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Stretch Into Success: Yoga in the Gym

Stretch Into Success: Yoga in the Gym

When Megan Eacret’s business partner left Cheer San Diego to start her own program—taking some of their clients with her—Eacret was faced with a dilemma: shortage of flyers. Rather than feeling discouraged, Eacret embraced it as a welcome challenge. “Some of our athletes who had only flown a prep or two as needed in pyramids were given an awesome opportunity to develop their skills and become full-time flyers,” shares Eacret.

But there was a catch. “Two of our potential flyers were very strong and muscular athletes, but with little flexibility—a huge challenge for cheerleaders in general, but especially for a flyer,” she recounts. To pump up the athletes’ pliability, Eacret decided to offer them flexibility classes comprised primarily of vinyasa yoga.

“Our Flexibility for Flyers class was an incredible tool for these athletes to gain the flexibility they needed to be in the air and help their teams be successful,” she says. “They are now better able to stick to their stunts because of the increased flexibility and are also more confident as flyers because they can pull their body lines in the air.”

Eacret gained two new flyers—all thanks to yoga.

Yoga for Cheerleaders

The health benefits of yoga for all people are no secret, but for athletes, yoga can be even more important. According to Sage Rountree, author of The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga, yoga improves strength and flexibility in tandem, while also enhancing focus. “The balance is critical for cheerleaders, who need an abundance of both strength and flexibility, [as well as] razor-sharp concentration and self-control skills,” says Rountree.

Eacret’s cheerleaders are living proof: those who’ve participated in the gym’s yoga program report improvement in body awareness and control. “The relaxation and breathing exercises have benefited our cheerleaders by helping them learn new ways to cope with stress and control emotions,” she adds.

Like Cheer San Diego, more and more gyms are discovering the joys and benefits of this ancient Indian art of exercise. However, before putting a yoga program in place, it’s important to note a few key considerations:

Offer cheer-specific yoga: Not just any yoga instructor will do for teaching cheerleaders. “Hire an experienced teacher who will focus more on sport-specific exercises, integration (keeping from the far edges of flexibility work; less is more in this population), recovery practices and mindfulness,” advises Rountree. She also recommends keeping the intensity of the yoga practice in inverse proportion to that of other training. “Bodies need stress to adapt, but too much yoga practice combined with rigorous training can be overkill and lead to injury,” she adds.

Find the right coach: Much like hiring a cheer coach, it’s vital to hire a trained instructor with the proper certifications and knowledge, so make sure any instructors you hire have at least a Registered Yoga Teacher certification. Eacret found her instructors through Craigslist and word of mouth. “It’s amazing how many connections we find from just asking our families at the gym, and we always do background checks on our fitness instructors since we work with kids,” she says.

Know the going rates: Offering competitive pay can help attract a quality yoga instructor. Pay should be determined based on the person’s level of experience, along with the duration and frequency of classes. Geographic regions may also differ due to cost of living—for instance, Wendy Riley of Altus, OK-based Whitaker’s Extreme Gymnastics, paid her two instructors $10/hour for the yoga sessions last season, while at Cheer San Diego, instructors get around $30/hour.

Go for coaches who can do double-duty: When hiring a new dance or tumbling coach, consider giving preference to those who are also yoga-certified. Fort Mill, SC-based Charlotte All Stars offers yoga classes twice a week to cheerleaders and moms by a dance instructor who is also yoga-certified. “We actually hired a dance instructor, and we were contemplating yoga classes for increasing core strength and flexibility. Since she was yoga-certified, we got her to teach yoga as well,” says gym director Jamey Harlow.

Owners can go that route, too: Riley of Whitaker’s Extreme Gymnastics also procured a National Exercise Trainers Association certification recently and now teaches yoga at her gym.

Set up a swap: If you don’t have enough space for a yoga program, consider an exchange program. Take Griffin-GA based Legion of All Stars, which has partnered with Club Fitness of Griffin. They offer discounts to the gym members for signing up with them for cheer/ tumbling classes, and vice versa.

What’s in it for me?

Many gym owners are in a constant state of high stress and could definitely use some yoga Zen. Tarisa Parrish, owner of The YogaSoul Center in Eagan, MN, says, “Running a gym is a demanding career. Keeping up at the necessary pace without losing your sanity requires self-care and calm. You need a grounded approach to life and business,” she says. “Many gym owners find that when they have a daily yoga practice, they make fewer mistakes and seem to get more done in less time.”

Eacret couldn’t agree more. “As far as a gym owner’s personal well-being is considered, it’s awesome to have yoga offered in-house so that if I end up having an hour free unexpectedly, I can head up stairs and get some ‘Om’ time,” she says.

-Dinsa Sachan



C’mon, Get Happy: Boost Your Happiness Quotient

C’mon, Get Happy: Boost Your Happiness Quotient

Much like a double full or a scorpion, happiness is a learned skill—and good things come to those who practice. If you’re looking to lead a happier life, it’s crucial to learn the right skills and put them into practice. So how do you get from point A to point Be-happy? Here are a few clues.

Commit acts of kindness. Sometimes the fastest way to personal happiness is to make others happy—whether that means planning a philanthropic event, volunteering, or banding together to help another gym in need (like many did earlier this year when a tornado destroyed Cheer Fusion in Fredericksburg, VA).

Contributing positively to others’ well-being can also boost your sense of purposefulness. “I believe wholeheartedly that happiness is tied to purpose,” says motivational speaker and success coach Shawn Anderson. When individuals have a passionate purpose that inspires and drives them, happiness and fulfillment often follow hand-in-hand. At Gym Kix in Copperas Cove, TX, owner Stephanie Beveridge spearheads charity efforts for deployed soldiers and the local Hope Pregnancy Center. “[Our work] allows us to realize that there are other people out there struggling and how a little time, effort, and money on our part can be a great blessing,” she says.

Be optimistic. “Happiness is choice,” says Randy Taran, founder of the non-profit Project Happiness. “We cannot control the situations we’re in, but we can control our attitude towards them.” Beveridge agrees, saying, “We cannot equate our happiness with only the ‘good times’ or we’ll all be searching forever for happiness.”

When something doesn’t go your way, look for the opportunity within the adversity. (Taran calls this your “advertunity.”) Staying optimistic is key during difficult times, since focusing on an emotion tends to attract more of the same. The more you can focus on happiness and laughter, the more chances you’ll attract those into your life.

Know your happiness triggers. Do you know what makes your heart smile? Taran calls these things your “happiness triggers.” Spending time on the things you love is crucial for happiness—and the better you know yourself, the easier it will be to lead a more satisfying life. For Morton Bergue of CheerGyms.com, it’s taking time to indulge in a spa day, while for Beveridge of Gym Kix, happy times are most often spent relaxing with family.

If you’re still scratching your head as to your  own happiness triggers, Taran suggests thinking of happy times and analyzing what made those times special. By pinpointing the situations that elicit happiness, you can then incorporate those triggers into your daily life.

Count your blessings. Expressing gratitude can open your eyes to all that you have and all that you’ve accomplished. “There are a hundred blessings we each have that we tend to ignore, only to wonder instead why we don’t have something else,” points out Anderson. By being grateful for even the smallest things, you’re more apt to be content and appreciative for what you’ve got. For those struggling with anger or dealing with distressing emotions, try keeping a gratitude journal—or simply make a list of 100 things you’re thankful for and watch the anger melt away as the list gets bigger.

Follow your heart. A fulfilled heart is a happy heart. When you’re doing what you love, happiness is easier to find. Don’t wait for the perfect moment to start chasing happiness. Making one small change today can change your whole life.

Happy days are here again.