Almost daily I am asked by a friend, coworker, or acquaintance something about yoga that I don’t know! I love it. It is great to be reminded that there is so much to learn about my passion. It gives me an opportunity to research and grow.
Yesterday in the parking lot of my 8-5, a guy I work with asked me about yoga for runners. He said that he’s been running a lot lately and is finding that he can only run with his headphones on. He has been finding it impossible run without them. He said that he had read an article about how the practice of yoga helps runners concentrate during their run and that thru the practice of meditation and breath work, running without headphones may be a possibility for him. In addition, he inquired whether there were any particular classes in Dallas where he could go to learn specifically about yoga for runners.
I told him that I would do a little research and follow up with my thoughts and advice.
So here it is!
If you have a love for running, chances are if you tried yoga you would be HOOKED. Both of these particular modalities of physical/mental exercise have in common a lot of things. To name the most significant commonalities between the two; body awareness, one-pointed focus, overcoming the mind, endurance, and breath work. Below you will find topics that I find fascinating when it comes to yoga and running.
Personally, I have started a serious running practice twice. Once, before I started practicing yoga and later, after I had been doing yoga for a few years. The difference for me was that after I had the experience of practicing yoga I sustained fewer injuries than my previous running experience. I believe the occurrence for injury lessoned because I had started the process of balancing my body, cultivating an awareness of my energy bank, became familiar with the symptoms of pre-injury stress, and I became kinder to myself. Long gone are the days of “No pain, no gain!”
There is a great article by Baron Baptiste and Kathleen Finn Mendola on Yoga Journal.com. Yoga for Runners, http://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/192. This article does a great job of explaining why yoga is good for a runner’s body.
Mental Clarity and Focus on Breath-work
For the first few minutes of my yoga practice my mind does the equivalent of around the world travel with my thoughts. One thought bouncing off to the next. It isn’t until my body says to my mind, “HELLO?! I need some concentration here if you want to continue breathing evenly!” And just like that, BAM!, I’m focused on the present moment. Yogis, runners, cyclists, and rowers have all said to me that one of the things they enjoy most about their physical practice is that their thoughts slow down and they find clarity of the mind thru focusing on their breath.
Most schools of yoga teach pranayama, breath control, as part of their basic practice. Pranayama is the fourth limb of the eight limbs of Raja Yoga and is mentioned specifically in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
There is a great article on Yoga Breathing in Running, http://walking-running-training.suite101.com/article.cfm/using_ujjayi_breathe_when_running. Check out this article to find out how specifically, Ujjayi Breathing can help you avoid side stitches.
Pushing your thoughts to the side by concentrating on the fullness and smoothness of your breath assists you in your awareness of the intensity of your run. If you are two miles into your five mile run and notice that you are breathing fast and shallow, then it is a good indication you should back off on the intensity until your breath becomes full and even. This simple observation will aid you in staying calm, finding focus, and preventing exhaustion.
I encourage my friend to leave his IPOD at home on his next run so that he may practice pranayama. I think he will be pleasantly surprised to find that what he is really looking for is concentration, not distraction from his run.
Asanas for Runners
I once had a private yoga student who was an avid runner. She appeared to be in extremely good physical shape. During her first yoga session with me we discovered that although her muscles were strong from the hours of pounding pavement, they were not supple and flexible. She was unable to reach past her calves toward her toes, and said that she felt “tight” all over. Over time the muscles which get strong from running, get stronger and those muscles that don’t get worked during a run get weaker. An imbalance happens in the body and flexibility of the muscles and joints decreases. Before you know it injury plagues you.
It is important to balance your running with a practice of yoga to retain flexibility and suppleness of the muscles. Click on the photo above to see a slide show of the recommended asanas (poses) for runners from iyogalife.com.
Yoga Classes for Runners
I was not able to locate any special yoga classes in Dallas specifically for runners. I will tell you that you don’t need a class geared specifically for runners. Dallas has some wonderful yoga studios. Any class you go to will get you on your way to a healthier, more flexible, balanced body!