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  • Writer's pictureMeg Donnelly

E25 - Yin Yoga for the Yang Athlete with Gretchen Schutte of Tulaprana Yoga & Wellness

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On today's episode, we speak with Yogi Gretchen Schutte of Tulaprana Yoga & Wellness about a very specific type of yoga, Yin Yoga and how athletes can benefit from these longer held poses. Whether you currently practice daily or you've never done yoga before, you'll be sure to gain a few great takeaways!

Connect with Gretchen and Tulaprana Yoga:

Mentioned in this episode:

Tulaprana Yoga & Wellness:

Twilight Class with Gretchen at Inner Power Yoga:

Special Thanks to today's episode sponsor, Denise Rodriguez of DR House Realty:

Transcription of this episode may be slightly modified for reading vs. listening, without changing the intergrity of the episode or episode meaning:

Meg Donnelly: 00:00 Hello Northern Virginia. This is NoVA Weekend Warriors focused on those runners, cyclists, athletes, outdoor enthusiasts and fans of fitness in the northern Virginia area. I'm, Meg Donnelly, a Licensed Massage Therapist and Herndon, Virginia, focused on those weekend warriors. As with every episode of Nova Weekend Warriors, this podcast is for entertainment purposes only and should not be taken as advice, medical or otherwise. The views of guests in each episode are solely their own and not necessarily the views of the NoVA Weekend Warriors podcast or of Meg Donnelly in her capacity as a Licensed Massage Therapist.

Meg Donnelly: 00:39 And now that that is out of the way, I am very excited for today's episode. So today we are going to be speaking with Yogi Gretchen Schutte. Now, Gretchen began her yoga journey in 2006 when she started practicing yoga as a method of stress relief. Her practice grew and she found the physical benefits of her practice to be valuable as well. She is a certified Vinyasa Yoga, Yin Yoga and is a Yoga Nidra teacher. She believes that yoga is for everybody, which I love and we're definitely going to talk about that and the benefits of yoga, including balanced breath and mindfulness, and how that can be utilized off the mat and every area of our lives. For today's purposes, we're going to narrow our scope a little bit and we're going to talk about how Yin Yoga can be used as an added benefit of mobility for clients that may have other fitness goals, whether that's running, cycling, anything else that they're doing from a fitness perspective. Would you like to elaborate on that a little bit?

Gretchen Schutte: 01:48 No doubt. And I do appreciate that we're narrowing the topic down because Meg, you and I have talked and I can talk for a very long time specifically about yoga because I am completely in love. And, one of my favorite things about yoga though is Yin Yoga. And as you mentioned, Yin Yoga is amazing for improving mobility and it's also wonderful for aiding in recovery from activities like running, cycling, lifting, swimming, anything you might be dealing with an ing on it that's very active. And actually for another word, another Yoga word, very Yang, very dynamic. Those kinds of activities that we do that are Yang are all about the muscles and the the yang tissue, the act of tissue that needs to be stressed by doing activities like load bearing activities. Now Yin Yoga on the other side of the spectrum, Yin Yoga is so wonderful as a compliment to those Yang activities.

Gretchen Schutte: 02:49 Now what may kind of strike people as a little off putting is it's a slower style of yoga, however, it's very beneficial and so this slower paced style of yoga poses or held for extended periods of time and that's because it's going to be influencing the Yin tissues into our Yin tissues are things like, and I'm sure Meg, you've work with these as a massage therapist, our Fascia, our tendons and our ligaments. You can even consider a bone Yin tissue and all those tissues are drier and more static than muscle or flesh or even the fluids that run through our body. And so because the Yin tissue is drier and more static, it really appreciates that slower paced spending time and lingering in poses, which is the pursuit of Yin yoga. And so when we spend time in those poses and linger again, I said it's the opposite of that Yang activity.

