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Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Last night I made it to yoga and did not fall asleep in the middle. That was only the second time I've been to a yoga class at my gym, but if you rewound my life a few years, yoga used to be my primary form of activity, and I used to go to all kinds of classes and practice Hatha, Ashtanga, and even "hot" yoga (they heat the room to about 95 degrees and because your muscles are warm you move through poses faster and deeper, but lord, do you sweat -- first time I went I had to step out halfway through because I thought I was going to barf). But I haven't really done much yoga in the past few years, and I don't know why because as I was in class last night, I was thinking about how much I enjoy it. Plus, I can see how it's good to pair some yoga with a running schedule.

For one thing, yoga emphasizes concentration and focus on the breath and the body, so that you are centered on what activity your body is engaged in. While running certainly engages the body and helps you to focus on the activity, as a sport, running doesn't necessarily lend itself to the same sort of practice, but it should. I have to be mindful of every movement in yoga and I should be mindful of my movement while I run. But typically, my mind wanders and I think about what it will feel like once I am done running instead of focusing on what it feels like to run, even when it feels uncomfortable or difficult. It's then, I suppose, I should be thinking about my breathing and not what I'll eat for breakfast when I am finished.

Breathing is a huge part of yoga, and most of the beginning portion of class and the end portion of class concentrates on only that -- connecting the breath first to the body and then, as you move through poses, connecting the breath to the movement. And breathing is something I struggle with while I run. I don't know if it's all in my head or what, but I sometimes weeze and gasp for air, and it isn't until I'm established in the distance that I can find a rhythm with my breathing. So, this morning when I ran I tried to apply the kind of calming breath that we practice in yoga -- it kinda worked, maybe it worked because I was actually thinking about how I breathed, and not just that I needed to breathe.

But lastly, I think yoga can help my running because it helps restore flexibility -- a runner's arch nemesis. Running, by its nature, tightens the muscles in the legs, back, abs, even the arms, but many runners can actually suffer by having such tight muscles. Some experience back pain, knee soreness, hip stiffness, and lower back aches, but with yoga, a runner can help relieve some of this pain and hopefully, make those problem areas resistant to such aches. Many of us who run either ignore stretching or rush through it, so taking the time to devote ourselves to full body stretching can be very beneficial and can help keep us free of injury (which means time away from running).

In fact, in the last RW, there was a special section on yoga and how it can be added to a running routine. I think I should start going back regularly; plus, I love the part at the end where the instructor guides you through relaxation -- so wonderful. It makes me feel like a kindergartener during nap time.


jkrunning--Just Keep Running said...

Oh, I love yoga. Back in NH, I used to take a "runners yoga" class. I loved it. It was on Mondays, and since most runners do their long runs on Sunday, it was awesome. I sure miss that class.

winter runner said...

Until a few weeks ago, I had never tried yoga. After my first race, my legs were very stiff and I heard it could help. It's trickier than I thought it would be, but I'm really enjoying it.