Diary of a yogi (who's training for a marathon) Part 1 - Finding Yoga in Running

Finding Yoga in Running! 

A few months ago I decided, with my partner, to enter the Brighton Marathon. I enjoy running because it gets me outside feeling nature against my skin. However, without a goal it's easy to find another excuse not to go for a run, spending far too much time on work instead. Committing to something like a race or event means there is no option really, train... or get injured! 

The flip side of this is that when you have a scheduled long run and it's howling headwinds outside your have to go! That's what happened this weekend, and that's how I found my yoga in running.... 

yoga and running worthing sussex

I've run a half marathon (in fact I've run a few now thanks to my training), done 2 Tough Mudders and trekked at altitude for days, but nothing was quite like the 29km run in headwinds and rain. That sounds far removed from the nurturing, warm yoga studio, however it opened my eyes to how the two cross over (I had a lot of time to think whilst plodding along!) 

Breathing: Without proper breathing running is impossible. Being able to slow down and control the breath is fundamental to running, especially in challenging long distances.

Balance: Putting one foot in front of the other sounds easy! Add some wind, slippy mud and rain and it's a whole different story. Being able to access your core and find strength in that allows you to adjust when you wobble... a fundamental part of life, not just running. 

Focus: Setting your sites and then moving, at a pace that suits you, towards that. If you have no focus you are just running aimlessly with no knowledge of when that is going to end or what the point is, which can be demoralising. Focus also allows you to see past temporary discomfort like wind if you have a bigger picture in mind. 

Awareness: Listening to your body is fundamental to preventing injury. Developing proprioception is a benefit of yoga, but also really being able to hear your body, feel any discomfort and know when the barrier is in your mind or your body. Pushing through physical pain will only cause injury and set you back, so awareness of this is key.

Kindness (Ahimsa): My favourite! Being kind to yourself and your body is fundamental to everything in life, in my opinion. By all means challenge yourself, put yourself in situations you didn't think you could handle and surprise yourself by succeeding! But do this with kindness not aggression. Be aware of how your body feels, notice any discomfort or pain and know when to hold back... and when to push forward. 

And how do we prevent aches, pains, and 'DOMS'? We practice yoga, of course! Regularly stretching out the muscles helps to maintain length and avoid tightness and injury. So, yoga and running marathons really do go hand in hand! 

Some people may think that running a marathon is a stupid idea- it puts stress on your joints, takes up lots of time and can result in injury. However, completing something you didn't think you could do is empowering and strengthening. Challenging ourselves, even in little playful ways, allows us to see that we are more capable than we think...

Calm in the Christmas Chaos

This time of year can be stressful for many of us, as I was reminded yesterday whilst seeking solitude in the quiet, empty, warm sauna!! This is when we need to find calm the most and, as always, we can find this in yoga. 

For some switching off work for a few days is worrying - what if something goes wrong while you're not there. For others the noise and bustle of everyone around at Christmas can be overwhelming. Or perhaps the silence of having no one around can be lonely. Expectations are high regardless because Christmas is built up to be such a significant time of year for so many. Added to that it's also a full moon and the longest day of the year. Whilst Winter Solstice is a time of re-birth and awakening the prospect of leaping into the new year can also be daunting! There are so many reasons why it's important to take some time out, often forgotten in the rush to get everything done. 

Restorative Yoga and slowing down has it's place on all our mats, and I've found I go to it more at this time of year than ever. When we are stressed, excited, nervous we quicken our pace, but often we need to do the opposite in order to bring balance back into our lives - the main focus of Ayurveda. Releasing into props such as cushions, bolsters and blankets allows the body to completely let go as it is supported. The quiet space along with physical response helps the mind to let go. 

As we move into a new year this is the perfect time to slow down, take stock and set intentions for the next phase from a place of calm. So, in the midst of the Christmas Choas take some time out, lie with your legs up the wall, a hot water bottle on your belly and give yourself some peace for 5 minutes.