Gretchen Schutte: 03:49 We begin to create space and we begin to stress, which is not a negative word, it's simply a function of physics, but we stress the tissues like fascia and we stress our tendons and ligaments and a very gentle long hold sort of way. And that begins to create space. And the Fascia itself could be binding someone up. Let's say you can't lift your leg high enough or you can't get deep enough into a squat. It could be connective tissue that's holding you back, not your ability to go deeper into the squat physically. And so when you work with poses, say something that's influencing your hip region, you can begin to make space. And that adds to the mobility. Being able to take a longer stride, being able to take a deeper swing, being able to reach higher because of those shapes that we linger in, in the practice of Yin.

Meg Donnelly: 04:42 Sure. And I think too that, , there's a couple of things that I want to touch on there. And one of those things is I may come to it from a different perspective, right? So for me, fashion is perhaps a little bit less, uh, is, is, is a little bit less flexible in, in terms of what, you know, my thinking and my background and in terms of knowledge of it. But what ends up happening is when we're focusing and we're kind of, within ourselves holding a pose and feeling like that stretching out, then what that in turn does is affect the nervous system, which is going to send a release to your body. So it's not always that I'm saYing that I'm physically making changes to the Fascia. I may or may not, and that may be under dispute depending on who you talk to and what areas of the world. But I think it's more so that, if, if I, if I'm kind of in that mindset that I'm stretching out these things, it allows my body to protect less and to kind of allow me to open up a little bit more. So would you kind of, you know, we, we obviously are coming from two very different perspectives on this, but would agree that maybe the way that we interpret, interpret it would be different, but we're still after the same goal? Or do you think I'm way off base here?

Gretchen Schutte: 06:05 No, I don't think you're off base. It's definitely the same end goal of having more mobility, having more flexibility in the body, and then having an activity you can do that is the opposite of running or lifting that helps calm the body back down and helps the body recover. Right. On top of having the relaxation, having the sense of spaciousness, you're also creating, your body's generating these organisms that, that begin to recover and repair things you may have broken down during a very fun and active activity.

Meg Donnelly: 06:44 So how did you get into Yin Yoga to begin with?

Gretchen Schutte: 06:49 So I joke that if I had started running before I did yoga, that I wouldn't have gotten off the finish line at all. So I was a Yogi first and somewhere in my late twenties, early thirties, I decided like, why not let's, let's try something new. Let's just try running. So I did a couch to 5k, which is theoretically 8 weeks, took me like 12. When over time just began to build, into running and eventually got to running half marathons and I would never been able to do any of that if I did not have my practice of yoga for many different reasons. The mindfulness that comes with it, the ability to focus on a goal I'm running, I'm sure lots of folks out there as well as cycling and swimming is a very meditative activity that that consistency in the, in the practice is something that you really just drop into a space. You guys are meditating, which is amazing. And then on the physical side of things, I was actively practicing yoga two or three times a week, if not more. And that kept my hamstrings happy, kept my hips happy and helps stretch everything back out. But when I really began to find Yin classes, that slower paced practice and lingering in poses that were influencing the regions, let's say above the kneecap, up into the lower rib cage, I was able to spend time in lingering those poses and creating space and finding this again, the recovery and then the mobility where my stride was getting better and I was excited to see this improvement and just feeling better as a runner. And so then I, you know, I share that at the Yoga Studio I teach at, I've had the opportunity to work with some crossfit gyms as well as another strength and endurance gym and some places locally here in sterling just to share these practices for the benefits they have physically. But as I noted earlier, the benefits they have in regards to that mindfulness and slowing things down because life is a little, is a little fast paced and that might be putting it mildly.

Meg Donnelly: 09:03 Especially here in northern Virginia.

Gretchen Schutte: 09:05 Yeah. So I had people come in or they're like vibrating when their walking into studio, I'm like, whoa. And by the time they leave they're like floating. And I'm like, yes, we did it again. So it's just been, it's been such a blessing just for my own body, the fact that I can still run and I had been able to help others improve their wellbeing and their ability to do the activities that they truly love.

Meg Donnelly: 09:31 Yeah.

