The Long Run Interviews were very excited to catch up with Linda Dixon this month. Linda is a yogi and runner currently based in Darlington, UK. The reason why it’s so awesome to talk to Linda is because we went to school together, many moons ago – and thanks to media of various kinds, have been able to reconnect. Linda currently teaches yoga at locations across Darlington, including the school in question, Hummersknott Academy, and has completed numerous running events around the country. It was great to hear Linda’s insights from the world of yoga and running.
Interview #5 with Linda Dixon
LR: How were you first introduced to yoga? Or maybe I should say, how did yoga find you?!
LD: Yoga found me for sure! I got into it properly in 2011 when I lived in London and was looking for somewhere I could practice near where I lived. I was looking for ‘something’ to bring some lightness into my life and I was drawn to Hot Power Yoga aka HPY in Clapham. The website had a photo of its founder Dylan Ayaloo in eight angle pose and I just thought ‘wow’. I went along, tentatively, feeling unsure of what was going to happen. It was incredible. I could barely keep up but the heat was wonderful (I love heat!) and I felt refreshed and invigorated afterwards, even though I was mess of arms and legs all over the place.
LR: Is there a certain style of yoga your prefer, and why?
LD: I am a fan of anything that gets me into my physical body and away from my mind whizzing about at a million miles an hour. The other styles I have practiced are Hatha (gentle) and Kundalini (spiritual focus). The sequence I practice the most, and teach, is Power Vinyasa Yoga which is more akin to an all over workout. It’s vigorous but also soothing. The thing I love about the power sequence is it brings me up against myself time and after time and I always have a choice about how I react to that. I have tended throughout my life to be my own worst critic and on the yoga mat that translated through to telling myself ‘you can’t do this’ but there was space now to give it a go. I have been taught in a way that says it is not what the pose looks like but how it feels and I encourage that too. Use the body to feel rather than the head to think. Yes at times it’s tough but where is that toughness coming from? Is it coming from my head (yes, usually) or is my body asking me to back off? There is a huge difference and distinguishing between the two has been a revelation.
LR: And how about running? When did you start running?
LD: I got into running back in 2010 when I was living in Australia and my mum had just been diagnosed with throat cancer. It was treatable but I was still devastated. I felt frustrated and sad and lots of other things so I had lots of energy to burn. One day I announced to my family ‘I am going for a run!’ and they looked at my like I had seriously lost my mind. I was not known for being a sporty person so it came as a shock to me that I just loved running. I had also just quit smoking for obvious reasons and felt the need to get active. So I started small and round the block a few times in the evenings and building up. I have exercise-related asthma according to my doctor so I needed an inhaler to keep my airways open and once I had that there was no stopping me. I came back to England at Christmas 2010 and did Race For Life in the spring and then signed up for Run to the Beat half marathon straight away. I had caught the bug big time! Luckily, in London, I lived near a beautiful part of town and ran by the River Thames, Houses of Parliament, St James’ Park, The Mall, up to Southwark Bridge and over to the south bank, extending every time until I had a wonderful 10k route mapped, then 12, the 15 and so on. I felt fit, strong and great! Coming up to Darlington regularly to visit my mum while she was recovering, I would always pack my running gear and head off by the River Tees just admiring how beautiful it is up here. I mapped a running route wherever I went.
LR: Do you feel that yoga and running are complimentary activities?
LD: Absolutely. Yoga is an excellent modality in it’s own right but as a complimentary activity the other sports too. I teach boxers who are all very strong and fit, but find training (and over-training) leaves them stiff. If they want to get light on their feet they need to open the chest, shoulders and particularly the hips which tend to be tight for a lot of people, not just sports people. With running, that repetitiveness of the backwards-forwards motion in the legs puts strain on the hip flexors, psoas and shortens the piriformis. I know my hips were always tight after a long run.
LR: What do you find to be most beneficial?
LD: The hip stretches and working on my glutes! When I started yoga I had just run my first half and was continuing to run 10k every other day and a longer run at the weekend. Hip stretches were agony for me to start with, I flat out refused to do them. I was eventually coaxed into it by one of my teachers and it continued to be extremely uncomfortable but I slowly learned to breathe with it.
LR: What inspired you to take the steps to become a yoga teacher?
LD: I was poorly just over a year ago, some sort of bug that my body couldn’t shake. I lost a lot of weight which was scary as I am only a little’un to begin with. I felt horrendous and it was a wake up call that my health had to become my priority. I signed up for ’40 Days to Personal Revolution’ in January last year with HPY and haven’t looked back since. The programme involved – you guessed it – 40 days of yoga (6 days a week), cleaning up the diet to cut out processed food, no caffiene (I haven’t had any since) and no alcohol (I gave up alcohol in 2011 so luckily that was a breeze!) We meditated twice a day and had meetings every week to check in with what was coming up – normally lots of emotions. I stopped running during this period as the yoga was quite intense and as I’d had a stress fracture not long before I thought it wouldn’t kill me to take a break! My body got strong very quickly and I started to think ‘I want more of this’ – I felt great. More grounded and more aware of myself. I realised the only thing standing in my way was me – and I was ready to face that and take the leap. My teacher Eva said to me ‘you just have to jump off the cliff’ when I was umm-ing and ahh-ing over ‘can I do it… Do I have the confidence to teach… I don’t think I can do it….’ Remember what I said about being my own worst critic?! Well there is was in full swing, criticising me before I had even begun so I thought ‘screw you critic’ and signed up for teacher training this time last year 🙂
LR: What advice would you give to a new yogi-runner?
LD: Use the things you learn in yoga to your advantage when running. Go easy on yourself. Be kind to yourself. Don’t over do it. Be aware of your bodies abilities as well as limitations. Strivers like myself find these things difficult, especially where sport is concerned. Know when to back off – something I wish I had heeded when I got a stress fracture in my right foot. I thought it didn’t feel right but I pushed on – 4 miles in ‘hmmm it feels ok’ and 8 miles in starting to grit my teeth in pain and by mile 9 I had come to hobble – ironically it happened on the day of the womens marathon during the olympics. I must have looked a very sorry sight, like I had just switched on my tv that morning and thought ‘I can do that!” dusted off my running shoes and went for it with no practice. It taught me valuable lesson in that I pushed too hard and my body spoke to me very clearly to tell me it wasn’t happy. Sorry body.
LR: What’s next for Linda Dixon?
LD: World domination! Hahaha. More people are getting into this style of yoga now in Darlington, which is wonderful. I hope the classes will continue to grow, that I keep growing as a teacher and as a person, and I reach out to people who think yoga is not for them or who never thought they would give it a go. Essentially, someone like me a few years ago. I would really love it if some people coming to my classes now end up training to be teachers themselves and jump off that cliff with me.
LR: Next up are a few fun questions:
LR: Tea or coffee? LD: yogi tea!
LR: Apples or oranges? LD: Apples.
LR: Mountains or oceans? LD: Oceans.
LR: Juices or smoothies? LD: Oooooh tough! Juice at a push but I do love a superfood packed green smoothie as well….
LR: Track, road or trails? LD: Trails – I love the countryside.
LR: Compression gear or none? LD: I have never owned any….
LR: How about yoga pants or capri leggings?! LD: Yoga pants all the way. Sweaty Betty are my current fave.
LRY: Thanks Linda! It’s amazing to read about the transition you have been through, and in such a short space of time! The ‘Strivers’ among us can relate to your words and I think it’s great that you are now teaching and sharing what you have learnt. I can personally say that your classes are fun, upbeat yet relaxing and I recommend to anyone who lives in the Darlington area who is interested in yoga – go and check out Linda’s classes, ASAP!! Details below: