In yoga, the Sanskrit term "Ahimsa" means nonviolence. It's like a moral code among yogis to ensure no harm is issued to any living thing, including ourselves. It's an intention to be gentle, which is a good rule for triathletes to follow when training. Give extra caution to your problem areas and don't overdo it to the point of injury.
Yoga as a form of cross-training can help you to open up certain areas of your body that might be tight from training. It's important to note, however, that every body has different needs. While stretching the hamstrings, opening up the hips, and increasing flexibility and strength in the spine are great places to start in terms of beginning a yoga practice for triathletes, there is no definitive plan for success that works for everyone. Understanding your own body's strengths and weaknesses is the most important step in the physical practice of yoga.
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Balancing Your Mind
The word balance extends its value far beyond the context in our physical bodies. Triathletes should strive for a balance between flexibility and strength, including mental flexibility and strength.
Often the competitive nature of triathletes overrides the necessity to nurture a flexible attitude when things fall outside of your control. For example, when you are headed from work to the gym for a swim and realize you forgot your Speedo, this would be a great time to exercise a flexible attitude. Go for a run instead. Or, if your race isn't going as planned, do the best you can and form a new goal, or make a decision to drop out of the race to avoid an injury. Changing course and applying that flexible attitude often will lend the best outcome.
Meditation is another tool yogis use to balance the mind and build mental strength. During stressful situations, it's helpful to quiet the mind. Here's an example of how meditation can help you as a triathlete:
You wake up the morning of your race to find your stomach in knots and your mind in a frazzled state. Take a few minutes, find a quiet place, sit silently and focus on your breath or a personal mantra. A mantra is a phrase you can focus on, like "I can do this." or "I've trained hard for this." or "I can confidently cross the finish line." Picture yourself as you cross the finish line, or make the transition you're most nervous about, or dive into the water with ease.
This might help to calm your nerves. You can come back and focus on your breath or mantra whenever you feel the stress or nerves come on. Taking some time for stillness and focus can build the mental strength you need to reach your athletic goals.
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The Balance Between Challenge and Rest
Yoga is not all about being gentle and loving with your body: Challenge is also an important tool for growth, and yoga teaches you to challenge your mind and body.
In yoga, there's a Sanskrit phrase called "Sthira" and "Sukha". This signifies the balance between effort and ease. Applied to triathlon, this concept can be extremely valuable: It's about knowing when to push yourself and when to rest. This balance of challenge and rest is important in order to achieve a race goal, which is why well-constructed training plans include a mixture of hard workouts and recovery days.
When you are able to tune into your body and understand its needs, you will more fully grasp when it's appropriate to up the ante. Learning when to push yourself and when to rest is one of the most important lessons to master.
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