So excited for this post today because it’s a change of pace from all the delicious recipes you’ve been seeing. Today, my RD friend Heather is talking about yoga for runners. Heather and I met a few years back at an event when I was working for Chobani and we’ve been blog buds for a while now. Heather recently updated her website/brand, moved out west, got her yoga teaching certification, oh yeah, and got married! This girl is making serious MOVES! And she’s just plain awesome. So excited that we’re now yogi buds too. If you’re a runner, a yogi, or somewhere in-between, you’ll love this post. Thanks for hanging with us on the blog today, Heather!
Yoga can be ironically intimidating; if you can’t touch your toes, have no idea what “warrior 1” means, or wonder how/why in the world people stand on their heads, you’re not alone! I’m a marathoner, and a yoga teacher, and I assure you that yoga will change your running game whether you’re bendy or not. (I most certainly am not.)
In studying the basic philosophies of yoga I found myself relating most, if not all, of them to running. I understand running; it’s simple and yet it’s different for all of us. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ve become a better runner because of yoga. Sure it stretches you out, wakes up incredibly tight runner-hamstrings, opens your equally-as-tight runner-hips, and reminds you to breathe if you want to keep moving. But it also connects our mind to our body, which will make or break any run on any given day.
There are five “koshas” (layers) in yogic philosophy, starting with the mind and ending with “Samadhi”, aka bliss. As we learn to transcend the layers, our true nature (potential) emerges. This is always the goal, working through poses, meditation, and breath to move from one to the next. The illusion is that they’re separate – mind, body, breathe, wisdom – but the reality is that we put barriers between them.
To avoid overloading your spiritual quota of the day, let’s just say that this totally clicked for me when I thought about the journey of any runner through every minute, mile, and race. As soon as a runner learns that the mind is their best friend or worst foe, their potential “limit” sky-rockets. Mastering that relationship is a different battle every day, but it’s one we suit up for every single time we head out for a run!
#1 – The body (Anamaya Kosha) – The things you ‘train’ or strengthen for endurance and happy running! The thing you want to work for you in and on every run. When the body decides it’s done, IT IS DONE. There’s no convincing it otherwise. So, once we build up its confidence and abilities, we can go Go GO!
#2 – The breath (Pranamaya Kosha) – hurts or helps us. When we remember to breathe, everything else can happen! Breath brings us oxygen, which gets transported through our blood to our muscles, to make energy. When body + breath are functioning, we can run. But how could we run faster, longer, stronger?
#3 – The mind (Manomaya Kosha). This is where many runners hit a wall. Not the “no more sugar” wall you hear about, or an actual physical wall (we hope), but where their potential may plateau because the work it takes to train the mind is not easy. There’s nothing that objectively strengthens our mind, no exercise that results in measurable “progress”, or fool-proof way to conquer it. Our minds are fierce competitors against our reason, logic, endurance, resilience.
Once you make it to this third layer, you’ll know. You’ll have a run, maybe a race, where you learn to silence, control, and/or convince your mind that you CAN KEEP GOING.
#4 – Wisdom (Vijanamaya Kosha) – the mind + body + breath working together to learn what you’re really capable of. Breakthroughs happen here.
#5 – Bliss (Anandamaya Kosha) – THERE’S that runner’s high! Everything clicked, you discovered new territory, and whoa does it feel freaking amazing. This is when you’ve learned to connect all 5 layers, fusing them together to create your running (or any sport of choice!) strength. This layer isn’t always accessible to us just because we found it once, but when you know it’s there, you’ll keep working to find it as often as you can!
The next time you’re struggling through a hard workout, long race, or just one of those “why does this feel so hard?!” days, think about these layers. Mentally work yourself through each of them and remember that removing the separation between mind, body and breathe is what will keep you going!