Spring is in the air! Finally! First sun shines appeared on the Budapest sky. It makes me crazy happy, it is a pure joy to be out, so empowering and rejuvenating. And above all, I can get to do my favorite outdoor activities: running, wakeboard and the new obsession, yoga.
I started to visit yoga classes when I was preparing for my first half marathon. Reading running magazines, I came across more and more often articles on yoga and how it contributes to running performance. So I decided to give it a chance and see what the big fuss is about yoga. And guess what! I was suffering in the first class like hell. It made me so irritated that I could not hold the poses long enough that seemed to be so easy for everyone else but me. Being a maximalist I did not give up but forced myself to go to the classes even though I hated them in the beginning. But how happy I was when I started to see the first improvements and received the first praises from the yoga teacher.
For all the runners out there, here are some reasons why it is worth to consider visiting yoga classes:
Relax your Body by Breathing Deep
Yoga has developed some techniques to breath deeper and slower. It teaches you how to control your breathing that is a huge benefit when it comes to running. Personally, I was suffering a lot with my breathing when I took up running. I was very quickly out of breath and I also did not pay attention to the rhythm that often gave me side stitching. When you learn to control your breathing and you breathe lower, you will have a slower and more efficient breathing during cardiovascular movements which relaxes your body.
Stretching and Strengthening
This was quite surprising for me. Although I knew, surely, that stretching in the beginning and end of the training is needed, still I thought both, running and yoga are increasing my flexibility. However, as I read more I learnt that the repetitive motion of running is only using a few muscles like hamstrings, calves, hip flexors but underusing the others and as a result the runner loses flexibility. Thus yoga does well by lengthening those tight muscle groups and enables the runner to perform more effectively. Besides stretching, yoga strengthens the body from tip to toe. A strong core, legs and ankles help the body to soften the shock caused by the repetitive pounding whilst running and as such, prevent injuries.
Another thing I learnt from articles is how to hold your body whilst running. It is not easy to pay attention to and one can very easily fail in running tall. It might sound vain but I usually check my running posture when I pass shopping windows and I correct my posture if needed. The correct body alignment allows space for the lungs for breathing. Basic yoga poses enforce a perfect and healthy posture. By more and more practicing it will come naturally, forcing the body into the correct body posture during running too.
The greatest of all, why I became a yoga advocate is the patience and positive thinking that it teaches. You learn to control not only your body but your mind as well. Running is a mind game. They say the only difference between the great runners is the strength of their willpower. I never talked to myself so much as I do during running. It is so funny to consider the different stages and battles my mind goes through while I am running long distance. One moment I am convinced I can do this, next moment I am close to giving up. Yoga teaches discipline that can be applied to running. The positive affirmations are great help to kill those vicious voices in your mind. Just keep those legs moving! Just keep those legs moving!