I have been running for more years than I can remember. However, not long enough to remember what it felt like to hate running. I grew up more of a gym rat than a runner but back in the mid 90’s, when I was going through a tough time in my life, I found running as a sort of therapy (this was about 3 years before my first ever yoga class). Once I started running, I didn’t stop and I’ve been blending yoga and running ever since.
As I got more into yoga and started to teach more on the anatomy behind the practice, I started to pay more attention to how my yoga practice could help my running. There’s the standard ways; things like stretching after a run and using some of the basic yoga poses as a way to stretch tired muscles. But what about when you’re on the road? How could the alignment, deep breathing and focus I have on the mat help me when I’m on the road? Here’s some of what I’ve found:
Do lots of power poses to strengthen your quads, glutes and hamstrings. To run long and strong, you’ve got to have good push off power and muscles that can sustain you through 5 or more miles. Poses like Warriors 1 and 2, Chair and standing balances will improve your leg strength from your calves all the way up to your gluteal muscles and your quadriceps in front. I’ve been focusing on these power poses in my classes of late and have been doing the poses with class. I’ve personally noticed a decrease in leg fatigue when running and increased speed in my 5 milers.
Use balancing poses to strengthen your ankles and decrease the risk of falling when running on uneven terrain. If you’re like me, you’re running in the city. Up and down curbs, lots of pavement, sometimes grass or gravel filled paths and lots of cracks in the sidewalk fill my runs. If I’m not steady on my feet, I could easily twist an ankle or worse, fall. Balancing poses keep my feet and ankle joints strong and many times have allowed me to “right” myself when I do trip.
Use the elements of anatomical position/Mountain Pose as you run. In anatomy, “Anatomical Position” is that where you stand with your feet at hip width, shoulders relaxed down the back, head balanced evenly over the shoulders and pelvis level. When I run, I try to stay connected to the elements of this position and correct my posture when I fall out of it. Chances are, when you’re in the final stretches of your run, your posture will start to suffer. You’ll end up working harder unless you can bring your body into greater alignment. Just like a yoga pose, the more you can create “the lines” of alignment, the less effort you’ll exert.
Save the view for your walk; focus your gaze. I love when people say, ” Did you see that on your run?” Honestly, when I run, I only see the path in front of me. I am always tuned in to noises behind me, my peripheral vision and what’s up ahead but it’s only in the context of how I might have to shift to avoid getting hit or running into someone else walking, running or biking. Use the tool of focusing your eyes in the pose, called “drishti” in yoga, you’ll find you have less distraction and more energy to put into your run. ( I almost always stop for puppies though!)
Step with purpose but don’t pound. Sometimes when I run, I hear someone coming up behind me from quite a ways away. I’ll hear the pounding and then eventually, see the person. It reminds me of the time I might in yoga class, waiting for class to start and someone comes into the studio and pounds loudly throughout the studio to gather their props and put down their mat. We’re often not aware of the heaviness we have when walking and once you start practicing yoga, you’ll develop more awareness of not only using your whole foot but stepping with a lightness that demonstrates greater integrity and integration from an anatomical standpoint.
There’s so much more that can be brought to running from yoga but this is a start. I’ll be posting more about this topic in the future so please let me know if you have any specific topics you’d like to see.