As I begin my preparation for the Chattanooga Scenic Half Marathon tomorrow, I find myself reflecting on the role yoga has played in my training. I’ve been running marathons and half marathons since 1998, and have kept myself at least half marathon ready for over five years. One year ago I began my yoga journey mostly because I wanted to find an alternative to the cross training I was doing at the time. I was also at a very difficult emotional place in my life with many life events interfering with my serenity. I continued to find running meditation (something I began implementing in my runs many years ago) helpful in bringing a sense of balance and serenity but was not finding the same benefits with my weight lifting and Pilates cross training routines.
Everyone’s heard yoga can be a peaceful restorative type of physical practice and that stretching is good for any runner so I decided to pick it up. And let’s face it runners typically have upper bodies that resemble limp noodles or sticks. I began with a one day a week class at my local YMCA, gym yoga as they say. I can’t say that I was hooked from the first experience but I definitely remember feeling a sense of having done something I had not previously done and yes I did feel stretched and a little more relaxed. I continued to show up sporadically, with no real commitment. I don’t know what happened but something began to shift within me even with this modest commitment. Even with my irregular practice I started to notice muscles in my upper body and core that seemed to have eluded me.
So like any good obsessive runner I began to dive in a little more seriously, motivated primarily by a sense of vanity (my favorite muscle prior to yoga were my calves, oooh the definition.) I moved out from my gym yoga experience to investigate different studios and the vast array of class offerings they had. In the studios, the emphasis on shavasana (laying down flat on my back in the dark moving nothing) proved to be very soothing and completely clarifying. I never knew lying completely still could be so powerful. Much of what I learned was confusing, and more than a little overwhelming, but I was encouraged by the changes in my body and the increased clarity in my mind so I kept showing up eventually using yoga solely as my cross training activity.
Yoga did make me a better runner. I completed the Women’s Half Marathon last year, a fairly hilly and difficult course, shaving off time from my previous races. More importantly I felt great pretty much the whole race as well as after. Not one muscle twitched or ached and my mind was completely clear. I enjoyed moments of quiet in my mind followed by excitement and motivation. I loved interacting with the crowd at times and “going inward” creating my own solitude in the midst of the crowd at other times. The disciplined practice of six months worth of yoga taught me how to integrate my body, my breath and my mind in order to remain focused and calm even in the face of difficult hills and long distances.
As I head out to the race, and coincidently my 48th birthday, I can honestly say I have never been in better shape physically, mentally and emotionally. Yoga has taught me to pay attention. I have gained flexibility, balance, strength and clarity throughout my entire physical body as well as in my mind. Yoga has taught me how to be in intense situations in order to bring my awareness to my form and breath in order to make any situation more manageable. I have been able to carry this lesson “off the mat” as they say into my everyday life. I look forward to the joy of this race knowing I am well prepared balanced, clear and serene. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti… Namaste.
This is a post by Michele Priddy. She has a Master’s degree in Special Education from Middle Tennessee State University and certification as a RYT-500 from Yoga Alliance. She has more than two decades of experience helping adults and children of all ages and abilities reach their maximum potential. This has been reposted with permission. You can find the original post here.
You may also like: How Yoga Changed My Competitive Life Forever