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Runyoga pose on trailIn our personal quest to become better runners we often find ourselves looking for new things to try.  Our research (like our running) usually leads us down many different paths.  If you have followed some of these well-worn paths, you are likely to find one that leads to yoga.

But how are yoga and running connected?  What has an ancient eastern tradition, which often involved sitting still for long periods, got to do with the modern sport of trail running? Can it really help you become a better runner?

The Parallels….

Back to the beginning

The ancestors of mankind developed the ability to run for long distances about 2.6 million years ago, probably in order to hunt animals.  The origins of yoga can be traced back to northern India around 5,000 years ago, as people sought to unite the power of the body, mind and soul.

A personal perspective

In the year 2000 AD I started running.

I did so because I wanted to get fit and a friend told me how great it would be to run a marathon.

Nine months later I ran the London marathon.

After the marathon I stopped running because I had injured my knee.

After a short time I started running again because there was “something about running” that I wanted to keep experiencing.

In the year 2005 AD I started yoga.

I did so because I was pregnant and my midwife told me yoga would help me during the labour.

Six months later I had a healthy baby boy.

After the birth I stopped yoga because I was too busy looking after the baby.

After a short time I started yoga again because there was “something about yoga” that I wanted to keep experiencing.

 

I kept up the running and the yoga over the next few years, but they were two separate activities that I participated in at different times and places.  Both held a strong interest for me and I continued to research the benefits of each activity.  Slowly I began to realise that these two ancient human activities could complement each other to help me become a better runner, yogi and person.

One of the issues many runners have with taking up yoga is that there are so many different approaches.  You may have come across terms such as Iyengar, Ashtanga and Bikram, just to name a few.  All these activities are described by the generic term “yoga” and yet the practices themselves can be quite different.  So how does the average trail runner know where to start?

Sarah Lei running on the trailsA simple way to explain these different approaches, using a running analogy, is to consider that you are going to run to the top of a mountain.  There may be many different trails to get to the summit, including smooth roads as well as rough indistinct tracks, but once you get to the top the view is just the same no matter which trail you took to get there.

These different trails are like the different approaches to yoga.  The diverse approaches are not conflicting or mutually exclusive, but instead they allow each of us to choose our own path depending on our personal preferences, physical fitness, personality and temperament.

The type of yoga I teach is hatha yoga.  Hatha yoga focuses on physical and mental strength building exercises and postures and is ideal for runners.

The best way to work out which type of yoga suits you is through research and experimenting.  Once you find the “right fit” of yoga for you it should supplement your running in many ways.  A simple comparison of the complementary effects of yoga and running is given in the following table:

yoga running table

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