Meg Donnelly: 09:35 We'll continue with today's episode in just a moment, but first a word from today's sponsor. Today's episode is sponsored by Denise Rodriguez of D.R. House Realty Group. Denise has lived in the northern Virginia area for over 35 years and is extremely knowledgeable about all things northern Virginia. She is my trusted real estate advisor. She's assisted me personally as well as my family, friends and colleagues know more times than I can count. Denise Rodriguez has her designation as a green realtor and a senior real estate specialist so she can identify solutions that best meet the needs of the health focused weekend warrior at every stage of their life. Find out more by connecting with Denise at or message her on Facebook at @drhouserealty, that's d, r, h, o, u, s, e r, e, a, l, t, y. And now back to our episode.

Meg Donnelly: 10:43 And so I think what you would say, I'm am if, tell me if I'm on the right train of thought, but because in yoga terms, what we're doing in most exercise, most of those ink exercises is considered Yang by yoga standards. So those are constant movement, very dynamic, right? And Yin Yoga tends to be a little bit more static. And so what are the things that I have questioned or thought about is typically when I was working in a fitness club, we did not do static stretches before exercise. It was always done after. So we did dynamic first and then we did static. So when I'm going into Yin Yoga, that's kind of a different mentality, right? Because I'm going right into these static stretches or how, how does, how does that work?

Gretchen Schutte: 11:40 No, it, it is a little different. And there's multiple trains of thought when it comes to dynamic stretching versus static stretching. And I'm not gonna, I wouldn't argue that different things work for different bodies, right? And different shapes work for different bodies. So Yin Yoga typically as a practice that you would come into hold and you would do would take a Yin Yoga practice just walking in off the street and sitting down. And all the poses as a side note are all poses that are usually seated or lying down, or, or facing the floor poses that are very grounded and so that the muscles can quiet. And it can just be a very relaxing but can be intense practice. Now one of the classes that I lead at a yoga studio at Inner Power Yoga where I teach, it's a practice that allows, and I offer a bit of movement prior to the end practice. And I do that because people were coming in from, like we noted earlier, a world that is just like a pinball game. And to go from that to like the lad down, maybe a bit jarring. So I offer a little bit of movement just to ground the body. I talk about getting rid of the Gremlins, and then moving into these static holds and the Yin practice itself. The theory behind it is you do practice it with a cooler or cold body so that the muscles are quiet and the muscles do not take away from that activity with the end tissue. Because as I'm sure some of us know, our muscles have very important job of protecting us in. So they take the brunt of activity, they take the brunt of it, whether it's running or lifting, that we use the muscles to do that and to the muscles are constantly protecting our ligaments and our tendons and our bones.

Gretchen Schutte: 13:35 And so if you were to, heaven forbid pull something, you're going to tear muscle before you would tear ligament or tendon before you would do something else really, really terrible. And so that quiet, colder practice is so that the muscles can stopped doing their job for a little while. And then, like I said, the poses will then influence and create that spaciousness physically as well as mentally in the body.

Meg Donnelly: 14:00 And I think that almost completely opposite of what we're doing in other times of our life. And so for us to take the time to respect the opposite...

Gretchen Schutte: 14:13 yes...

Meg Donnelly: 14:14 I think is really important.

Gretchen Schutte: 14:15 no, no, I agree 100%. And that's one of the things, I mean, and I mean, I, I love my activity and I, you know, I go to a gym twice a week. I practice Vinyasa Yoga, which is a Yang dynamic practice. Like I said, I run, I've gotten a trail running recently, which I really love. But that on top of working and teaching and life, finding those spaces, creating space for ourselves to just take time, to be able to relax and be able to reconnect with the breath and with your, you know, with just being present, I think makes us better people to go back out into the act of world and show up fully and do our best at whatever it is that we're doing, whether it's running a race or supporting a team that's running a multi-leg race, or just, you know, or you're being a parent or a partner, whatever that might be.

Meg Donnelly: 15:13 Right. So, uh, how, you know, when, when you're working with athletes, what do you typically recommend for them in terms of a Yin Yoga practice? are, is there a certain amount per week that you would like to see someone do or is more always better? How do you determine that?

