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Finding my zen in downward dog

The past seven days have been a whirlwind blur. Such is life when your car breaks down on the 190 and attempts to resuscitate it go for naught. Not having transportation merely increased my stress levels which at this time of year really don't need any extra provocation.

So when I put out my yoga mat to do my practice after a run, it seemed doubly rewarding. I got my usual great flexibility workout and eased tension and stress.

I have been practicing yoga off and on for years now. While I've attended classes, I'm not a regular nor have I worked in my yoga DVDs into a standard rotation in my training program. Instead, my yoga is pretty basic do-it-yourself stuff. After taking classes and practicing along with videos, I know the poses I like and will put together my own sequence. It's not an every day occurrence, but doing a few of my homemade sun salutations can help loosen me up in the morning (and calm me down, if need be, before an early morning swim) and help me cool down after a workout, particularly one that involved running or biking outdoors.

My coach is a yoga teacher and the first time we met, she asked if I did any yoga.

"I try to," I said. "But honestly I don't practice as much as I'd like."

"Where do you go?" she asked me.

"Actually, usually just my living room," I responded.

"Perfect," coach said. "I don't care if people do yoga in the bathroom, it can be so helpful."

What's so great about yoga for athletes? First of all, it's a strength training and flexibility workout rolled into one. While experts themselves have different theories on the usefulness of flexibility workouts, almost all agree they are important. Flexibility may help prevent injury and yoga specifically can help with balance, alignment, strength and concentration.

For me, I've found that five minutes of yoga after running or biking keeps me from suffering tight muscles later in the day.

The website Beginner Triathlete has a three-part video series to give examples of a yoga practice along with explaining some of the benefits of adding it to your training.

And for any guys who think yoga is too girly for them, check out the man's guide to yoga from Men's Health magazine.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some downward facing dogs to do before I go car shopping.

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