Slipping on your sneakers and rolling out the yoga mat have more in common than meets the eye
Can running and yoga be complementary? One is a state of constant movement while the other is a movement towards stillness. Perhaps Newton will forgive me, for inferring from his first law, that a state of uniform motion and rest are the same.
You experience freedom while running. You will find liberation on the path of yoga. Without being flippant, let us look at the value in combining yogic practices and running.
Steady breathing and a low heart rate are desirable for both runners and yogis. A runner achieves a low resting heart-rate after running endless miles. A yogi achieves the same result by taking deep breaths while being stationary. Both methods take a long time.
A runner’s training plan assumes that breathing, an involuntary process, will fall into place as one undergoes training for speed and endurance. Yogis don’t make this assumption. According to them, the breath also needs to be trained. They have spent several millennia devising exercises to regulate this involuntary process. The practice of pranayama is designed to bring control over the breath.
There is a correlation between the breath-rate and the heart-rate. The breath rate is 1/4 of the heart rate. The practice of pranayama helps strengthen the respiratory system, and through that, the heart. Just as you need a fitness trainer to draw up a training plan, you need a guru to teach appropriate breathing techniques, which can be included in your training plan.
Long-distance runners tend to use a few muscle groups. The training tends to focus on the cardio-vascular system. Apart from strong legs and supple hips, long-distance runners need to have a strong back, core and shoulders.
The practice of asanas has a direct impact on the musculo-skeletal system. Putting the body through a series of movements that include forward bends, backward bends and twists in standing, lying, inverted, kneeling and seated postures, trains the entire body. Regular asana practice results in improved strength, increased flexibility, improved alignment of bones and joints, reduction in the loss of bone mass, improved posture and co-ordination.
Asana practice can be incorporated into a training plan. Some standing asanas done dynamically can be used as a warm-up before going for a run; these help assess the state of your body before embarking on the run. Asanas after a run help relax muscles.
The practice of asana and pranayama heightens your awareness. This mindfulness extends to your running as well. You become more conscious of your body, and pay more attention to your rhythm and form while running. Running a marathon requires you to stay focused for long periods. The mind tends to wander and gets distracted, but it too can be trained to concentrate. Pranayama allows you to train the mind by teaching it to focus on the breath.
Most of us begin training for an event with a great deal of enthusiasm and fervour. Along the way, we face obstacles, referred to as antarayas, that prevent us from achieving our goals. There are nine obstacles described in the yogasutra: illness, inertia, doubt, haste, lethargy, over-indulgence, delusion about one’s abilities, lack of perseverance and regression.
Every runner has faced at least one of these obstacles. Yoga can provide you with the tools necessary to stay the course and achieve your goals.
How, when and why
Warm up before a run with standing asanas
Prevent injuries and aid recovery with post-run asanas
Strengthen your spine for efficient breathing while running
Practise breathing techniques for improving the depth and length of your breath
Focusing on your breath while running makes you aware of your physical and mental condition
About Chennai Runners
‘Chennai Runners’ is a group of enthusiastic runners, with 16 neighbourhood chapters. They have a simple message: get off the couch and join them tomorrow at a chapter near your home.