One day while scrolling through random Instagram pictures, I came across what looked like football players doing yoga on a football field. That’s interesting, I thought to myself. After some trolling and research, I saw that this instructor out of Toronto, Jana Webb, was teaching yoga to athletes. As a believer in multiple modality training, I was curious to see what she was doing with these big-bodied athletes.
I have practically zero yoga experience. I think I have taken five classes in my life, with two or three of them being Bikram. While I appreciate the discipline and control required to be a good yogi, my body had a hard time “flowing” from pose to pose. I also thought my body was built different compared to other yoga bodies in the room. As a 205-pound man, I’m not super stretchy compared to most yogis. Plus, yoga bored the shit out of me. I was fine never doing it again.
But, Joga looked different. In simple math, Jocks + Yoga = Joga. If there was ever a yoga style that appealed to me, this was it. When I saw that Joga was coming to Chicago for an early-October seminar, I had to do it. I am a believer in working on weaknesses, and yoga knowledge was a definite weakness of mine. It was time to check my ego at the door and learn something new!
No team I ever played on incorporated yoga. While I personally see the value in it, most strength coaches do not use it in their repotoire. So, I wondered how Jana and Alena Harkensson convince their players to add Joga. Their website features testimonials from prominent athletes in the NHL, MLB, and CFL, amongst others. Obviously, to keep their attention, they must be doing something right.
When we rolled out the mats, it was clear from minute one that I was in for a personal battle. As we went through the Joga system, I was shocked at how difficult it was for me to stabilize in these positions. As Jana explained, one major difference between yoga and Joga is that Joga incorporates holds plus movement. I spent most of the time stabilizing part of me while moving a different part of me — just like in sports! It was new and exhausting. By the end of day one my muscles were so fatigued I could barely hold myself up. My entire body felt worked and my core was toast.
Day 2 was more of the same. I struggled through the movement patterns and the weakness in my adductors was thoroughly exposed. Still, my stabilizers were fried and my brain was mush. For most workouts, I can squeeze out another rep or fight hard for 10 more seconds until it’s over. With Joga, I had no clue when the workout was over or how many more movements were left. I could not pace myself as I did not know the pace. The unknown reality was a huge mental toughness booster as it made me focus on the present moment. To compare the experience to baseball, one move at a time = one breath at a time = one pitch at a time = one game at a time. A great reminder to be present.
I felt myself getting better by the final day. After two days, I was more aware of the patterns and the flow. While the training was still difficult, I had a better understanding of what should be happening and a better understanding of how my body should be working in space. I have a long way to go before becoming a “Joga master,” but I feel my Joga foundation has been built. I have incorporated Joga with my own workouts; with my clients; at TrainChicago; and as part of the judo warmup. Thank you Jana, for making me part of the Joga World!