Yogi Can't Jump Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 2

Why Functional Fitness?

20 min - Conversation


Kira and Helya have a great conversation about Helya's new show Yogi Can't Jump. While this is not a yoga show per se, the practices in this new show will help support your yoga practice and allow you to show up in a different way and make movement fun again. Helya and Kira explore why and how.
What You'll Need: No props needed

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Aug 08, 2017
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Hi friends, good to see you here. So glad you're joining us, this is my friend Helia. And this latest show is not a yoga show, yet it's completely essential for your ability to experience yoga. So just to give you a little bit of history of how we ended up here, almost two years ago during a study of the Bhagavad Gita, I realized that I too was slumped in the chariot unable to stand up and fight. And I came to the understanding that my practices, the way I was practicing yoga, was simply reinforcing an already existing pattern of freeze and fold.

And then it felt hypocritical to claim to be peaceful if I didn't even have the strength to fight. So I found my way back into the gym, which I never thought I would do. Found myself turning, found myself putting down my books and picking up kettlebells. And about that time is when I walked into my friend Helia's studio down in Ventura and just fell in love with her enthusiasm, her deep heartfelt care, and especially the community that she had built around creating a sense of real true self-confidence from building capacity, stamina, strength, and endurance. And so we invited her to come here to yoga anytime to share some of these practices to help build a more balanced movement pattern, as she puts it, to make movement fun again, to find that vital energy that sometimes can be lost when we're stuck in a situation where we feel like the most important thing here is to be and appear peaceful, when really the most important thing for any yoga in any moment is to be able to have the skill set to show up and be appropriate to the moment.

So just to help set yourself up for success, Helia agreed to talk a little bit and share her understanding of fitness and how she plays so that we can have a more integrated dialogue as we look at new ways. So glad you're here. Thank you for having me. What an honor to be here with the community and you. It's been great so far.

Sweet. So just to help our audience, because most of us are yogis, how do you define fitness? To me, fitness is a lifestyle. It incorporates three pillars, which I incorporate into my gym. It's called the studio.

Like there's not enough studios around, right? But it incorporates strength, intensity, and mobility. I still have yoga classes because I truly believe in yoga and I love yoga. I have a very deep appreciation for it. But I don't just want to do yoga and I feel that my power and my strength has come from other things and that's evolved.

But I would say fitness to me is being able to get up every day and move, sweat, get my heart rate up and it'll evolve as I get older. Things change. Life changes. But for me at this point, for more, I was in my past and where I am going, it makes sense for me to have an all encompassing practice rather than one outlet. We've put together this great series of workouts, three practices at each levels which have such a fun play of time and intensity and rest.

Can you help us understand what the primary purpose of these workouts are? What's the goal? The goal? The primary goal? Primary goal.

I mean, the big goal is to just make you move in a different way, to get your heart rate up, to get some sweat on your mat. That's my biggest goal, is to just get you to a point where you're like, whoa, my body feels different here. Being uncomfortable is always strengthening in a way, in my opinion. I love the mobility aspect of yoga and I have a lot of the moves and I'll throw out a lot of different aspects that I've incorporated into my practice and then I'll change the time and I'll make it faster and slower and more rest and less rest just so you get to play. I love what you just said about how we grow and being uncomfortable and how that's strength building.

Help us understand a little bit about how you know these practices are working in your life or how has your involvement in these practices changed your life? Well, I started out in triathlon, so very forward movement because we're running forward, we're cycling forward, we're swimming forward. Everything is in this direction and it takes time to train for triathlons. It takes a lot of time to train for triathlons and when in college, it was so nice, man, I took those days for granted so much. I could go work out for two hours in the morning, two hours in the afternoon, two hours after work and I would be short on time a little bit, I didn't know how I ran out of time all day.

Then I took a corporate job and that was out the window really quickly. I was too tired, I was too tired going to sleep, too tired waking up early. It was too much. I wanted something that could give me the same intensity and feel like the endorphins that you feel after a really good running session. All the happy juice flowing through your system so you have a pep in your step and you get more done and you're more efficient.

