I recently started running – and I absolutely love it. I already feel I can breathe more deeply after a run, and I’m full of lots of feel-good endorphins, helping me to stay motivated and strong. I know I’m a little late to the party – lots of yogis are runners and lots of runners are yogis. For good reason – there are many ways these two practices can be complementary. Here are my four highlights so far.
- Muscular endurance – I love muscular challenges in vinyasa, hot yoga, hatha – there are lots of strength-building yoga styles. Running has become a way to build a different type of strength which is based on muscular endurance. By increasing the endurance of my muscles, in particular quadriceps, glutes, calves and ankles, I can bring a different form of confidence into my yoga practice. I feel more able to take on challenges and strengths-based yoga moves knowing I have more endurance ability than I previously had. Where yoga has given me a space to grow strength and confidence, running has propelled that and given me the ability to enjoy classes even more as I approach poses with greater ability to meet challenges.
- Body awareness – Yoga has been life-changing in terms of body awareness and surprisingly running has added a lot to that awareness already. As I run, I’m noticing different muscle use and I’m learning about the areas of my body I most heavily rely on. Already, I feel a difference the day after a run on my right and left sides, the right side much more sore the next day than the left. Since I have an injury in my left lower back, this is such a useful piece of body awareness, so I can actively build up my left side to help support an old injury in my yoga practice.
- Mindfulness – Using running as a mindfulness exercise has been really fascinating. Paying attention to my breath, the pace of my feet on the pavement, and the environment around me. Particularly when I feel really challenged in my run, I begin to focus only on my next step, and then the next one, and so on – this really helps to bring my mind back to my body and focus on what is happening here in reality. It feels really grounding and mindful, which has been a great complement to my seated meditation and meditative yoga practices.
- Lung Capacity – When we breathe, the diaphragm and intercostal muscles contract, allowing for oxygen to enter the bloodstream. When we run, we increase the pace and amount of oxygen needed which is why we need to breathe faster. Over time, running increases lung capacity by adapting to our changing needs, we allow more oxygen into our systems. This essentially means running aids in breathing. How we breathe determines how we feel, and how we live. Already I find this is the most impactful aspect of running – I feel lighter and more relaxed after a run and physically feel it is easier to breathe. This helps me to stay calm and centred during the day, and it has added a depth and ease to how I breathe in my yoga practice.
It’s early days for me and my running practice and already I can feel a big change – I wish I had started running sooner. I would love to hear from yogis who have been running for a long time, or runners who are new to yoga. What do you wish you had known sooner?