published Thursday, October 11th, 2012

New yoga class helps athletes recover

Lane Winchester, right, leads an Athletic Recovery yoga class at Yoga Landing in downtown Chattanooga. The class promotes muscle awareness and joint stability.
Lane Winchester, right, leads an Athletic Recovery yoga class at Yoga Landing in downtown Chattanooga. The class promotes muscle awareness and joint stability.
Photo by Alyson Wright.

IF YOU GO

What: Athletic Recovery yoga class.

When: 4:30-5:45 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8:30-9:45 a.m. Saturdays.

Where: Yoga Landing, Suite 204, Warehouse Row, 1110 Market St.

Cost: $14 per class.

Phone: 531-6977.

Website: www.yogalanding.net.

Athletes are known for pushing their bodies to the limit, pushing through pain to reach a goal.

But a new yoga class at Yoga Landing, a studio in the south building of Warehouse Row, may change the way athletes challenge their bodies.

Lane Winchester, a former member of the U.S. National Diving Team, teaches a class called Athletic Recovery that is specifically focused on stretches that help relieve pain or tightness in muscles occurring from athletic activities.

Many times, athletes can be some of the harshest critics of yoga, because there is no ceiling to the activity.

"A lot of people say, 'I paid $10 or $15 for your time; what did I get from it?' " Winchester said. "At best, you have some ways of stretching safely."

On the surface, Winchester's goal for students in Athletic Recovery is to be attuned to their bodies, gaining a better understanding of how to push forward without causing injury. On a deeper level, Winchester wants the class to give students the chance to relax and examine not only their physical state but also their mental state.

"You've got people who are always pushing themselves to do more, and you add work on top of athletic life -- all you're getting is pushing," she said. "This is a class for people who don't do yoga. Yoga can give a little bit deeper understanding of why you're doing what you're doing."

In a Thursday afternoon class, Winchester asked students if they had any areas that were specifically bothering them. A student says her upper thighs hurt after a run, and Winchester leads the class in series of stretches that target the thighs.

Students lie on their backs and stretch a leg to the ceiling, using a strap to pull their legs to the right or left. Winchester encourages students to stretch as much as they feel comfortable -- whether it's all the way to the floor or 1 inch from the center.

"I'm a 1-inch-from-center girl," she said as she walked around the room, helping students as needed.

Students are encouraged to look around at one another but advised not to compare. Everyone's body is different.

Winchester tells students to bend their knees when they need to and not to push themselves until they hurt. She says that she wants students to leave her class with a better knowledge of stretching and injury prevention, even if they never take another yoga class.

Winchester said she doesn't like to do a lot of named postures in her yoga classes, opting instead to do variations of positions or stretches that are easier for people with injuries.

"A lot of traditional postures are not good for tight hamstrings or damaged hips," she said.

In Athletic Recovery, music is not played. Winchester said this not only makes the class more approachable for students but also takes away the pressure for students to push themselves.

Many people use music to drive their athletic activities, Winchester said, and her class is about taking the time to relax and concentrate on your body.

"I loved it -- it was definitely something different," said Spencer Cummings, one of the students in last week's class who also works at the studio. "I loved the class because it was more upbeat."

Winchester's experience as a diver is a benefit to the class, Cummings said, telling the instructor that she was impressed by her knowledge of muscles.

"She was a true, huge athlete," Cummings said. "You can tell she knows what she's talking about."

Winchester's hope is that students will not be intimidated or turned off by the stereotypes and misperceptions of yoga.

For some people, the expectation that you should be able to touch your toes or twist your body into a pretzel is off-putting.

"Look at this -- this is 'American yoga,' " Winchester said as she pointed to a picture in a book of a woman whose body was folded in half. "Most people can't do this. I can't do this. This is what people think yoga is."

Winchester tries to make the classes she teaches as approachable as possible, often making a fool of herself so her students don't feel awkward when they lose balance.

Creating a place for people to feel comfortable is one of the goals of Yoga Landing. Jessica Jollie, owner of the studio, said she wants to offer an environment where there's something for everyone.

Yoga Landing offers a variety of classes ranging in size from about 30 students to personal one-on-one sessions.

"We are not selling one thing," Jollie said. "I want people to feel comfortable to come as they are."

Winchester said she hopes her class gives students a new perspective on how they use their bodies.

"I just hope this class reaches a lot of people in Chattanooga," Winchester said.

"If they never come back, at least they know a little about their bodies."

about Rachel Bunn...

Rachel Bunn is originally from Ellijay, Ga., and graduated from the University of Georgia with degrees in magazines and history. While at UGA, she wrote for the student magazine UGAzine, served as news editor for the student newspaper, The Red & Black, and spent a semester studying British history at Oxford University in Oxford, England. She has previously worked at The Rockdale Citizen in Conyers, Ga., and The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the ...

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