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Running and Yoga: The Perfect Pair

The increased body awareness developed by practicing yoga helped me improve my running form and I developed a more efficient and faster stride.

The increased body awareness developed by practicing yoga helped improve my running form and a more efficient and faster stride. Click through to find out why yoga and running are the perfect pair at http://jillconyers.com or pin it now to read later. @jillconyers

Jill asked me to share my thoughts on how yoga has helped my running. I was more than happy to oblige. Jill and I have been following each other for a couple of years and it’s been fun to watch her focus evolve to include yoga. I wish her all the best on this new path!

I joke that runners can’t live on miles alone.

On my blog, Taking the Long Way Home, I write mostly about running. I’ve been a runner for about 25 years. I also share a lot of yoga on my blog. Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how yoga has helped my running. If you think about it, what goes together better than running and yoga? Peanut butter and jelly? Bacon and eggs? Milk and cookies? Hugs and kisses? Fred and Ginger? Yin and yang? Stop me, I’m on a roll…

All joking aside, I can’t really talk about how yoga helped my running without sharing my yoga journey. Initially, I started practicing yoga to help recover from the birth of my oldest son, who is now almost 19 years old. I felt really anxious after he was born–I probably had some post-partum depression–and found that doing yoga in the evenings helped me relax. I started out using a Kathy Smith video for beginners.

I’m not very coordinated and using a basic video like this really helped me slow down and learn the poses, and gave me the confidence to take the next step–attending a live yoga class.

My first ever live yoga class was a park district class. I was too intimidated by the idea of going to a yoga studio. There wasn’t a lot of hands-on instruction and no ambiance–the class was held in a meeting room complete with bright overhead fluorescent lighting–but we learned all the basic poses. After that, I felt more confident and wanted to continue yoga. A friend and I found a pilates studio in a nearby town that also had some yoga classes and signed up for a hatha yoga class.

The increased body awareness developed by practicing yoga helped improve my running form and a more efficient and faster stride. Click through to find out why yoga and running are the perfect pair at http://jillconyers.com or pin it now to read later. @jillconyers

Hatha yoga, as practiced in the Western world, is simply a series of poses, or asanas that are timed with the breath. Pranayama is the sanskrit word for breath control. By moving on the breath, the poses flow and balance the body. The breath also relaxes the mind.

Learning to control your breathing has huge benefits for runners.

Rhythmic breathing, according to an article in Runners World, can help prevent injury:

“Yoga teaches that controlling your breathing can help you control your body and quiet your mind. When we allow ourselves to become distracted by trying to match our running effort to a pace we’ve defined with numbers on a watch, we break that mind/body connection. We open up a gap where stress and tension can enter. And we create a disturbance in the flow of running that hinders our success and enjoyment. Rhythmic breathing is calming, and awareness of breathing draws your focus toward calm. It allows you to remain as relaxed as possible, quieting any stress in the body that could inhibit performance. And if you should feel a twinge of tension or discomfort, you can mentally “push” it out of the body as you exhale.”– Budd Coates, Claire Kowalchik, Running on Air: Breathing Technique; Runners World 

I find myself using yogic breathing while running, especially on a tough run. Focusing on the breath helps bring me back to my run, and I am able to return to a rhythm, both with my breathing and my running. I also use breathing techniques to get rid of a side stitch, which commonly occurs in runners. By exhaling on the opposite side/foot, I can usually chase it away. Followers of my blog know that I struggle with foot issues, especially on my left side. I find that when I’m tired, I come down too hard on that foot. By exhaling on the opposite foot, I can adjust the load and usually rebalance my stride. What’s really great is that after doing yoga all these years, focusing on the breathing and adjusting the breath comes naturally to me.

The increased body awareness developed by practicing yoga helped improve my running form and a more efficient and faster stride. Click through to find out why yoga and running are the perfect pair at http://jillconyers.com or pin it now to read later. @jillconyers

After practicing Hatha yoga for some time, my friend and I got up the courage to go to a “real” yoga studio. At that time, the only class the studio offered that fit into my schedule was an Ashtanga yoga class. Completely unaware of what was in store for us, my friend and I got on our mats and followed the instructor’s lead. Halfway through the class, we were dripping with sweat and exhausted. This was a very serious, focused, athletic class. On the ride home, my unhappy friend would barely talk to me. I, on the other hand, was ecstatic and hooked.

Ashtanga yoga is a very athletic form of yoga. Like Hatha yoga, the poses and the breath are synchronized. The poses are all familiar to anyone who has done yoga. But that’s where the similarities end. The class begins with a series of sun salutations to warm up the body prior to beginning the practice. Each pose is held for 5 breaths, followed by a vinyasa. Each Ashtanga class is a series of poses that are done in the same order.

While practicing Ashtanga yoga, I developed body awareness as I moved through the poses. Since this practice moves fast, proper technique is key. The increased body awareness helped me with my running form and I developed a more efficient and faster stride. Ashtanga also made me stronger, physically and mentally.

