The Alaskan Husky is well-known for its endurance and strength, running each March in a canine competition of over 1,100 miles from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. The dog teams trek through heavy blizzards and endure temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The dogs can’t sweat, except through their paws as they generate a tremendous amount of heat, burning calories in training and during the race.
Dr, Michael Davis of Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences has studied the sled dogs for the past 10 years, running controlled experiments. He says that the secret to the dogs’ feats of day-to-day endurance lies in their ability to “reprogram the body’s response to stress after just one day of competition, something humans cannot do. These dogs are ultra-athletes attaining endurance, like human athletes, through conditioning Not all dogs are strength-trained and conditioned as these beautiful animals. Dr. Davis plans to present his recent findings at a conference of the American Physiological Society in Hilton Head, S.C.” (Men’sJournal.com).
It may sound like an unlikely comparison of human athletes, sled dogs and yoga strength conditioning; however, humans have the choice to keep the mind poised on physical, mental and emotional strength conditioning, as observed in this beautiful picture of regular YMCA Yoga practitioners in an earlier class, working on body alignment as an example of strength and coordination.
You can pursue this yoga challenge of ultra-strength training to break old mental patterns and reprogram the mind and body with thought processes to release the old and live in the “new” of the present moment. Begin your personalized yoga practice starting with the breath. Train yourself with a back-of-throat nose breathing called ujjayi pranayama, or “breath of the victorious warrior” which lengthens inhalations and increases lung capacity exhaling deeply from the throat through the mouth. This, in turn, delivers more oxygen to the body.
Then, focus on the core of the body. Loosen hip flexors to create greater mobility. This can be practiced in everyday activity by walking in slow, long strides crossing the parking lot to the grocery store. Concentrate as you walk on precise physical movement and don’t let the mind drift. Keep a steady pace and strong posture. Remember, it is the mind that controls the body.
Yoga endurance means holding concentration to properly execute yoga postures for the greatest health benefit. “Concentration” means letting go of all other thoughts when practicing yoga.
Next, focus on building core strength in the abdominals which is important to support the body and protect the back and hips. When initiating poses, such as these YMCA yoga practitioners in the picture, spread the legs wide and keep them firm with a solid core. Hold the posture for as long as possible which requires endurance/concentration as you build a new healthy habit pattern through everyday activity.
Most importantly, keep the mind focused on perfecting your postures during “practice.” Set aside a time/day to initiate your personal practice. You can do Yoga anywhere! Discover your serenity and strength with a smile as you move forward in the present moment through your Yoga practice.