Gretchen Schutte: 15:37 That's an excellent question. And like many things of this nature, consistency is better than intensity. You know, if you're training for a marathon, you wouldn't run out. You go wouldn't go and do like 18 miler and a 20 miler and be like, all right, let's do it.

Meg Donnelly: 15:52 Yeah, really nice. If I didn't have to put the work in, right.

Gretchen Schutte: 15:58 Some people could, but yeah. I've also only my limits half that's, but nonetheless, so that consistency and if you know, if there's space to do, let's say an hour practice once a week and if you, if you focus on the body parts that you've been very active with, like I mentioned earlier, I've been doing a lot of squats and a lot of walking lunges and things of that nature. Really taking care of the lower region of the body. If you find it there, you'll have a lot of tightness in the shoulders, you know, work with the upper region of the body. But then what you could also do is, and this is something I've been incorporating for myself at home. We know we all, at the end of the day, I'm not going to, well I shouldn't, I shouldn't generalize. But lots of us might sit down on the couch and watch an episode of something.

Gretchen Schutte: 16:46 It's football season, maybe that's on the TV. Instead of sitting on the couch, what one could also do is slide the coffee table over. And while they're watching a show or you know, whatever they're watching on TV, you can sit in a shape, you could sit on the floor and bring your legs out into a diamond shape. Bring the feet together, sit in what's called butterfly pose and spend some time, maybe spend a commercial break sitting on the floor. And if you did that a little bit every evening, that could go a long way. And then have that once a week and then maybe you begin to see the benefits and then you choose to add a little more in. But again, that consistency is what is most important.

Meg Donnelly: 17:29 Great. So if we could kind of start with one hour a week and maybe if we can kind of make our ritual those evenings when we might have some downtime of just adding in one or two poses, that that would be maybe a really good place to start.

Gretchen Schutte: 17:44 Would be amazing to start there for sure.

Meg Donnelly: 17:46 Fabulous. And then you can have obviously add on from now when you are working with someone, do you typically recommend a group session for them to start? Do you typically recommend one on one? Do the hoses within the Yin and Yang and Yin Yoga is not like vinyasa where there is a very like regimented set of poses or are, is there?

Gretchen Schutte: 18:11 No, there's not a regiment to it. I teach, which I love, I love and I love both, right? I am a right angle mind, you know, parallel kind of person. but that's, you know, that's me and part of me from a former life. However. So I like structure, but I also like to have some creativity that's fits within the structure. So from your first question at the beginning of the question, you know, Yin Yoga could certainly be done in a private setting. And I've worked with folks individually because they have very specific needs on what it is that they're working on. And it's better to have a conversation, which is not often what happens during a group class. I've also done a couple of people, like a semiprivate. So you can still have that conversation. And that's usually, you know, anywhere from two to like six or eight people and they all have similar goals and they're all doing similar kinds of activities.

Gretchen Schutte: 19:05 So generally speaking, there'll be a certain set of poses that would work really well for let's say a cyclist or a long distance runner. And then group classes are an amazing way to, you know, they're, they're economical, they're scheduled. You know, you can plan to go at a certain time, it's always going to be there and they're good and you're going to get benefit from them. But if there's something specific that you want to work on, just like you would go and find like a running coach, if you wanted to work with a yoga teacher like myself to kind of dig in to where you're trying to benefit yourself, that's something you could certainly work with individually. Or, like I said, like I've worked with a small group of trainers at a gym and we had us a very specific set of, you know, six movements of the spine. Mobility in the shoulders in that practice was very much focused within those boundaries.

Meg Donnelly: 19:58 Okay, great. So what, what, what am I missing so far? What have we not talked about that we need to talk about before we wrap up today

Gretchen Schutte: 20:07 We touched on things to begin with and what I'll sort of maybe wrap this up with is that, you know, there are gang activities are dynamic, amazing, wonderful activities that our body can do. And then there are Yin activities, which is Yin Yoga, restorative yoga, meditation, things that are much more grounding. And both activities are important. Both activities benefit the body and both bring balance to our lives. And I think that's super valuable in many ways.

