About a year ago, I had a fantastic opportunity of taking a yoga class from a Tibetan monk. He led us through a series of poses, cracked some jokes (he really did have a great sense of humor), and taught us to be aware of our breathing as he put us through this workout. I had to swallow my pride quite often in the 90 minutes with him. I lost my balance, couldn't quite hold the pose correctly, and found myself holding my breath rather than letting it flow. And since that time, I have practiced those poses on an almost daily basis ... and it has improved my fly fishing experience.
I had only occasionally thought of the connection between yoga and fly fishing before that morning a year ago. Sure, there are some obvious connections -- "being in the moment" comes to mind. Both activities require you to be attentive to what is right in front of you. But some of the other benefits I have discovered may even be more obvious.
Ever experience lower back pain during or after fishing? At times on the river, I will get locked into a productive hole for an extended bit of time. Sometimes that means that I will be standing on an uneven river bottom, or just a little off balance, or simply planted in one spot. My lower back will tend to get stiff in those situations. Practicing just a couple of poses -- the bridge, for example, or cat-cow pose -- helps me stretch out my lower back before going to the river. Even doing these before I drive up to the Canyon or Deckers helps get me stretched out.
Another benefit from yoga is the increased sense of balance. Uneven ground beneath our feet. Those rocks that just seem to knock us a bit off stride. Stepping up to or down from the bank. All of these present challenges to keeping our balance on the river. Just a handful of positions can help improve your balance. You might not be ready for the balancing butterfly or the crow, but you definitely can do some poses that will help you keep your feet on the ground: the tree pose is common and a good place to start. Another more challenging balance pose is Warrior III. Even doing these two or three times a week has helped!
Of course, a strengthened back and improved balance are just two of the benefits I have experienced over the last year. The attention to breath is certainly a plus to doing yoga -- particularly when you get that strike and see the fish rise out of the water. Being able to keep focused and calm when the fight is on is a pretty nice benefit, too.
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