The benefits of a regular yoga practice for an avid runner are numerous.
First and foremost is increased flexibility. Moving your well-conditioned body in a different manner (cross training) influences greater range of motion in every joint in your body, as well as opening and strengthening joint stability and resilience.
This increased range equates to greater strength and endurance in your muscles and increased synovial fluid in your joints.
Breath awareness is right up there with flexibility. When you focus on slow, deliberate breathing you directly affect your nervous system. This results in a calm presence.
In every yoga class that I teach, I invite students to check in with their body and ask themselves, “How are you feeling today? What is your energy level? What is your mental state?” Next time you lace up your shoes and head out the door, give this a try.
Start by scanning your body from the feet up, first becoming aware of the sensations of your shoes against the ground. Then begin to ask yourself the same sort of questions you might hear in a yoga class: “Am I distributing my weight evenly throughout my feet, or am I relying too much on the outside edges?”
Listen to your breath, taking deep inhales and exhales to create heat and rhythm. Then slowly work up your body, focusing on one aspect at a time until you feel grounded in your posture. As you run, focus on aligning your torso by slightly tucking your tail and engaging your abs.
You will feel strong and rely less on your legs to propel you forward when scaling a steep hill.
Then it’s on to your shoulders and arms. Envision the quietness of Mountain Pose posture with your shoulders rolled down your back.
Allow your elbows to rest at your hips with your arms bent at a slight angle instead of bringing them up towards your chest. Keep your hands relaxed to avoid creating tension from clenched fists.
What are the results of yoga-inspired runs? You can feel sustainable and grounded – and potentially increase your distances. Become entirely absorbed by the sensations in your body and turn inward, tapping into an almost meditative state.
Incorporating techniques from yoga into your runs allows you to take care of your body without compromising your love of running.
Jean Rioux, LMT, ERYT 500, is co-owner of Jiva Yoga Center on Hilton Head Island and in Bluffton.