Updated: Apr 29, 2020
Years ago, before I discovered yoga, I enjoyed running and even did a few 10k races. Once I found yoga, let's just say my running quickly diminished. Running did return, for periods during times of travel, when I was living by the sea and could not resist a run by the beach, but it never became a regular, long-lasting practice again, not like my yoga practice which has stayed regular and consistent since the very first class I attended.
However, since moving back to the UK and moving down to the coast, my love for the sea combined with my desire for optimal health and wellbeing, has led me to start running again.
The last couple of years I have been more than happy for my exercise regime to consist solely of yoga, however, I feel I have now reached a point where I believe cross-training will not only benefit my health and fitness level but also benefit my yoga practice. Repetition of any specific exercise or movement, over time, can lead to injury, therefore cross-training can be very important.
I now run twice a week and find it a great component to my yoga practice. Running as a yogi, I feel much more connected to my breathing and able to control the breath. In yoga, we inhale and exhale through the nose to conserve the energy that we are creating. We can take this principle into running, by breathing through the nose as much as possible and only exhaling through the mouth to release excess energy. I find breathing in this way greatly reduces fatigue.
As a yoga practitioner, I try to meditate daily. Some days I know stillness is what I need and I can easily sit and meditate. However, some days this feels impossible and I know that instead, I need to move my body. In the same way that yoga can feel like a moving meditation, I find running can have the same effect.
For some people, meditation can seem extremely difficult as they struggle to sit in stillness and silence, however, there are forms of moving meditation, such as running, which can have the same benefits of seated meditation.
When I am feeling anxious I struggle to sit in stillness, yet I feel running can ease the anxiety. When I am feeling low and depressed, I find sitting in stillness can become too overwhelming emotionally yet going for a run can boost my mood, and running outdoors in nature increases this more so.
Moreover, the hip flexibility and core strength I have developed through yoga helps me to maintain proper posture, pick up my knees as I run and create a stronger stride. My yoga experience also helps me keep a positive mindset and be resilient throughout each run helping to push myself further and reach my training goals.
Stretching is vital for running, therefore yoga postures are great to do both before and after a run to warm up the body or cool down and stretch out. In the book 'The Art of Running Faster', Author Julian Goater says "Stretching enables you to run more loosely. When your back and hamstrings are tight, each stride requires a little more effort and is a little shorter. If 2 runners have the same level of fitness, the more flexible one will run more easily, will go faster and further, and with less effort".
Prior to a run, I usually start with downward dog to loosen up my hamstrings (tight hamstrings can shorten your stride and make lifting the knees more difficult). I then practice some lunges, quad stretches and then some sun salutations or short flows to warm up the whole of the body. Ankle rolls and shoulder stretches are also great pre-run.
Post-run I I find my hips feel tight and my legs feel sore so I focus on some long-held hip openers (which always feel so juicy straight after a run) and some restorative leg stretches which help to ease the tension and prevent injury. Some of my favourites are reclined leg stretches with a belt, legs up the wall and frog pose.
You can see all of these and more in the video below. This video shows my standard post-run yoga sequence that I do to stretch out, prevent injury, reverse the flow of blood away from the legs and re-balance the nervous system after a run.
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