But I couldn't quite figure out how to do it with one thing that was slower or even going to the gym was not exciting for me. It's not something that I wanted to do. I wanted to just get it done. So I came up with this, it's not something that I came up with, but it's when you put your series together, when you put your movements together, that's of my own. But this style of training has been around for a little while and I tried it.

First 10 minutes, then 20 minutes, then back down to 10 minutes. I played with intensities and I loved the feeling afterwards and I saw results. I saw better results, like for me physically, I felt stronger, I felt healthier, I looked better. My clothes fit better than just doing cardio. And so I gained some muscle.

When you see results, you get a little bit addicted, right? So it was fun and then it turned into, I need it, I want it. And so it kind of grew from there. The fitness industry seems to go through a lot of innovations. It seems to have a really easy way of incorporating new findings of how the heart rate works and how the body recovers and how to work with the breath.

How are you able to, or how do you find yourself able to stay current with the latest findings without just trashing everything you used to know? Like how do you grapple with that? That's a good question. You know, life has changed, right? So it would be silly in my opinion to stick to old ways all the time.

We just figured out that there's another ligament in the knee that we had no idea existed six months ago. And if on that level, if we're still figuring out how the body anatomy works, how could there only be one way? And so how I keep in touch with it is by education, going to conferences, making sure that I'm with the top fitness leaders, but taking everything with a grain of salt and making sure that I know what feels good for me and testing it out on what feels good with my people is what we are evolving towards. So I may not bring something right away and just be like, okay, we're switching everything we're doing. We're doing one thing and it's this.

And everything else was terrible. But rather than doing that, you know, and a great example is a Turkish getup. There's so many different ways that it's been taught in the past. I can look at something and be like, oof, that probably doesn't feel good, or maybe it does for them. But I would never correct them unless they're in my class ready to learn from me.

So evolving is a part of life. A lot of people are not necessarily prone to just pick up change and run with it. But with that comes slow change. Some people run with it right away and some people are like, but that's okay. Eventually we all go in the same pool.

Now a big part of your job and so much of, I think, why you've built such a beautiful community at your studio is your ability to motivate people. And so what do you find are some of the most common obstacles for people to come to love fitness like you have or what are some of the largest excuses or what do you find yourself trying to work with in that realm the most often? Oh man, I don't have time and I'm too weak to try the way you're working out. And I always say for the time piece, well, there's other options. You can do half of the workout if you'd like.

You can try these online workouts where it's, I think, our longest was about 20 minutes. Not even. Everybody has 20 minutes to try. Just to try. And weakness, I feel that the expectation on the body is so high when you haven't done anything, you can't expect to just be there to know, to feel the same way and to get the same benefits.

However, just because you're in shape doesn't mean that you're done learning, right? So it goes both ways. And I feel that if you're trying to work out to come to class, it's a little bit backwards. Come to class and do the best you can and always try to maintain that positive attitude. I feel like that is what gets people to get better and just progress in whatever it is they're capable of doing.

How do you help your clients and your students understand the difference between good and bad pain and feedback and how to know when it's their body really clearly telling them it's over or whether it's their mind pooping out on them? Well, if I'm with them, I can probably see them. I think internally we always know, right? We know, I knew when I tore my ACL. I knew something bad had happened.

I knew I was out. But when you're doing 10 squat jumps in a matter of 30 seconds, muscle fatigue is not the same as bone and tendonitis, knees, shoulders, elbows sometimes, wrists. Those are the things that come up a lot. And what I've done is I've found a really good acupuncturist and a Chinese medicine sports massage person that I absolutely love working with because he and I are in the same wavelength and he teaches me a lot about movement. And so when I have a person that I feel is actually in pain in a different way than just muscle soreness, right?

Not like I went home. I put up some ice on it. I'm fine tomorrow. Obviously, there's a lot of communication. But when there's a point of take a break, go see somebody because that's where my expertise end and somebody else's begin.

