What is yoga?
What is yoga? Such a good question… One that cries out for and deserves a long and rambling essay but for now I’ll keep it brief. Yoga is a holistic health practice that originated in India. It is an art and science, a way of life, and yoga teaches us how to connect the mind, body and breath to develop a sound sense of well being.
The physical side of yoga that most of us are familiar with is called asana, and asana practice forms just one eighth of what has been termed the yoga journey or path. The other seven parts, or limbs, of the yoga pathway are equally important, and equally as challenging. They include: yama, niyama, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi.
You can read a post where I write more about the yamas & niyamas (and their connection to running) HERE.
What about yoga and running?
The connection between yoga and running is that each discipline can be meditative – they both require use of the breath in unique ways as the body moves – in very different, yet at the same time similar, and often complementary ways.
Yoga can help a runner with strength, flexibility and concentration. And vice-a versa, running can also help a yogi with leg strength, focus and aerobic fitness.
The most important thing to remember is that whatever you decide to do – please start out slowly, be consistent with any practice of yoga, and be patient too. In both yoga and running, time and commitment bring about long term fluidity, fitness and peace of mind.
Yoga for Runners
I’m in the middle of putting together a set of short, free yoga videos that have been designed with runners in mind – but you don’t have to be a runner to do them!
You’ll need a comfortable surface to practice on or a yoga mat. Wear lose stretchy clothing and bare feet.
1. Yoga for Runners: a short post-run sequence
2. Core strengthening for runners – a short 5min sequence
There are many different forms of yoga teaching that are ultimately all aiming towards the same end-goal, which is a union of the mind, body & breath to realise a deep and almost mystical connection to your ‘true-self’ – beyond the ego (the eighth limb of yoga known as samadi).
Whether you would like to work on the physical or spiritual side of your self via yoga, or a mixture of both, there are plenty of different types of yoga classes you can attend, and a few are briefly outlined below:
Hatha Yoga: Hatha yoga classes are slower paced, focusing on a balance between the physical and spiritual, and are ideal for beginners, and runners too!
Vinyasa Flow: In a Vinyasa yoga class the poses will flow into one another, depending upon a teacher’s individual style. There may be music, and the focus will be on the physical movements – using a mixture of yoga styles and poses.
Ashtanga Yoga: Ashtanga yoga follows a series of movements as designed by K. Pattahbi Jois in India. The poses build strength and flexibility and ashtanga classes are physically demanding.
Iyengar Yoga: B.K.S. Iyengar started a certain style of yoga, which involves correcting alignment, and using straps, blocks and blankets to assist the body with various physical asanas.
Bikram Yoga: Bikram yoga was founded by Bikram Choudhury, and classes take place in a heated room usually at 105 degrees, with 40% humidity. Bikram yoga is also know as “Hot yoga”, and started in Los Angeles in the 1970s. Teachers follow a set order of 26 poses. Bikram yoga can be good for runners because the heat relaxes the body and muscles and a deeper stretch may be possible but it is wise to take classes slowly at first due to the serious loss of water and possible effects of dehydration. Take a bottle of nuun with you!
Yin Yoga: Yin yoga is based upon Chinese and Indian philosophies, and was founded by Paulie Zink. Following the concepts of the feminine ‘Yin’ (being still, calm), Yin yoga classes focus on holding physical poses for a longer amount of time, to release the connective tissues and meditate more deeply. A great class for runners at the end of a week or on a rest-day.
Kundalini Yoga: This form of yoga practice is intense and can be a deeply moving experience. Kundalini focuses on the energy chakras of the body, using a variety of breathing techniques and physical poses. Great for developing good breathing habits – useful for runners!
Core or Power Yoga: Basically a very physical yoga class, mixing styles of Ashtanga and Hatha yoga, maybe incorporating some Vinyasa Flow. Incorporate for a core strength workout!
Jivamukti Yoga: Founded in 1984 by David Life and Sharon Gannon in New York City, Jivamukti (which means “liberation while living”) classes are intense – physically and spiritually.