Post-Run Yoga. No? Not Allowed?

Hatha Yoga Video Downward Facing Pose - Adho M...

After going through health scares in April, June and August this year, a few weeks ago I finally made the decision to take care of myself a little better. For someone who hasn’t been as much as go to bed on time for the past 14 years (I’ve known you for 10 years and when have you slept? commented Mr. Kemaman in a wallpost) and has to be dragged away regularly from the various games controllers that I keep in the living room (this happened again just last night), this decision was met with a lot of skepticism, trepidation and resistance – from myself!

Well what do you know. Tonight I ran my second 60-minutes continuous run. While it was at a very slow, very comfortable jogging pace and I only managed to cover a distance of 6.2km (real runners would spit in my face in disgust if I dare to call myself a runner), it was a huge improvement over the 7-3-2-20 regime that I had 2 weeks ago (7 minutes continuous run, 3 minutes walk, 2 sets; covering a total of 20 minutes).

But that’s not the reason for this post. As part of my post-run routine, I am required to stretch. Along Week 2 of my thing (I am embarrassed to call it training so from here on it will be called thing, in italics), I read an article  entitled Top 10 Questions Asked By Beginning Runners in Complete Running Network that suggests yoga as an alternative to conventional stretching exercises, which I have a lot of trouble following and sticking to as I found them too clinical (read: boring) and grueling. I had taken beginner’s yoga a couple of years back and found that it was a gentle and very forgiving routine for chronic non-exercisers like myself so armed with a Simply Yoga DVD by Yolanda Pettinato and some videos that I downloaded from Youtube, I started doing basic yoga postures to cap off my runs.

So I find it amusing (as in sad realisation, not as in haha funny) that a lot of people is still squirming uncomfortably when the subject of yoga is brought up. While I am  not able to contort myself to squeeze into a suitcase (yet! Who knows?), the new routine noticeably alleviates the morning-after muscle pains and aches that I experienced pre-yoga.

[For benefit of those who are not familiar with the argument, in November 2008, the Fatwa Council declared that Muslims are prohibited from practicing Yoga because of its Hindu roots.]

Please allow me to explain.

Someone once remarked to me, “We all have our escape mechanisms as a means to avoid facing reality. For you, it’s video games,”.

I remember feeling so angry upon hearing this unscientific observation. How does being a video game enthusiast make me someone who avoids facing reality? If anything, it taught me to be an even more grounded realist.  The first RPG that I played in full was Secret of Mana on the Super NES 64, during a time when FAQs and walkthroughs were not commonly found on the internet (wait, what internet?) and the only version of the game available was in Japanese. Do you have any idea what a struggle it was for me to solve that game? Completing 100++ hours on an RPG is no different than completing a work project. You need the same kind of perseverance, patience, intellect (yes, you need to be smart) and enthusiasm. You learn about making sacrifices, making choices, taking the unlikely roads. The feeling of accomplishment is no different from the satisfaction you get from finishing a book, or taking a great photo or cooking the perfect rendang ayam.

My point is, it doesn’t subtract. It only adds to who you are, hopefully making you a better person in the process.  I have no doubt whatsoever that being a gamer for 20 years  sharpens my problem-solving acumen.

In the same line of argument, how can something that helps me to recover and repair my muscles and stick to my fledgling running thing (which is essential, by the way, so that I don’t have to take drugs for the rest of my life to regulate my blood pressure) makes me less of a Muslim?

Friends, yoga is not religion, that I am very clear about.

(I do not have any intention whatsoever to get into what constitutes a good Muslim argument. The practice of one’s faith, to me, is deeply personal; I have no desire to discuss mine or having other people impose theirs on me.  Trust me the last thing I want to do is be argumentative about  one’s religion. So, this is not going to be that kind of post and you will never see such in this blog, ever.)

I admit that I don’t have enough knowledge of the practice, history or religion to be able to hold my side of the yoga argument. But what I know is this: the postures are no different than the conventional stretching exercises that I used to do. The difference, as far as I could tell, is that I am more aware of how I breathe and how my body moves. It is not as punishing as say, 100 ab crunches and the wall push-ups and the hamstring stretches. Certainly a lot more enjoyable and doable for me than Paula Abdul‘s Get Up And Dance post-exercise routine (and no disrespect to Ms. Abdul, it’s just that I am nowhere near able to do what she does in the video without pulling a number of muscles and walk with bad back and a limp the next day).

There are so many positive benefits from doing yoga; you can take a look at some of the links that I posted below. I personally believe the fear about chanting its mantra would deviate one from his/her faith can only be borne out of misunderstanding its meaning and origins, and of the practice of yoga itself.

Ninie Ahmad explained it clearly and beautifully in her blogpost Yoga 101: Yoga & Mantra.

(Or, to cut it short: don’t chant if you are uncomfortable doing it for whatever reason. Then all that’s left is a set of gentle, stretching postures. Problem solved.)

Wanna train for a 42km run with me?

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