still needed to be more precise. I could not do a full body work out without strengthening areas that were already too strong or too tight.

I had to understand and feel my body to work out where my weakness was. I had chronic hip pain in the left side and it was clear to see that the left Glute was incredibly slow to fire up, unlike the right side which was very strong. It was a challenge to flex the muscles and I realised that there were other muscles in my body that were very weak but some areas that were super strong. 

These imbalances needed to be fixed but doing an all round class was simply not going to help. I had to focus in on the side that was weak and lay off the stronger areas. I joined my local gym and began to use the machines which you can add weight as your strength improves. I used resistance bands and did exercises such as the Clam exercise where you lay on one side with the knees bent and raise the upper leg, opening like a clam shell. 

I was on a quest to seek out and strengthen my weaknesses. I would find the point where the muscle was really challenged and burning and I would micro move it there. Really pin pointing the exact area. Listening to the communication of my body and really feeling my weakness and strength on an intense level. I could not do any of this in a group class, I would be totally out of touch with my body.

I also realise that continuous stress while exercising is strengthening stress, I don't need anymore of that Thank you. I will challenge my body but monitor my heart rate, keeping it stable. Cardio for me involves walking uphill on the treadmill and occasionally jogging intermittently. This is gradually strengthening my body without stressing it out. My body has been through enough.

The results are incredible. The weaker spots are responding well and the joints are getting the support that they were lacking. Even if you think you are very strong, somewhere in your body there will be weaker areas and they will bring problems.

We all have our own aches and pains and often inflammation. Going to a class for everything is often the last thing your body needs. It can stretch areas that are too tight and out of line causing more inflammation and pain. Doing nothing but rest is not the answer either.

It is time to be your own coach, listening and learning. 

Pain is your guide. Your pain will show you by intensity when you are doing it right or wrong. You cannot be guided by another human being because you are the master of yourself.

If you find a certain exercise impossible due to weakness then you have just found the exercise for you. Take it steady and exercise gradually allowing your strength to build. 

You will need patience and persistence. We all want things to happen fast but a quick 30 minute workout is probably doing more harm than a mindful, focused, steady 90 minute session.

It is very exciting to turn each weakness into strength and to feel the support and stability in yourself.

Slow and steady wins the race.