Teacher : Marie Harris
Yoga Manchester’s ‘Yoga for Sport’ class is aimed, rather surprisingly, at people who play sport or have physically active lifestyles. Now, I wouldn’t place myself into either of these categories. I haven’t played an actual sport since my 13 year old basketball days (before I discovered boys and lip-gloss), but I do run for fun and on top of my usual yoga practice, also have a steady gym attendance. The closest I get to ‘sport’ nowadays is the 0.5-mile walk from car to desk in 4inch heels. So, would I actually benefit from attending a class designed specifically for the sporty types amongst us?
As I drive up to the school venue in Chorlton I’m thinking this class will be a walk in the park. After all, I’ve had a daily yoga practice long enough to hold my own on the yoga mat, this class is 30 minutes shorter than my usually class and I can do sun salutations with my eyes closed (although you shouldn’t).
I find the school with ease, located at the end of a side street, just off Longford Road. The first hurdle complete! I usually get lost when attending new classes so I’m already quite pleased with myself. However, true to form I did not read the very clear instructions on the Yoga Manchester website (the ones that state the class is held in the sports hall at the back of the school) and proceeded to try and enter the school through the, now locked, main entrance.
Finally noticing the sign on the fence that read ‘Sport Yoga’ I make my way round the back on the school and into the sports hall. Not my usual yoga venue but what better surrounding for a sport focused class then a basketball court! The room is warm and just the right size (not full basketball court size luckily). I roll out my mat and wait for the other students to arrive.
Marie, the teacher, stands at the front of the class and introduces herself to her students. She talks briefly about last weeks class focus and then goes on to tell us this weeks area of focus; calves and hips.
She talks anatomically about the body and I instantly trust her. During the opening stretches she asks the class to acknowledge where in the leg we are feeling each stretch. Not only does she teach us how to adapt and develop the muscles but she’s also teaching us how to understand those muscles ourselves. For months I’ve been convinced that I have an issue with certain postures because of lack of flexibility in my hamstrings. Just one class with Marie and I now realise the issue is my calf, not my hamstring. So now I can work on developing that muscle because I’ve been taught, in just one class, how to listen to what my muscles are telling me.
As she walks around the class she adjusts postures with a quick description as to why she’s going to do it; ‘I’m just going to rotate this shoulder so you get a nice opening in the chest’. Full demonstrations are given at the front of class so each student knows exactly how to perform each posture.
I expected this class to be quite male heavy in number because it’s ‘for sport’. In reality the gender balance was equal, there were no big burly blokes or gymnast-esc women. Most people arrived on a bike, wearing luminous gear and a willingness to learn.
As I looked around the class I could see everyone’s genuine eagerness to understand their muscle groups and how to benefit each. Everyone is here with one aim, to rectify and resolve any current physical niggles and to make their bodies more able to perform the desired tasks.
As I flung my arms into the air at the start of the practice ready for ten sun salutations I quickly realised this wasn’t that kind of class. No sun salutations, no chants and definitely no ‘Oming’. This is definitely different for me.
The class is very much focused on building strength and stretching the muscles. Marie gave two variations of each posture, one more challenging than the other, students are free to choose any variation they like. We stretched our calves, elongated our hamstrings and opened our hips before moving onto the upper body and twists.
The class is somewhere between a yoga practice and a session with your favourite PT (not the scary boot camp kind but more the ‘you can do this! type). I can definitely see the attraction for people wanting to enhance their sporting ability or nurse an injury. With Marie’s guidance I learn how to work on the areas of my body that needed a little extra help. Not bad for an hour on the mat.
So whether you’re a pro-footballer, an amateur cyclist, a casual swimmer or, like me, have an addiction to stilettos I think everyone can benefit from a little yoga for sport.
Review by Sarah Later
I was 19 years old when I took my very first yoga class – not only because I wanted to be uber fit and bendy but because I was anxious and stressed about everything I could find to be anxious and stressed about. For a little over a year now I’ve been a student of Matt’s and each day I grow a little more obsessed with this practice. So, I obviously jumped at the chance to practice with every Yoga Manchester teacher and then write about my experiences with each. I hope one of these reviews ignites enough curiosity in you to try a class; maybe you’ll fall in love too.