Before I started doing yoga in my thirties the only serious exercise I had done was rollerblading which I did quite a bit of, living in Brooklyn and skating to Manhattan daily. Before yoga I was a waiter and carpenter both of which require a decent amount of physical effort. Add to that a natural brute strength that I can’t explain and you have the adult me.
Beginning yoga I was made up of loose joints and long muscles that served me well for some contortion-y types of poses that I was able to bend myself into. It was amazing fun and very gratifying to do some of the tricks that came easily to me. There was usually great improvement in the poses that I had a natural affinity for.
What is interesting about being loose and open is the illusion of depth and advancement. From the start of my yoga practice I did pigeon pose with ease and no discomfort. This struck me (and my teachers) as a positive until I figured out, ten years on, that my piriformis muscle, which is stretching in pigeon, is very weak and therefore not much of a player in the game of my life.
The same goes for my gluteal muscles and my latissimus dorsi to name a couple more. To this day, the things I do well are very impressive but there are a host of things that I simply cannot do. A few months ago I posted a video of me doing a sitting and standing test (that I recommend everyone try) and sitting with no hands my muscles give out about a foot away from the floor—and down I plop.
Enter kickboxing which kicks my butt, literally. My wife has been doing it for four months or so and I have to say that she is a warrior—going to the classes with her is so much fun. She works harder than everyone in the room never giving up on an exercise and shames me as my muscles give out and I quit.
After the first couple of classes my gluteal muscles, piriformis, tensor fasciae latae, and adductors— all things I tend to cheat in yoga—were killing me. I walked up and down the stairs gingerly and got in and out of chairs with caution. A few classes later my muscles have caught up with the activity and the soreness is gone. I wish I could say the same thing for endurance. Kickboxing activates a host of new muscles for me that fatigue easily. But not for long– not only will the kickboxing get easier but I think it will transform my yoga practice and eliminate the final drop in the sitting and standing test.
Building a balanced body is a science project that requires an understanding of which muscles lack tone and need building. Even though it is a long term endeavor (sixteen years and counting in my case) It is never too late to get started.