Modern Arts Karate Academy
Looking through my bedside drawer a few weeks ago I was surprised to come across an old sew on badge that I still had from my time practicing martial arts. Back in 1986, after seeing the Karate Kid, I sought out a karate club to join. Classes were held at the local village hall, although on reflection there wasn't a great deal of karate involved, this modern take on martial arts was more akin to kickboxing than anything related to ancient Japan.
What is surprising is that this was my first introduction to Yoga, although I didn't know it at the time. Stretching and suppleness were a big part of our training, a two hour class would comprise 15 minutes aerobic warm up followed by 45 minutes of stretching before an hour of throwing fists and legs at each other!
Over a few years, in those 45 minutes, 12 year old me learned how to do the splits, which was vital in being able to kick your leg above your head! I recall one of our instructors sitting on my shoulders to get that extra few centimetres out of my stretch. This is not something I recommend.
I can't do the splits now, years of canoeing/running/cycling have shortened my hamstrings significantly, but I do think that this introduction to stretching before and after sport gave me a base level of flexibility that has stayed with me ever since. Thinking about it I have kept up with some of the stretches over the years to help with the warm up and cool down during other physical activity that have taken over from martial arts.
I now see these stretches as Single Leg Forward Fold, Cobblers Pose, Runners Stretch, etc.
You'll find coaches from all manner of sports asking pupils of all ages to stretch and they'll be using some aspect of yoga whether they realise it or not. Now I'm older yoga allows me to continue to take part in physical activity and will ensure that I am active for many more years to come, helping me avoid injury in sport through stretching and strengthening postures.
There are many more benefits, mental health wasn't something we talked about in the 1980's, although I had an idea that physical activity was a healthy way to manage stress. Now I meditate daily, I practice breathing and relaxation techniques, I start my day with a sun salutation and what is really wonderful is that I teach others. The lessons aren't always overt in their message but the body and mind learn in ways aside from through reading books. I learned that in 1986 🙂