Originally published on Sivana East: https://blog.sivanaspirit.com/yg-yoga-improved-running/.
You either love it or you hate it.
I feel like there is no intermediary. If you’re anything like me and get a sick pleasure from running until you collapse, you know how rewarding, albeit tiring, running can be.
Running is personal for everyone. For me, it is a time to zone out and focus on myself. Sometimes I’ll get lost in my thoughts or lost in my music, before realizing that other people can, in fact, see and hear me dancing and singing. Running is cathartic; it is meditative. I have recently gotten into races; I have completed two half marathons and hope to someday run a full marathon. (EDIT: after writing this article, I did in fact run and complete the 2018 NYC Marathon!!). There is something so satisfying about crossing the finish line, seeing all the countless hours you spent running instead of sleeping come to fruition.
Running is tough, mentally, physically, and emotionally draining. Yet so many of us still do it and somehow always come (at times, crawling) back for more. After developing a steady yoga practice and incorporating it into my fitness routine, I have found that yoga has drastically improved my running experience. I know that there are so many articles online detailing the best yoga postures for runners and I have come across classes and workshops specifically for athletes, but the way yoga has affected my running is not entirely physical.
I won’t lie, though; my flexibility, balance, and strength all have improved because of yoga, which in turn, of course, increases running performance. But as anyone who has taken a yoga class or two comes to realize, yoga is more than just a physical practice. Here are five unexpected ways yoga has improved my running.
1) Yoga Has Helped Me Find My “Edge”
In almost any yoga class you take, you can find the teacher telling you to find your “edge.” But what is exactly is your “edge?” Well for each person, it is different. Your “edge” is how far you can take a pose while still maintaining both sthira and sukha. Sthira is steadiness, while sukha is comfort. In each pose, there is a place where we are both steady and comfortable; we can hold the posture comfortably, without falling out, for a decent amount of time.
While we should maintain both sthira and sukha in our postures, it is when we go a bit deeper and are walking the fine line between comfort and discomfort, steadiness and unsteadiness that we find our “edge.” Practicing yoga has helped me identify my edge in many different asanas (yoga poses). By being able to identify my edge I can make use of it when it comes to running. I can play my edge when running, pushing myself just enough to get a tough workout in but still be able to make it back home.
2) Yoga Has Helped Me Accept Where I Am
Yoga teaches us to not pass judgement, to accept where we are in our respective journeys, and to honor our bodies and spirits. Learning to accept where I am physically, mentally, and emotionally has improved my running as well as my overall life. By learning to be okay with my current abilities, I can run freely.
While I still want to become a better, faster runner, I am no longer consumed with the need to push myself to exhaustion to run faster or longer. I can run freely, joyfully even, without worrying about running at a certain pace or completing a certain distance. Honoring my body for what it is capable of in this present moment allows me to give my body ample rest to prevent injury as well as inspire me to do better next time.
Accepting where you are does not mean giving up and no longer striving to do better. Accepting where you are means not feeling guilty about not running as fast as you want, but being proud of your body for being able to run at all. This healthier mindset is useful in all aspects in life, and I, personally, have found that being grateful for what I am capable of in the present moment inspires me and motivates me to do more and to be better in the future.
3) Yoga Has Taught Me to Always Come Back for More
One thing that is certain about a yoga practice is that for there to be progress or to reap any of the benefits of yoga one must have a consistent practice. No matter what the day brings, no matter how the body, mind, or spirit is feeling, it is important to try and find the time to hit the mat. Whether it’s just for ten minutes of meditation or a full 90-minute sweat session, the body will only benefit from a consistent practice.
Personally, I always feel so refreshed and rejuvenated after a great yoga class, but it is gathering the motivation to get on the mat that is difficult. However, it is always important to come back for more. Every time I hit the mat I learn something new, whether about myself, about yoga, or about someone else.
Yoga is a journey; it is a lifestyle. There is no end to this practice. This mindset also applies to running. Just because your run the day before was nonexistent or extremely difficult, does not mean you should give up entirely. It is a journey and journeys are not always easy, they include obstacles that must be overcome. It is when we overcome those obstacles and come back for more, despite being tired, sore, or stressed, that allows us to grow.
4) Yoga Has Taught Me That It’s Okay to Take it Easy
A common thought when training is to push yourself, push yourself, push yourself. While it is important to push yourself, it is equally as important to take a break sometimes and take it easy on your body, mind, and spirit. Yoga has taught me to accept my body for where it is and for what it is capable of in this moment. The same thought process should be used when running.
To experience growth and progress, we need to allow our bodies to rest and to grow stronger. Not every run needs to be the fastest or the longest, just by getting out there you are doing your body good and increasing your abilities. It is important to tune in with your body and listen to what it needs. If it needs rest, give it rest.
5) Yoga has Taught Me to Breathe
Pranayama, or breath work, is an important part of any yoga class or practice. Incorporating breath work and meditation into my daily life has unsurprisingly increased my running abilities.
It is no mystery that any form of physical exercise causes the muscles to require more oxygen, and running is certainly no exception. Being out of breath is one of the most common reasons people find running to be difficult. Through consistent and dedicated yoga practice that incorporates breathing exercises, I have learned to breathe properly and fully.
This, in turn, has helped me become a runner that does not fatigue as easily. I also can focus my mind when running by using the same breathing techniques I use in my yoga practice.
Comment below and tell me:
What non-physical benefits have you noticed from your yoga practice?