I’ve been running for almost as long as I’ve been practicing yoga, nearly 17 years. I am grateful to share that even after training for and completing 9 marathons, I have been injury-free. I’m not a doctor, a physical therapist or even a personal trainer. I’m just a yogi who likes to run. And I am convinced that my yoga practice has kept me happily running injury-free for all these years.
There are many parallels between yoga and running:
- Passion, devotion and practice
Both yoga and running require a deep sense of passion, overwhelming devotion and a strong willingness to practice (run), practice (run), practice (and run), a lot. Daily for many of us. It is this powerful undeniable urge to lace up your shoes or roll out your yoga mat that keeps us so dedicated. This profound urge swells from a place deep within each of us that is no doubt tapped when we flow through a sun salutation or sprint that last leg of a race.
Whether you are training for your first 5K or your 5th marathon, running requires a tremendous amount of patience with the process. In all the years running, I have never underestimated the power of the run and it’s astonishing ability to humbly bring me to my knees in the most beautiful way. Yoga shares this authority. Each time I step on my mat, my heart cracks open a little wider as I am sweetly reminded of my vulnerability and the compassion that is born of that vulnerability. From these places, I learn over and over again to have patience with the process and trust every step and every OM.
- Personal Growth
Because running and yoga require a deep commitment to changing our minds about the current situation: ‘yes, I can run another mile’ or ‘yes, I can stand on my head,’ we develop and grow through deeply examining each experience as it arises, our corresponding thoughts in the moment, and then choosing how we’d like to respond moving forward. Both running and yoga equip us with the tools to manage the mind. And when we learn to manage the mind, we can manage our lives. Through this we grow and heal. What a tremendously incredible skill.
There are many physical benefits of the yoga practice that support a healthy running body. Following are just a few:
Balance, symmetry and alignment Yoga is a whole body experience. While running strengthens our legs and our core, our upper body tends to get neglected and weak, and the shoulders cave. Yoga builds upper body strength like no other.
Improved aerobic capacity Through the powerful sustained Ujjayi Breath practiced during yoga, our body benefits from large amounts of oxygen-rich blood pumping through our muscles and vital organs including the skin.
Improved focus Long and even short runs require a tremendous amount of focus especially when we’d rather quit. Yoga teaches us how to direct our energy and attention in the most positive and productive ways.
- Relaxation techniques Breathing practices, mantra (or affirmation) and faith all support a calm and healthy nervous system. When our nervous system is calm, everything feels better. How wonderful to be calm, cool and collected on race day. Yoga teaches us how. And when our mind is relaxed, so are our muscles. When our muscles are at ease even when running hard, we burn energy more efficiently and economically.
- Did I mention flexibility? Seems obvious but flexibility goes way beyond looser hamstrings. Open up your hips and your stride will be longer, loosen up your IT bands, your stride will be swifter, gain flexibility in your feet and ankles and you’ll avoid twists and strains. From the tips of your toes to the top of your skull, yoga is a whole body experience that nourishes and invigorates.
- Awareness, Intuitiveness and Listening = Wisdom Most importantly, in my very humble opinion, this is the greatest benefit of yoga for runners. The more often we get on our yoga mats, the more acquainted we become with our bodies. As we become more acquainted with our bodies, we come to respect rather than punish our bodies. We tune in more, we pay attention when our bodies say no and when our bodies say ‘GO! You can do this.’ Instead of fighting though a nagging ache, we examine it and understand it and learn to appreciate the current capacity of our bodies. Because of this very thoughtful approach to caring for and honoring the unbelievable potential of our bodies, our chances of becoming injured decreases as the harsh critic (code: ego) of our minds also softens. Or maybe it’s the other way around. In either case, we learn to dial in and listen to our what our bodies are telling us. From this place, we can relax into the splendor of the run and simply enjoy it all. The good, the bad and even the ugly runs.
If you haven’t found your way onto a yoga mat just yet, do what you can begin a practice. It doesn’t have to be fancy, expensive or even time-consuming. Even an hour a week can have a huge postive effect on your running and your overall wellbeing. Feeling intimiated? Find a Beginner’s Workshop, a Basics class or a Slow Flow and just begin where you are.
Happy race day runners! I’ll be cheering for you from my yoga mat. Run strong and namaste. ♡
I am honored to practice and study with extraordinary teachers yet the most exceptional teacher continues to be life itself.
It is a privilege to teach at Inner Bliss and work within such a vibrant and thriving yoga community.