I started to realize that I could do hard things.

The increased body awareness developed by practicing yoga helped improve my running form and a more efficient and faster stride. Click through to find out why yoga and running are the perfect pair at http://jillconyers.com or pin it now to read later. @jillconyers

My friend dropped out of our class after about 3 months, saying it was “too hard”. I stuck with the Ashtanga practice and reaped the benefits, both on and off the road. I still couldn’t get deeply into a lot of the poses, and my instructor told me that if I gave up running, I develop a much deeper practice. I told him that wasn’t happening! My plan wasn’t to give up running to become a yogi.

My goals were to maintain flexibility and develop strength, which I did.

Unfortunately, after about a year and a half of practicing Ashtanga, the owner of the studio decided he was going to take the studio in a different direction, fired my instructor, and changed the class to an Anusara class. Disappointed, I left the studio and practiced at home, using DVDs. Eventually, a yoga studio opened close to my home and I was able to take classes in vinyasa yoga, which was a great option for me. Vinyasa yoga is very similar to Ashtanga in that there is a vinyasa between each pose or series of poses. But the classes are more free form–there is no predictable sequence of poses. I found that I liked the variety. The class helped me to stay focused and mindful as we moved through the vinyasas. I continued to develop more confidence and strength with this practice. The owner of this studio was also a runner and I ran my very first half marathon with her! Sadly, she eventually sold the studio and it was time to move on again.

The increased body awareness developed by practicing yoga helped improve my running form and a more efficient and faster stride. Click through to find out why yoga and running are the perfect pair at http://jillconyers.com or pin it now to read later. @jillconyers

The studio where I currently practice was started as an Anusara studio, the very type of yoga that replaced my Ashtanga class. The philosophy of Anusara Yoga is that yoga should be joyful and is a gift that we should celebrate. Anusara means “flowing with grace” and “following your heart”. The classes incorporate aspects of all the branches of yoga I’ve done in the past. These classes are fun and have brought a playfulness to my yoga practice as well as my running. Anusara yoga has helped me learn not to take myself so seriously, both in the studio and on the road.

These classes are always different and no matter what we do in the studio, I take to my mat with a grateful heart.

Throughout my yoga journey, I’ve developed strength, flexibility, body awareness, mindfulness, and a sense of calm. I’ve also learned how to use the breath to help me hold a challenging pose as well as push me through a tough run. Yoga has helped me work through injuries, particularly those pesky overuse injuries. But best of all, yoga has taught me to have fun and yes, to find joy in the journey. Both on and off the road.

The increased body awareness developed by practicing yoga helped improve my running form and a more efficient and faster stride. Click through to find out why yoga and running are the perfect pair at http://jillconyers.com or pin it now to read later. @jillconyers

 

MORE CELEBRATING YOGA WEEK AT JILL CONYERS | FITNESS, HEALTH & HAPPINESS:

[Click the linked images to read more]

Live your yoga.

Live your yoga.

Live your yoga.

Live your yoga.

This brings an end to celebrating the inaugural Yoga Week, but definitely not an end to celebrating yoga.

Thank you to Beth, Jess and Wendy for joining me in the celebration!

LETS CHAT.

WHEN DO YOU START TO REALIZE “I CAN DO HARD THINGS”? WHAT IS YOUR FITNESS PERFECT PAIR?

be the best version of YOU

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Guest PostWendy is a yogi runner and the voice behind Taking the Long Way Home and a pediatric nurse practitioner who seeks the solitude of running alone after a long day.

Connect with Wendy:

Taking the Long Way Home | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook


 

 

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62 Comments

  1. This post makes me want to stop my homework and go work out ! hah, I love yoga It’s the perfect workout and it helps realx the body! Great post xx

  2. I could not agree with you more on this post! When I was training for my marathon I ran 3-4 days a week and did yoga twice a week. It was perfect to stretch out my tight legs.

  3. My perfect pair is kickboxing and strength training.

  4. Oh yes! A better combination you can’t find. Both are equally important yet they compliment each other

  5. I think yoga and running are the perfect pair! I love the way I feel after class. I am not sure what style of yoga it is. It is called a community class and we learn new things all the time. Always with a focus on the breathing- I am slowly getting the hang of it and I love it!

    1. Probably hatha yoga–that’s usually what those classes are. I love just doing the poses and focusing on the breathing. I always feel better after.

  6. I so need to get back into running once summer is over. It’s just too dang hot and humid to attempt to during the summer here. However, I do find running to be therapeutic and a good pair of shoes make all the difference!

  7. I need to get back into running once summer is over. It’s just too dang hot and humid to attempt to during the summer here. However, I do find running to be therapeutic and a good pair of shoes make all the difference!

