Photo: Brian Baker
By Brian Baker
Former wrestler Trish Stratus’ goal in life is getting the world to do yoga.
She tells me so while she’s curled up on the couch in her Stratusphere studio’s lounge.
The gentle stretching helped her heal a herniated disc after years of repetitive stress in World Wrestling Entertainment.
“I just abandoned the physiotherapy altogether and I made this routine where I get up every day, I do hot yoga, and I have my day,” she says. “I did that for two and half months straight and completely reversed the damage.”
With a big grin, she coaxes me to warm up to it too.
I nod obligingly, not out of fear of having her lay the smackdown on me, but because of a sincere interest. I have hopes of taking up the martial art capoeira, and yoga might help with that.
Athletes benefit greatly from the stretching, Trish says, and on Nov. 11 the Toronto Maple Leafs — enforcers Garnet Exelby, Jay Rosehill, Mike Komisarek with Luke Schenn and Viktor Stalberg — softened their image and visited her studio.
Fast on those skates, I decided to check yoga out for myself and add the naïve male perspective to the meditative art.
“All these movements, you’re heart rate is going up,” Trish says. “Even by holding a pose you’re isometricly training your body.
“You’re using your own body’s resistance. So that’s where the weight training comes in.”
Trish says the Leafs aren’t the only team paying the seven-time women’s champion a visit. A year ago the Argos’ Adriano Belli and Taylor Robertson took a class.
“It goes to show that anyone with an athletic body or anyone with body awareness, translates really well onto the mat,” she says. “Once they start doing it, they realize they can do it.”
With that in mind I returned a few days later ready for yoga with a pair of sweats the fiancée bought me, a Canadian bandana, and a sappy grin affixed to my face, thrilled by the idea of working out with Trish Stratus.
I enter the lounge to several folks chatting — it’s a split group of guys and gals. The instructor, Sandy, introduces herself and away we go inside one of the three studios at Stratusphere.
Natural light trickles in through windows, and Trish assuages my fears, assuring me yoga’s not that bad.
Sandy instructs all to start off in Child’s Pose, arms stretched forward, and then we start the cycle: Upward Dog to Downward Dog to Forward Bend.
It’s a lot to take in at first. There’s a natural rhythm involved with breathing and stretching, but I can’t seem to syncopate my tempo right away.
For the most part I realize I’m not doing too bad. My balance is adequate, especially when we pull our one leg up to our thighs. My flexibility is pretty good, too.
That is until we have to sit on our legs in the hero pose. The bones in my feet crack, sharing with my nervous system their disapproval.
I wince, muttering “Oh boy,” and try my best to suck it up.
It’s the only part of the routine — which runs 80 minutes — I have real trouble with. We go back into the child’s pose and Sandy walks around to ensure we are stretching properly.
I find myself looking at what everyone else is doing to ensure I’m in proper form. The mirror though throws me off, as Sandy indirectly says left foot, and I realize I’m using my right.
Each cycle focuses on a specific body area. We do postures like the Triangle, Warrior, Balancing Stick and another where we’re lunging and we slide our elbow over our opposing knee with palms together and our other elbow facing outwards.
Sandy guides us into the headstand, telling us not to rest our heads on the mat, but to let our shoulders bare our weight.
I do my best, and out of curiosity I sneak a glance at Trish who’s making like the CN Tower.
From there we work the core. We’re asked to do the plank, with our fingers interlaced, making it look like we’re praying. I can understand why. I was praying I wouldn’t collapse holding that pose for eight seconds.
My favourite stretch though was the Happy Baby. We extend our legs perpendicular to our bodies and pull down with our arms — looking much like a newborn playing with its feet.
In the last 10 minutes of the workout it feels more like kindergarten, as we restore ourselves in the Corpse Pose while relaxing to music.
Afterwards Trish asked me how it went, and I was totally stoked. Not that I didn’t expect to be, but I had more energy coming out of the workout than I did going in.
Complete Stratusfaction guaranteed, and I did indeed leave energized and full of élan, ready to tackle anything— including driving back home on the 400 series highways.
Sandy even offered a tip for a nocturnal woe of mine: the charley horse. To save myself from disturbing both my fiancée and cat by a sudden bolt out of bed and ensuing dance party of pain, she suggested I stretch the afflicted muscle in the opposite direction.
Good to know. I’m sure my roommates will be pleased too.
Trish was, as always, encouraging with a big smile, requesting the next I come, I bring the fiancée.
I’m brought back to our interview a few days earlier and Trish sharing that she hasn’t been weight training for five years. She’s kept in shape, post 2006 retirement, by doing yoga.
“Just practice what you might devote to the gym and you get more than just a physical workout, you get a mental workout,” she says. “I think in today’s big world that’s kind of important.”