…from guest blogger and MRC member Sarah
I recently returned from a short getaway to Oregon. My husband and I were even lucky enough to see the state championship track meet at Hayward Field at UO, in Tracktown, USA. We packed our running clothes and sneakers; I even broke my cardinal rule of not wearing my running sneakers for walking purposes. Instead of taking in a run in Portland and taking advantage of the first sunny day in months, my husband and I attended a yoga class.
Who could blame us, spending roughly 7 hours in a plane, was certainly feeling it. It was just what we needed that we returned the next day. We even learned a few new things that could “help the runners in the class,” as was pointed out to us. I think it was because my husband was wearing a “RUNTRIAD” shirt. Needless to say, we covered about 16 miles of walking over our trip. I thought that I was going to run, but instead I did yoga. I returned to my mat.
Roughly ten years ago, I stepped into my first yoga class. It was a free class offered at the student recreation center. I was a junior in college and was interested in trying something new. My roommate and I found ourselves giggling our way through our first class. We were not familiar with yoga etiquette; we showed up late and whispered to each other.
Over the next few years, I researched yoga and the benefits of having a practice. I read magazines and books; I attended classes, and noticed that my practice deepened. I found that yoga was effective of maintaining a relatively low level of stress, as I am typically a “high-strung” person. When things became overwhelming for me, I would retreat to my mat. My husband even noticed the positive impact that it had on me. My first job post-undergraduate degree, I was known to retreat to an empty conference room to sit quietly or breathe while in handstand, you usually heard my boots hit the wall with two thumps, but you would be amazed at your perspective of things while upside down.
I strive to wake early for a few sun salutations to start my day. (The times I do something to that effect, I notice a huge difference in my day, and you would think that would be a motivation. I, however, enjoy my sleep.) I do have a somewhat regular home practice. I don’t practice everyday. But I enjoy taking classes. My favorite part of class is having some direct me so I can deepen my practice; this is why I think that videos can be beneficial. A yoga class offers a chance for someone to adjust you while you are in postures, to make sure that your form is correct and not at risk for injuring yourself. There is nothing worse than injuring you in yoga class!
I did! I sprained both of my ankles (at the same time) in class trying to be a “yoga hero.” I was in side plank on my right and moved over to side plank on my left, somehow I managed to put enough pressure on both my ankles to injury both of them. I was not paying attention in class and moved too quickly. I also didn’t properly give myself time to heal; my recover was twice as long as it needed to be.
I even ran on my ankles! (Oh the lessons, I have learned!)
Last winter, I became a runner. Now, I didn’t wake up one day and say, “you know I think I am going to go for a run today.” This decision was a few years coming, after attending several of my husband’s races, and attempting the Couch to 5K program twice. (I completed it successfully in 2010. Third time is a charm.) I did not have the usual new runner injuries. I did IT band stretches and felt nothing. If my hamstrings were tight, it was nothing that a few down dogs and a forward fold couldn’t handle. My breathing was never an issue, if I worked too hard and my breathing became shallow, I concentrated on 3-part breath while I ran. I was (and still am) a slow runner. I turned my focus to running, and slowly let go of yoga. My yoga mat started to gather dust.
I started to notice small differences in my performance. My flexibility was no longer what it was, I finally discovered IT band pain. My habit of ending each run with a short yoga sequence that helped with my stretching was falling by the wayside. I rushed my stretching and I thought I was good to go. I felt fine. But I lost the focus of my practice and taking care of myself. I also neglected my cross training. Even though yoga is a great way to cross train, I did not have a regular yoga practice.
But I wasn’t fine. Now, you could make an argument either way about the effects of yoga had on my running depending how you feel about yoga. I noticed the correlation between yoga and running for myself. I think on of the great things about yoga, it is deeply personal practice. You may encounter people in a class who feel they are in competition with other on how deep you can go into Warrior II. Each day is different; your flexibility varies each time you practice, as does the right and left side of your body. Think about how your running changes through out the week.
I am an advocate of developing a yoga practice, because any one can do it. When I hear, “oh I’m not flexible enough for yoga,” I have learned that is another way of saying, that “I’m not ready.” That is ok. I truly do believe that if we decide to start a yoga practice, we come to it our own time.
Also, if you would like it, it could have a deeper spiritual meaning. There is a school of thought that addresses the spirituality component of yoga and without it the practice is not truly yoga. I don’t completely agree with that, as prayer and mediation can take many forms. I do believe that once you step onto your yoga mat, that is your time. How you use your time is completely up to you.
As runners, we are all at different stages, 5Ks to marathons. As yogis, I find it to be the same as well. I read Runner’s World as well as Yoga Journal; they both have equal places in my house. I know that when I run in the woods, I need to be alert of the potential dangers, but also enjoy the quiet time of reflection and nature. I take comfort in knowing that yoga has taught me to present in the moment. I am grateful for teachings of yoga and how it has influenced my running.