  8. Last month I did 30 days of yoga with Adriene and this month I’ve started incorporating runs into my days as well and I can honestly feel such a big difference from the last time I attempted to pick up running. I wouldn’t say it’s easier but my breathing is definitely not as shallow which allows me to run for much longer than I would have previously. And with all the yoga I don’t wake up stiff as a board after running which means I don’t skip runs due to feeling sore. That alone was enough to convince me that running and yoga were made for each other.

    1. Adriene is my go-to source for yoga videos as well.

  9. Reesa Lewandowski says:

    This is such a great combo. I’d imagine the yoga really helps keep you loose and balanced for running.

  10. I think yoga and running are the perfect combination for maintaining overall health. I need to look into yoga at a level that I can begin at home.

  11. I really wish I had the coordination to do yoga, and the knees that could go running. I have to tell you, I absolutely love the sneakers. Thanks for the great tips.

  12. I used to love to do yoga, but running has never been my thing. I just have never been well coordinated. Hard to believe that I could do yoga being so uncoordinated, but it was just easier than running.

    1. Yoga is such an accepting practice–no matter what the pose, there are always modifications for everyone. I bet you are more coordinated than you think…

  13. I have become a significantly better runner because of my yoga practice, for pretty much all the reasons you listed! I couldn’t imagine doing one without the other.

  14. Yass! I loved running, but when I used to get too depressed to run, I’d do yoga, and when I’m all pumped with excitement or stress, I run. But I think I’ve fallen behind now.

    | yvonnesowell.com |

  15. I do yoga occasionally but want to become more consistent. I struggle with justifying paying to go to a yoga class and driving out of the way for it, when I can just go home, step out the door and run. I do a lot of at home yoga videos, but definitely need help focusing on my breath. As you discussed here, it can carry over into so many other parts of life

    1. I used to feel as you do about paying to go to a studio. But yoga is so much more than the poses. The community and support in the class are so important. And it’s helpful to get feedback from a teacher.

  16. I’ve always wished I could be a yogi, it’s something I strive for. I’ve always enjoyed meditation and breathing techniques but I am the least flexible person I know… I can barely touch my toes with my legs straight. It’s embarrassing. I’m planning on making yoga my next focus, and reading your journey with yoga has peaked my interest in starting my own!

    1. Oh, trust me when I tell you that I am the least flexible person around. There are poses I will never be able to do because of my lack of flexibility! But that’s the thing about yoga–it’s an accepting practice. There are modifications of every pose, to make them accessible to everyone. A good yoga instructor should be able to guide you to find the alternative pose that will give you the same benefits as those pretzel-type folks.

  17. My favorite workout combo is yoga followed by swimming. I find that the yoga opens me up and warms me up, and the swimming allows me to completely clear my mind and focus in a way nothing else does.

  18. My BIL is a runner ad he never thinks he needs any other exercising. We keep telling him to pick up something else

  19. Awesome post! it’s great to hear how yoga has benefited you and your running. I love the stretching and the way I feel after doing yoga.

  20. I have never, ever been a runner and have to say that I don’t think I ever will. I commend you for being a runner, I know it is a lot of hard work. I do have friends who run and love it. I am a lover of Yoga, however. I practiced for many years and loved the way I felt about my physical health and my mental health. I am so glad yoga has helped out you.

  21. I love this! I just posted on Monday about how yoga is a perfect complement to running!

  22. You forgot Salmon + Spaghetti Squash (or sweet potatoes) – ha ha!

    But you’re right… Doing yoga after running is definitely a good approach. It’s always a great idea to stretch warm muscles, I definitely do not do that enough!

  23. I love both yoga and running and I agree with you that they are the perfect compliment to one another. When I spend too much time running I find that my hamstrings get really tight and with yoga I’m able to make sure that doesn’t happen. Great post!

    1. Even after a run, I try to find time to do at least 5 poses that hit all the high points (or low ones): downward dog, low lunge, forward fold, and pigeon. Sometimes I just do a few vinyasas.

  24. I’ve recently discovered my love for running but I know I need to incorporate a yoga practice to improve my flexibility. This post pretty much convinced me of that. I also love HIIT + some weekly runs.

    1. When I trained for my last 2 Chicago marathons, my coach incorporated HIIT workouts into my training. I found those to be very beneficial. But she also let me keep my yoga sessions–actually, she wanted me to continue them. The benefits speak for themselves!

  25. I agree it is a perfect combo of fitness routines. I wish I loved running as much as I love yoga though!

  26. Wow, Wendy! I didn’t realize how deep into yoga you were despite seeing all your awesome photos on IG. 🙂 I was doing yoga for runners once a week but got lazy. I need to start up again now that I’m in training.

  27. I like yoga and strength training as a combo! I learn something new everyday! Lovely post, thanks for sharing and hosting!

  28. i think yoga is a complement to so many different activities. my favorite fitness combo is weight lifting and walking!

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