I’ve been doing yoga regularly for about four months now and I bloody love it. When I started I felt self-conscious in classes, but as I’ve learned the poses and gained a bit more focus for my practice and I really couldn’t care less if the person next to me can contort her/himself into a pretzel shape. After all, it’s all about focussing on the four corners of your mat and being present in what you’re doing rather than worrying about what’s going on around you.
As a runner I know I’ll never be as flexible as some of the other yogis in my class, but that’s fine. I suppose I don’t really practice with this goal in mind; rather, I find yoga really helps stretch out areas that become tight through running, like the hamstrings and hips.
As well as helping me to incorporate regular stretching into my routine, yoga also helps you to step back and gain a sense of perspective on running and just life in general. By focussing on the present moment and letting go of the past and the future, this has really helped me leave my worries at home when I hit the trails for long runs. When you’re out running for hours with only your breathing and a pack of jaffa cakes for company, if boredom rears its head it can be the mind that goes first, rather than the body. Being able to bring your focus back to the here and the now is really important.
It’s also about appreciating what your body can and can’t do. Having recently run a massive long ultra I’m extremely grateful (and surprised in equal measures) for what my little legs are capable of and sometimes it’s necessary to take a pace back and appreciate this. I’m quite stubborn, which can be a beneficial trait for runners, but it can also mean I push myself too much while taking my legs for granted. A time will come when I won’t be able to do the things I can do now and in yoga you’re encouraged to be more aware of the body, both inside and out.
I’ve got in the habit of spending about 20 minutes on my yoga mat after long runs and tend to string a sequence of poses together to stretch out the muscles I’ve just used. From downward dog into warrior I and II, followed by some time in pigeon pose and reclining hero, finishing with the old favourite, ‘legs up the wall‘.
The following video is by Ekhart Yoga and includes some of these poses, as well as Esther’s soothing voice and helpful explanations of how to get into the poses correctly.
There are loads of other great videos on the site too which are clear and easy to follow for all levels of practice – check them out here: http://www.ekhartyoga.com/