Fighting to Relax: Yoga and Running

I’ve mentioned before on here that I do yoga. I have been for almost six years now.

Initially, it was for pain management. I’ve dealt with lingering back issues, and they flare up more often when I’m being inactive. But while that’s how initially got into yoga, I’ve benefited from the other benefits as well.

Wait, you’re a yogi?

Not that kind of yogi

Yep. That said, I don’t know that I fit the mold of the typical yogi (by that I mean, I’m 190 pounds, and I definitely do not fit the mold of a typical yogi). But I also don’t feel like a fit as a runner (by that I mean I’m 190 pounds, and I look like I know my way around a pizza buffet). That said, with regard to fitness, the things you’re the worst are the things you should be focusing on. That’s how we grow. At least that’s what people keep telling me.

So yoga. Yeah, we’re talking about yoga. I still don’t fully understand how I got to yoga. I had back pain, saw a show on PBS about Pilates and how it helps with things like back pain, and then I decided to start doing yoga ‘cause I’m not doing frickin’ Pilates.

So what is yoga?

I guess this depends on the yogi. For some, it’s stretching and strength exercises. At it’s core, though, it was started as meditation. It can be something akin to a religious experience. And then there are people like me who might have even more specific expectations for what yoga is (e.g., pain management).

So how does this relate to running?

Lots of ways. Let’s start with pain management.

I started doing yoga for back pain. When I was doing it daily, I realized my back wasn’t really hurting but neither was my knee. That was unexpected.

When I’m running, that’s stress on my body, especially said knee and back. If you ignore that I’m at a healthy weight, I’m really just a fat kid who runs. I wheeze, I ache, and I hate it. Yoga’s a great way to keep those aches and pains from flaring up too much.

Yoga also benefits running as an extra workout. You’re improving flexibility, which is awesome. You’re improving core strength, also awesome. And, in addition to working big muscles, yoga hits smaller muscles that might not get worked while running. Basically, you’re getting a more balanced workout when compared to running. Where running leads to imbalances, that’s the antithesis of a yoga workout.

One of the benefits I never really paid much attention to until the last few months was breathing. For years, I did yoga on my own. While I knew I was supposed to be breathing deeply and slowly, I lapsed on effort there sometimes. In yoga class, they focus on breathing, so a couple of times a week I focus on breathing for an hour. When I’m running, I’m taking those gains from working on breathing deeply and using that while I run. I think that’s one of the reasons I didn’t die at the 5K. I was really focusing on breathing, and that’s a direct benefit of yoga.

And of course, yoga is meditation and meditation helps relieve stress.

This allows you and your body to just be in better shape.

It’s easy to view meditation as some hippy thing that’s all about relaxation, but meditation is actually a very active process. When you look at monks who’ve been meditating for decades, their brains are incredibly active in the process. So even though you’ll be more relaxed as a result, meditation is still an active process. This isn’t too different than the effects of running for some people. Running is how some people sort out their days or how they clear their heads.

But for me, yoga more so than running is about forgetting everything. I have fewer stray thoughts in yoga compared to running. Getting rid of these thoughts helps my day feel less cluttered, which leads to less stress, which means it’s less likely I’ll con myself into skipping an afternoon run.

So yeah, that’s all I have to say about that.

Yoga’s pretty awesome if you can get past the weirdness of it. That said, if you’re reading this, it’s a good chance you’re a runner. No one’s chasing you and you’re still going. And when you’re in a race, remember you’re in a crowd of people who are basically wearing synthetic underwear as their entire outfit (if the weather’s warm). So who’s the weirdo after all?




3 thoughts on “Fighting to Relax: Yoga and Running”

  1. I tried bikram yoga (yoga done at 45 degrees for an hour and a half at a time) last summer. I joined my local studio and did it every other day, alternating with running . I loved it despite the fact that is genuinely torturous. It helps me sit down my very active mind which jst doen’t happen otherwise. Though I might give regular non hot yoga a spin some the cost of bikram classes is extortionate and the dude in charge of bikram ( Mr. Bikram) is a mite dodgy by all accounts.


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