What Yoga Has Taught me about Running

I started practicing yoga to help me run.  Little did I know that loosening tight muscles and joints was just one of many ways yoga would improve my running, especially the long run.

Some things yoga teaches me:

  • Focus on the present. Do you ever find yourself running up a hill, and thinking about the next hill coming up? I do, and thinking about the next hill drains energy I need for THIS hill. Yoga has taught me to bring my mind back to the present moment, to “Be Here Now”.  It’s easier to climb a hill once with both mind and body, then to climb it twice, once in your mind, and once with your body.
  • Relax what doesn’t need to be tense.  I have a “check-in” habit during long runs. At certain points I focus on how easy my breathing is, what my heart rate is doing, how my legs are feeling. Giving a moments’ attention to these areas encourages me when things feel good, and helps me adjust if they are not. Now, I also check in with my shoulders, neck, hands, face. Am I tensing my shoulders, making fists, grimacing? Softening and relaxing muscles that don’t need to be tensed redirects wasted energy. Softly smiling makes me feel happier.
  • Keep heart forward. When I am tired and feel myself slump, I repeat that to myself and it helps me to re-align my posture.
  • The power of “Intention”  I may not be able to touch my nose to my knee, but having the intention of doing so keeps me aligned, focused, and present in the pose. In the same way, moving intentionally toward a goal while I am running opens my mind and body to the possibility of reaching that goal. I love the hope and energy that comes from moving with “intention.”

So I guess the big lesson is not to limit ourselves. Running may be my first love, but let me always be open to trying new things, learning new things, and let those experiences inform my running, just as running informs other areas of my life.

Many thanks to my sunny and serene yoga instructor, Sue!

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