A couple weekends ago I led a yoga for runners specialty class. Frankly I was a tad surprised when my managers approached me to teach the class. Sure I run, but I'm still coming to terms with the label of "runner". Although I may not be the most seasoned runner, I do know yoga is essential for my own running and workout sessions. The yoga for runners class was truly a treat to lead. It gave me the opportunity to dedicate a good amount of time on key areas of the body and elements of the practice that can benefit runners physically and mentally. Afterwards I had a lot of great conversations with students on how yoga has been beneficial for their race training. The proof is in their stories. Reduced knee pain. Quicker recovery between long runs and hard training sessions. Increased focus and steady breathing.
I, selfishly, love teaching specialized classes like a yoga for runners class. There's nothing wrong with approaching yoga as a workout. Yoga can be a very effective workout! When I started to practice yoga regularly it was definitely my main physical outlet. Now my practice is a little different. I regularly indulge in different physical disciplines that push my body to its edge. My yoga practice no longer needs to fill that requirement. I now focus on the subtlety of my asana practice and spend more time on my seated and pranayama practices. With time, I've grown to value the time I spend with students who also have other physical disciplines. I appreciate the conversations we have about integrating yoga into other disciplines.
The strides I've made in my weight lifting and running sessions are because of my yoga practice. In moments when I want to quit while on a run the yoga reminds me to regulate my breathing and stay tuned in. Yoga has given me incredible awareness of my physical and mental states. Through that deep awareness I can better monitor myself. I know when it's time to back off and I know when I have more in me to give without going overboard.
On the flip side, I don't think I would hold as much value in my yoga practice if it wasn't for my workouts. Now that I'm no longer focused on a regular, physically demanding yoga practice to tone my arms or get in a good sweat (again, there's nothing wrong with this approach) I feel less pressure while on my mat. My practice now has less boundaries. I do more held postures with props and spend time doing self-massage with a foam roller and balls. I, like many yogis, have dealt with a variety of yoga related injuries. The yoga didn't injure me, I was just pushing myself in ways I shouldn't have. I now have built up the strength to actually support my shoulder joints and balance out areas of my body that have been too mobile for so long. This is the current state of my practice and it feels incredibly fulfilling.
In order to continue teaching yoga at my current capacity I have to stay engaged and constantly challenge myself. The yoga for runners class sparked a desire that has been sitting within me for some time now. As I've adopted the title of "athlete" over these last few years with running and training I have become more and more fascinated by the moving body. My deep obsession with soccer is all about the athletes and their fascinating talent on the pitch. I love the game, but the players and their physical abilities blow my mind! During a match I watch how their bodies move with intent. My brain goes into overdrive and considers all the various ways yoga could compliment the demands of their sport.
My brain enjoys logic and putting together processes. If the body regularly performs A, B, and C, how can yoga enhance those tasks and offset any potential overuse from those tasks? I've been so lucky to teach yoga classes at a climbing gym where I get to put my processes into action. Climbers tend to have overly tight hip flexors, shoulders, and upper backs. I love working with them on ways to increase their reach and range of motion while offering the areas of their bodies that are overworked some TLC.
It's extremely rewarding to see a population appreciate what a yoga practice has to offer and I'm hoping to explore this area more with my teaching. I can go on and on about how yoga has benefitted my physical endeavors as an athlete. I can also preach on how my physical undertakings beyond my yoga mat have saved my yoga practice. But what about you? Are you an athlete that has integrated yoga into your training? I'd love to hear your stories about how cross training with yoga has benefitted your physical endeavors! Feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your stories on how a consistent yoga practice has supported your body and mind while training for a competition, event, physical goal, etc. I'm looking to spread the benefits of yoga for athletes and your stories will be helpful in this effort.
Thanks for reading and thanks for your support!