Meg Donnelly: 20:43 Yeah. And that was said like way more artfully. So what I'll always say... Yeah, way more artfully than I do. So when you come for a session with me for a massage, I'm always like, okay, so I do what we do on the table, which is great, but it ain't going to mean a hill of beans unless you get out there and get your body moving during the week. And so that is, you know, what you're doing during the week is very Yang, right? In Yoga terms. So that's the movement, what you're doing with me. It was very restorative. Now maybe some assisted stretching and that may be some other things as well. What I really love about what you do and what I'm really excited about is that you help people to move better throughout their week. So it's not just about the session and it's not just about, you know, whether it's a one-on-one, an individual session, a group session, a small group. It's about allowing people to be able to move more and move more fluidly and balance the hecticness of northern Virginia with kind of that more grounding or whatever you want to call it. You know, everybody always way for it. But

Gretchen Schutte: 21:56 yes, 100% I love it.

Meg Donnelly: 22:00 All right, well now I do a little bit more of a active yoga right now. So I am ready to kind of give this Yin yoga a try. Where, where, where can we do that Gretchen? Where can we get in with a class with you?

Gretchen Schutte: 22:18 For sure, for sure. So I teach at a studio in Sterling, Virginia called Inner Power Yoga and that's And there are two classes a week on the schedule that I teach a class called twilight. And so on Friday evenings and on Sunday afternoons you can find me there to do a little movement, some Yin, some grounding, some breathing, some really good stuff to take you into your week in a better way as you noted. And then I'm also, I'm teaching more and more, which is delightful. And so not to bore you to death. A list of my workshops and different things that I'm doing in the area, can be found on my website. And so, I recently started my own business, which is super exciting because I get to reach out to many more people in the world and help them in the realm of Yoga and meditation. And so my website is Tulaprana Yoga and that's

Meg Donnelly: 23:24 Perfect.

Gretchen Schutte: 23:25 I got my schedule out there, all the kind of fun things that I'm offering up as well as my contact information. And so if folks want to reach out to me to bring me in and work with their group or work with some individual people, I would be more than happy to do so.

Meg Donnelly: 23:41 Awesome. And then in the show notes I will have all of those links as well. Now, the best way to get in touch with you. Is it through the website? Is it Facebook, is it Instagram, is it email? What's, what's the best way if somebody has a very direct question?

Gretchen Schutte: 23:56 Excellent question. And Facebook is really great. Tulaprana Yoga on Facebook and then email

Meg Donnelly: 24:07 Fabulous. So again, we'll have all of those links in there. So that anybody that wants to reach out with you can. Gretchen, I want to thank you. So I, you know what I, you know what I really love about you, Gretchen, is like, I'm a pretty like high energy person and sometimes it's good and sometimes it's a little much. And uh, every time I talk to you I'm always like, I always walk away, like, I feel nice and chill. I love it. But I love that that's not like, you know, the only way you're a very dynamic person, you run, you, you know, you trail run, you do many, many different things. Yes. It's not, you know, I don't want everyone to think that she's just like, you're just this chill, laid back person all the time. But I appreciate it every time, I always walk away and I just feel renewed when I'm around you. So thank you.

Gretchen Schutte: 24:53 Yeah, that is so sweet. Thank you man. I appreciate that.

Meg Donnelly: 24:56 My pleasure.

Gretchen Schutte: 24:58 Thank you so much for inviting me on to talk about clearly one of my passions. I look forward to seeing you again soon and seeing you on the mat sometimes soon.

Meg Donnelly: 25:09 Yes, definitely. All right, perfect. So like we talked about, I want to thank Gretchen one more time and I also want to thank you, our Nova weekend warriors. Listeners, you can find rate and subscribe to Nova Weekend Warriors. Most places you find podcasts and at or now we have making it even easier for you to connect with us. Catch NoVA Weekend Warriors each Wednesday featuring 15 to 20 minute conversations with the people who make northern Virginia run cycle, climb, lift and swim. Until my next episode, have a great week, have fun with your fitness goals. Maybe try a Yin yoga class or two, and enjoy each new challenge you set for yourself or that comes your way. Bye.

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