THE MERRELL BLOG: WHAT'S NOW. WHAT'S NEXT. LET'S GET OUTSIDE.
Yoga for Runners
Faith Shorney about the benefits of yoga for other sports
All this bending and stretching stuff seems to have become quite the popular fitness crazy in recent years and the dynamic and varied forms of yoga are only growing and spreading further. Being an adventure athlete and outdoor enthusiast, I didn’t warm to yoga immediately, despite my father being a teacher. I started out in the hot, sweaty confines of a Bikram yoga studio, breathing fire and over-stretching in the insane heat, pushing my body to extremes and eventually injuring myself (damn, that competitive nature). I slowly moved to gentler forms of yoga and found my 'middle way', something that reeled my ego back in and allowed me to relax a little – all of sudden I found myself running further and harder with less effort, my legs recovered faster and the pain of hill sprints and speed work slowly ebbed away into a gentle stiffness.
That’s when I came to the astonishing realisation that yoga doesn’t just help me stretch and recover, it actually strengthens the body and improves cardiovascular fitness without putting any pressure on the heart from over exertion. Finally I’d found the yin to my running yang, the downward dog to my uphill struggles and the fresh breath of calm that seemed to ease me through the most demanding parts of every run, and I haven’t looked back since. It’s been 3 years, I’ve had my fair share of injuries and oftentimes fallen out of love with running and with my yoga practice, but it seems that the two go hand in hand and when I find myself out of balance, it’s always because something is missing.
You’ve gathered by now that I am an advocate of yoga for runners. Let me also just bring to your attention the incredible benefits yoga has for all sports, and for all people, regardless of age or ability. It is a physical practice that strengthens and realigns the body, it is a mental practice which incorporates breath work and meditation; it is a balancing act. It brings the mind and body together to work in harmony to achieve balance and strength both inside and out. Most people don’t know how to balance, how to breathe, how to focus their attention or how to move in a functional way; our bodies and minds have become rigid from sitting at desks all day and living lives that take us away from our natural ways of being. What yoga does is bring the outside world into our focus, it brings everything together so that we can enjoy it fully and experience it physically.
So, whenever you can, get outside and play in nature. When you can’t do that, go inside and find some space in your body and your mind. In fact, if you can, take a yoga mat and go outside and inside all at the same time – you never know what amazing stuff you might find. Enjoy your body, move it because you can, take care of it, let it be free and functional. Find the space you need to clear your head, find the strength you need to run harder, learn to breathe into the difficult situations and make your journey through life a little more balanced.