By Christine Dailey
Restorative yoga has become a huge part of Steve Messina’s life. A Sports Club/LA – San Francisco Member since 2004, Steve talks about the impact of restorative yoga on his body and his life, and the importance of trying new things and switching up your workout regimen, don’t bore your body with the same thing day after day, plus, you may even be missing out on a class or exercise you really enjoy.
It may seem like a stereotype, but most men think of stretching as an afterthought without realizing its impact and importance. Restorative yoga combines stretching, relaxation and meditation by holding poses for long durations and using props to assist. To most men, the word “yoga” conjures an image of trying to put your leg behind your head, which doesn’t sound too appealing. I felt this way, too, but after experiencing restorative yoga I realized I had found my perfect match.
When I joined Sports Club/LA – San Francisco a decade ago, I lifted weights four to five days a week, played basketball three days a week and occasionally did cardio exercises. I didn’t comprehend the value of mind/body classes and definitely feared doing yoga. As someone slightly resistant to change, especially when it comes to my training, I had my set routine and was on autopilot every time I arrived on the fitness floor.
I realized I needed to train smarter after tearing a disc in my lower back while over-lifting on the military press and tearing my Achilles tendon playing rugby. These injuries led me to Advantage Trainer Dave Smith who re-evaluated my training methods and helped me incorporate functional training. I no longer strictly focus my workouts on free weights and machines alone. Instead, I use the TRX and incorporate other activities that emphasize core strengthening and mind/body improvement.
I discovered restorative yoga by pure accident. I had tried Vinyasa and Hatha yoga, but found myself fighting the stretches due to my lack of flexibility. Needless to say, I didn’t see the benefit of taking another class. However, restorative yoga poses have a particular ability to leave me nourished and well rested.
These poses are usually deeply supported by blankets, blocks or other props and are held for several minutes at a time. I’m able to deeply stretch problem areas such as my lower back, hamstrings and inner thighs without the feeling of over-straining and having restrictive breathing. The other component of restorative yoga is deep breathing from your diaphragm and breath awareness. I visualize my breath going to problem points throughout my body, which helps reduce my stress levels on top of increasing my flexibility.
The first restorative yoga class I took lasted 90 minutes. Afterward, I couldn’t move – I was so relaxed both mentally and physically that I wanted to stay on my yoga mat and fall asleep. Now I practice five to six days a week. As a result of my practice, I’ve been pain free in my lower back, and my hamstrings have never felt so flexible. It allows me to play both basketball and golf without any soreness or pain, whereas usually my back would be sore the following day.
As I continued with my practice, I would rave about the benefits in the Executive Locker Room to anyone who would listen, usually nobody would. Eventually, three men decided to try it with me. After 30 minutes, they felt stretched out and extremely relaxed.
Though you can practice restorative yoga anywhere, I like practicing in Sports Club/LA’s Pilates Room. Not only do I gain invaluable insight from the Club’s Pilates instructors, I have all the props I need, which include a bolster, strap, block and sand bags.
If I could change one thing in the 10 years I’ve been a Member of Sports Club/LA – San Francisco, it would have been to research and participate more frequently in the variety of classes offered. Fortunately, it’s never too late to change your workout regimen – I’m glad I did!