Life had been a little stressful lately. Workplace complications put several projects on hold, leading to a few uneasy clients, and a recipe for potential disaster. Florida’s punishing summertime weather combined with poor fishing to make the morning’s video shoot a bust, and even my dog was sick. How I needed 5 o’clock to come quick!
On most days, I might be referencing the old “5 O’ Clock Somewhere” idea of hitting the local watering hole to break away from reality. But this was Tuesday, the day when I seek the ultimate elixir from my ailments.
Many of you are likely guessing it’s time for another fish story. Sorry, not today.
You see, thanks to the original encouragement of my wife, over the years I’ve found the best way possible to release stress and restore myself is not always through immersion in the outdoors. As an equal substitute, it can often be achieved through one very specific practice.
Now, before you scoff at the idea, or judge what you think yoga is, or what yoga participants are like, consider a realistic definition, from me to you.
In laymen’s terms, yoga is an attempt to unite the mind, body and spirit in a way that completely shuts off all external distractions, recognizing that most of those distractions are caused by our own internal “noise," and can be eliminated through discipline.
Yoga has nothing to do with forcing the body into painful poses, eating strange foods or giving up on wearing shoes or taking showers. On the contrary, the vast majority of participants immediately find significant relief of physical pain on their first attempt at yoga.
You may want to read that last part again.
For years, I found extended periods of stress, combined with the overall crappy lifestyle associated with tournament bass fishing, to be a major cause of routine back pain. Upper, lower, sciatic, whatever – the longer and harder I went, the stiffer I got and the more pain I experienced once I got home.
Finally, after seeing a few doctors and sorting through their contrasting opinions, I did a bit of research myself and later tried yoga. The first visit changed my life.
Here I found validated answers to the questions I’d posed for years.
If my back pain was truly the result of a physical ailment, why did the pain itself seem to move around so much? And why, on occasion, did it travel down into my hips? I mean, if I cut my finger, it’s my finger that hurts, right?
And why was it that, when I would get away from it all and go fishing, my pain seemed to stop on its own? Yet when confined to my office, my back pain became so out of hand that I had to stand while using my computer.
Because, as I would later find, I was the cause of the pain, not my back.
Now stick with me here for a minute – you’ve trusted me this long. I know it’s hard for many of you to believe that we can, in fact, control our own health. Regardless, consider the other benefits I found to yoga within a few short months.
Yoga immediately helped me sleep. At no time will you be more relaxed than after a session of yoga; able to separate yourself from the things that keep you up at night.
Yoga allowed me to concentrate on the job at hand more fully, whether that was solving a complex problem or tightening a screw. By doing so, yoga allows us to perform that role better, more efficiently and quicker, and allows us to be immersed in the duty.
Yoga immediately increased my flexibility to a level I never thought possible, and totally eliminated my back pain each time I took a class.
Yoga gave me a better understanding of people and humanity, allowed me more confidence when dealing with strangers, and gave me more peace of mind in foreign situations.
So, let’s summarize: I eliminated my back pain, slept better, was more “in the moment” and didn’t feel out of place when I traveled. I wonder what type of job, or hobby, such results would benefit?
Not surprisingly, I thought of the idea for this column while I was in yoga class (although I wasn’t supposed to be thinking about work). Immediately, I wondered why I hadn’t introduced this subject matter before, as I truly feel our place in society, as well as our love for hardcore fishing, makes us bass guys perfect candidates for the benefits of yoga. In all, this is a call to action.
I encourage you – no, I beg you – if you suffer from chronic pain, worry, stress, anxiety or the overwhelming need for a vacation – try yoga. Once.
We’re seeing talk of this in the pro bass circles, filtering down from other athletics; I’ve interviewed pros who find yoga a complete game-changer. Many NFL players practice some form of yoga-inspired stretching. All Olympians do.
On the downside, you can say you wasted an hour of your time and about 12 bucks in a class full of girls in cute outfits. On the upside, you may discover a world you can’t wait to go back to.
You don’t need to know anything ahead of time, but I encourage you to go with someone who has done yoga before and start with a basic class. You only need to stretch to your level of confidence. I’ve been in yoga classes with 90-year-olds, as well as a man who was so debilitated from an auto accident that he could barely get down on his hands and knees on his first visit. His doctors said he may never walk again.
After a month of yoga, I watched him touch his toes for the first time in a decade, then stand on one leg.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)