So I have to look for the warning signs of it hurts this way. And I tried foam rolling it out all week and it still hurts. Then it's like, okay, maybe something else is wrong. But knowing how to communicate with your body and with me is really important because I'm looking for keywords or maybe even it's just the way they look at me sometimes. It's a person to person connection as well.

One of the main things I notice changes for me within the fitness practice and the yoga practice is how I'm playing with my breath and what I'm using my breath to do or to not do or to experience. And how do you find yourself learning or innovating about how to use your breath in your practice? In yoga, I feel that for me, it's a sometimes a relaxing move, right? To exhale, to go deeper into your pose. With my practice sometimes an exhale means contraction.

And I think they intertwine in a lot of ways, but the biggest thing, for example, pushing a kettlebell over your head or swinging, that comes with contraction and your breath is the assistant and almost the guide for the contraction of your muscles because that's what creates it for me. And I feel like that's what gives us the power to push. So it's a little different, but in a lot of ways it also relaxes too. And when you get to the top of something, you don't let go, but you set yourself up with that breath to hold and to pull back down, let's say for a press, for example. One of the main purposes for me in coming to these practices with the kettlebell and lifting heavy things and playing with even contraction was such a wild concept for me when I first was suggested.

But as I've gotten stronger, I also notice I've gotten stiffer. Like I have reduced my flexibility. And I guess I wonder is, do you think it's possible to be strong without some amount of stiffness? Absolutely. I do believe, I think that's why I chose kettlebells as my source of movement because I'm fascinated by the way that these people move within the community.

They're super strong. It's a very strength-oriented movement. It's like a juggling act in a lot of ways from what I see, but they also can get into their cossacks and into a pistol squat. And that takes ankle, knee, hip mobility that a lot of people are missing. But I also feel that it's because of the contraction that you can create mobility and with proper care, right?

So stretching regularly, understanding what it means to be mobile, working with your body, calisthenics, I feel are a big part of our body is meant to move. Our body is not necessarily meant to push a lot of weight all the time, right? I'm not really into the super heavy, but I like strength. So I think they go hand in hand and I feel that the strongest people that I've seen, that I admire are both. What do you like most about yoga?

I love the way yoga makes me feel because it is my, first of all, it's really difficult for me to find a place where I can truly appreciate yoga and just be silent with yoga. And when I do, I remember all the places I can go with yoga without the crazy movement. So I'm on the opposite side and yoga is my calm, you know, it doesn't mean that I don't meditate when I'm playing with kettlebells. In fact, I feel that I totally do, but it's a different feeling and it's a different calm. Sometimes my head is going so fast that there is no way in hell I'm going to be able to get through yoga.

That is a fact. So then I turn to kettlebells and once I get it out, then I do yoga and I'm like, oh yeah, this is what I love. Does that make sense? Totally. I'm so glad you're here.

Thank you. I'm so glad to be here. Thank you for the courage to show up with a bunch of yogis and help us learn how to have the courage to move more fearlessly, more fluidly and with greater strength and capacity. I really hope you have the confidence to try and if we're lucky, I will come back in season two and start to show us how to throw some kettlebells around.


Petra L
3 people like this.
Awesome! I have seen an amazing change in my body as I have added functional training for the last 12 months twice a week. My yoga practice is so much stronger and softer, since I can hold the pose in a different way and relax more. With the strength there is less effort, and more stillness. And less aches and pains in joints!
So glad you all made this oppurtunity available! Looking forward to the season!
Kira Sloane
Petra! Right? Same experience. Helya's Level 2 and 3 will come out over the next few weeks. xok
Kate M
1 person likes this.
Ah yes! Great idea to incorporate this kind of training into YogaAnytime! I am learning more and more (as I age) that a varied fitness regime is what is healthiest for the body and mind. It is important to challenge the body and mind by jumping into new patterns of movement/thinking. I'm looking forward to giving this a try! : )

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