Down Dog – Running and Yoga

13 Jul

Last winter several new things came into my life.  One of them was down dog.  As KFB was training to become a certified yoga teacher, I decided to start practicing yoga some myself.  As her teaching guinea pig, I found myself flowing through vinyasa sequences up to a few times a week.  I really started getting into it while the snow was falling throughout the bitter DC iceland.  It was a great way to get the body moving, the heat rising, and the mind grounded.  While it was miserable to run outside, it was incredibly appealing to practice yoga inside.

Now that the snow is long gone, the running shorts are back out of the closet, and the training has begun, yoga might not seem the obvious choice.  And of course, when I’m running 5 times a week, it is harder to find the time to step back onto the mat.  But as I’m putting in more and more miles each week, I see (and feel) more and more reason to make my way into the studio.  The benefits of yoga seem to be endless, but here are just a few ways that I see my practice on my mat affecting my practice on the pavement.

Balance – Yoga is all about balancing your body.  Everything you do on one side of your body, you mirror on the other.  You are working towards equality through each position.  Running should be the same way.  Each movement by one pace should be mimicked on the other side.  A good stride has balance.  If your hips are shifting in one direction, but your ankles another, knee problems are certain to arise.

Breath – Endurance running is all about breath.  If you are constantly trying to catch your breath, you’re miles will be limited.  Yoga makes the connection between breath and movement.  With every inhale and exhale comes a movement, a rhythm, and a flow.  Running is extremely repetitive, finding the connection between the flow of your movement and the natural flow of your breath will bring you directly to that sweet “zone” that every running is searching for.

Strength – If you’ve ever seen a yogi, then there is no doubting their strength.  While traditional yoga might not give you the same cardio workout as biking or swimming, it will certainlly work your abs, legs, arms, and everything in between.  Holding a deep lunge, down dog, or inversion long enough, and you’ll be twice as sore as you were from yesterday’s 8 miles.  Yoga works your core and your upper body, often left out of the typical running workout.

Mind – Long distance running takes a lot of focus.  With every pound of the foot, many runners get too focused on the distance left to travel or the incline of the next hill.  While that is only natural at times, I’ve learned through yoga to focus more on my breath, tune into each part of my body, and mentally dedicate that time and energy to something else.  Once you stop rocking out to yesterday’s top 40 on the ipod, and start focusing more on the movements you are making, the run can fly by leaving you with a strong body and clear mind.

While yoga might not be the first thing a male training for a marathon might think of adding to his weekly training schedule, it will undoubtedly add strength, depth and meaning to your workouts.

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5 Responses to “Down Dog – Running and Yoga”

  1. Roommate July 15, 2010 at 8:44 am #

    I find that a strict regiment of drinking and running helps with my balance, breath, strength, and mind just as well.

  2. Betsy July 15, 2010 at 9:04 pm #

    Is that KFB on the Skyline Drive?

  3. thehaysay July 16, 2010 at 8:17 am #

    Yup! That’s her on the Skyline. Good guess!

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