THE MERRELL BLOG: WHAT'S NOW. WHAT'S NEXT. LET'S GET OUTSIDE.
YOGA, RUNNING AND THE REST
Ambssador Faith Shorney shares her view on yoga and the power from within.
Why do you run?
How far and fast can you push your body?
What are the things that set you back?
Where are your limits?
What do you really want to achieve?
Tight hips and hamstrings, weak shins and ankles, painful feet and toes – all common running ailments and injuries, all of which can be improved through regular yoga practice. Contrary to the mainstream belief that yoga is simply stretching and lengthening of musculature, it is in fact also a powerful tool for strengthening and stabilising areas of the body, depending on the poses (asanas) chosen. Through yoga we also learn to feel our bodies in a different, more fully rounded sense, enabling us to work with, and not against, the body during hours of running; maximising energy through breathing, finding space where before there was none, drawing on strength from new places, understanding our limits and working with them to achieve our full potential.
Injuries have, for as long as I have been running, been the single most common downfall in my running career. Injuries caused not by running per se, but by the weaknesses in my body, the tightening muscles from long hours on the trails, from bad posture, bad footwear and limited movement patterns that have developed over time. I’ve suffered the chronic pain and the heartbreak of being side-lined by injuries coming into race season, and for the most part my year of recovery has included a substantial amount of yoga. After taking the right approach to yoga and running, and using each one as a compliment to the other, I am able to integrate the two and achieve greater progress in both.
Yoga takes on many forms for varying levels of experience and ability; the beautiful thing about yoga, as with running, is that there is no start or end point and no ‘right’ way of doing things, you just do it. Choosing the right yoga for you is essential for both the enjoyment and getting the benefits from it which are suited to you. For those who appreciate a hard workout and strengthening work, power yoga and Ashtanga can be incredibly beneficial, but if you really want to ease into things slowly, which I would highly recommend if you’re an inexperienced yogi, then a gentle hatha class, restorative yoga, or my personal favourite, yin yoga, might be the better option. Pilates is also excellent for strengthening the body, but I would try both before deciding. Start by trying different types of classes once or twice a week until you find the one that fits you, everyone is different and finding the right class and teacher is essential to progress in your practice.
Aside from the benefits in injury prevention, rehabilitation and basic lengthening and strengthening that yoga provides for the body, there is also the benefit to the mind and the human spirit that comes with regular practice. Few runners heed the advice given to take a step back, reign in the miles and slow things down; we want to push through the pain and find the illusive, miraculous surge of energy that will help us scale ‘the wall’ we so regularly hit during races or long training runs. To be our best we must first asses what nourishment we need physically, mentally and spiritually in order to thrive.
When we take the time to unwind, de-stress and subdue the mind by focussing on the body in slow and controlled movement, we open ourselves up to self-acceptance, we begin to naturally overcome fears and limiting beliefs, we open our minds and bodies to receiving energy and inspiration from the world around us and we are able to experience life in ways we may never have imagined. I’ve been practicing yoga on and off for 4 years and during my injury rehabilitation my yoga practice has been my lifeline. I have subsequently achieved more in my running than I ever thought possible simply by taking the time to get down on that mat and salute the sun every morning. It may sound cliché but I truly believe that when we stop trying to push, and we allow ourselves to simple ‘be’ as we are, we will find ourselves in a unique position to receive what the universe throws our way with openness, gratitude and the strength to overcome any obstacle.