I came to my yoga practice as an avid runner, wanting the flexibility and strength that a yoga practice could offer. I had no idea then how much yoga would change not only me as a runner but me as a person. As I began to find my strength on my mat, I also began to see that examining the connection between my mind and my body on my mat would help me on the road or on the trail. Eventually this awareness would make its way to all areas of my life.
Early on I struggled not to “muscle” in to a pose. I tried the approach that had worked thus far for me as a runner, to try harder and more often. I remember my first month Angie had Peacock pose as our challenge pose for the month. I struggled to get my arms in the right position, nevertheless hold myself once I did get there. About 3 weeks in I was able to make a feeble attempt at the shape of the pose. Becoming more and more frustrated with myself as the end of the month approached, I was determined to get the pose by applying the same idea I had to my running. I had recently run a 1/2 marathon at a 7 minute pace. To do that I had spent months doing mile repeats at that pace. I counted and in all, I had run 52 mile repeats at about a 7 minute pace. So the last day of the month as I went about my day, I tried peacock pose 52 times…and failed every single time. I went to bed so frustrated with myself because I just wasn’t going to be able to get it and I had no idea what to do. The next morning I woke up thought screw it, I’ll try it one more time. And then and there in my pajamas for the first time, I held the pose. I realized then that previously I’d been holding my breath and I had already decided I would fail or fall and so I did. I could not “muscle” in. I had to breath and find a sense of ease while remaining strong.
Fast forward 3 years and peacock pose is still a challenge for me but I have a new appreciation for the growth that happens in the journey. This past year my running has been more for the love of running than for racing for a certain time or pace. But the lessons yoga has taught me stay.
Breathe…in times of tension or anxiety in a race, when your tired when you want to push your pace, keep the breath steady and calm and you can manage your heart rate.
I will never forget mile 17 of my last marathon, (the point at which in all others I had started to fall apart) feeling completely calm and relaxed focusing on my breath and my form while passing people who breath was loud and labored and form was lost, thinking to myself “thank you yoga”.
Chin up, shoulders back, push the pain aside…Keeping proper alignment in an intense pose and being able to find ease will help you when running. When we get tired we tend to loose our form and that only serves to make things worse. Slouched shoulders will throw off your running form, causing the arms to cross the body and the hips to sway. It will also lessen the space you have to breathe.
Core…need I say more? The functional core strength gained from a yoga practice is so beneficial.
Balance…our muscles can become imbalanced and our bodies learn to compensate for that so repetitive movements like running make tight muscles tighter and weak muscles weaker. A yoga practice can strengthen those weak muscles and stretch the tight ones.
If you ever have any questions about running and yoga please don’t hesitate to ask me. I’ll try not to talk your ear off. 🙂