I do yoga so I can run.
Yoga can help you run too.
Yoga does not discriminate. It doesn’t care if you are male or female, runner or couch slob, underweight or overweight.
The benefits cannot be disputed or denied and you’ll feel better the more yoga you do.
Running is not good for you.
Well, that’s not true. It is and isn’t good for you – Heart strengthens and pumps more blood. Lungs bloom full with O2 and force out the CO2. Bones become denser, mind clears.
That’s good stuff no doubt.
But, along with the pros are these cons:
Muscles tighten. Hips, knees, and back stiffen. Hamstrings micro tear. Ankles roll. Scar tissue forms.
It’s good cop bad cop inside your body. The good, obviously takes care of itself, the bad needs to be monitored and rooted out.
That’s what yoga is – the internal affairs of your body rooting out the bad.
At 46 years old, my body attacks itself on every trail run. Glute muscles inflame and push on my sciatic nerve. I need to be ever vigilant with stretching and recovery or else I’ll be semi paralyzed.
The classes are 90 minutes in a 100 degree room. Every part of your body from your knuckles down to your pinky toes gets worked.
Bikram emphasizes expanding and compressing the spine – a huge benefit here.
Your back is everything. When it’s out of whack then your life is too. You can’t walk straight, bend over, or pick anything up. Hell, you have to brace your entire being just to sneeze. Forget trail running you just want to be pain free.
End pain – Do Bikram Yoga.
I did a burley run this past Spring in the Blue Hills just South of Boston.
The hardest run of 2016.
10 miles – not far, but I went fast on craggy, rock and root strewn trails.
I went fast because I was training for a race in those same Blue Hills*. Doing well there is important to me. The Blue Hills are my home court. I run these trails year round.
I’ll be damned if some newbie blows by me at mile 8 –
Not in my house!
So there I was pushing hard. Churning the quads and glutes on the climbs and bombing the downs with quick feet at race speed.
Just before mile 6, I felt tightening in my hips. Then my quads got a little tingly. By mile 7 there was a light numbness and hamstring inflammation happening.
I was seizing up like a car engine with an oil leak.
My mind was frustrated and concerned.
FUCK! I just want to run! – was on repeat in my head.
I thought about bailing, but decided to slow the pace and at least get a time for the full 10 miles.
My body felt like it just did 30 miles with a few downhill wipeouts thrown in.
Something happened – pain sensors inside me were getting pushed on that shouldn’t have been. I knew this and thought it would subside later in the day (Wednesday).
Thursday – Still very stiff and unable to bend at the waist with straight legs. I could crouch, but no bending.
Friday – Same thing
Saturday – Same thing (frustrated!!!)
This is the kind of injury that pisses me off. If you’re an aging runner you know what I mean. The preseason base building was going strong.
Spring is the time to push hard and capture some epic running in the non-snow months. But I couldn’t because my body wouldn’t let me – Fuck!
Instead of complaining more, I decided to take action:
Sunday – Bikram Yoga 9:30am
It was difficult.
Any posture with straight legs and bending was nearly impossible.
Nerve pain exploded through my body causing my face to grimace and expletives to leak out at a whisper in the quiet room.
But, I could do many of the other postures.
I calmed my anxious self with this thought:
Just do as much as you can. Breathe really deep and send fresh blood from your heart out do its thing.
I felt better right after class, but not fixed. Walking out of the studio better than I went in, I just went off into my regular Sunday routine.
Three hours later I saw my dog lying peacefully on the hallway floor. I stopped and took a long look with pride like most pet owners randomly do. I just had to get on the floor and spend a moment with him.
His legs straightened to a full stretch as I rubbed his belly and his eyes roll up to greet mine.
Wait? There’s no pain?
I stood up quickly, locked my knees, and bent over touching my toes easily.
Then I threw myself into two of the poses I couldn’t even come close to hours earlier.
I laughed out loud.
No, I actually guffawed in equal parts of relief and disbelief.
That moment prompted my schedule for the rest of the week:
Tuesday 5:00 pm – Yoga.
Thursday 5:00 pm – Yoga.
By 6:45 pm Thursday night, I walked across the parking lot outside the Yoga For You studio and said out loud to myself,
I’m telling you kind Reader, the results may not come this quick if you’re new to practicing, but give it time and have patience.
Your flexibility will improve.
The pain will recede.
You’ll feel like a badass taking direct action to combat the knots and strains mocking you from inside.
Don’t count on pills and balms to heal you.
Go to War on yourself!
Kick the ass of your aches and pains one gentle, silent posture at a time.
Then run the trails easier and lighter.
Okay, here’s some photo evidence of yours truly in the hot room.
Called camel pose, this position use to be my nemesis, but now I look forward to it.
First, let me just say that this type of pose is why I choose to pay the money and spend the time at a proper yoga studio. I’d never have the patience and discipline to warm myself up enough to get into this thing without straining a disc or a nerve in my back.
Obviously, this is a nice back bend. You compress the spine and extend the neck. But, the bigger picture for me here is that I’m expanding and stretching out my chest and shoulders. All those Fit Index push ups constrict and tighten my chest muscles. Camel provides the counter stretch to help my torso (and mind) stay balanced.
Okay, so I’ve convinced you to give it a try. It doesn’t have to be Bikram – any yoga will do. Having done a few different styles, I am partial to Bikram.
It’s the same 26 postures in the same order every class.
Bikram is less flow-y than other styles and more “ease into a pose and hold it.”
I like that better because it’s more concentrated and isolates the body part being stretched.
Again – 90 minutes, 26 postures, each posture is done twice (except the last spine twist).
Don’t be nervous that you are a beginner and not really that flexible.
The class is for you.
Do what you can.
No one is going to point and laugh because you can’t touch your toes. Everyone in that room has their own issues – physical, mental, spiritual – whatever.
People are all in there together giving and getting group energy. But, make no mistake, moving through the postures is very individual and personal.
Yeah, you’ll see super fit ladies and dudes in there – former gymnasts and ballerinas that rubber band themselves so deep into some postures that it may feel like you’re at the circus.
Don’t be intimidated because if you look elsewhere in the room you’ll see someone just like you struggling just to manage staying upright in the heat.
The teacher does all the talking.
You follow the instructions.
Don’t think – just move the way they tell you when they tell you.
Don’t try to do too much. Slowly move into the posture until there is resistance, listen to the dialogue from the teacher. Get the form correct – breathe. Now push a little bit. Begin the fight to heal and improve. Struggle for the next millimeter of depth.
That’s what I love – working for the micro improvement.
All those little battles you win at the nano level add up until one day you notice that a difficult pose is a little easier (like my camel).
Sometimes I feel like the continents are drifting apart faster than my flexibility is improving. But, I’m in the fight. And sometimes that fight helps my mind stay flexible before getting the physical results.
You’ll extend the spine, compress the knees, restrict blood to the elbows then release it allowing the healing powers of oxygen rich plasma to course back in.
The room is 100 degrees F.
Yeah that’s hot.
Why does it need to be so hot?
Because in India where this style was born, it’s really fuckin’ hot and sticky during a Calcutta summer. Bikram wants you to feel that because it’s the best time to stretchify yourself.
Sweat streams out of every pore. This is good – Your body and mind are primed for a challenge.
Go for it!
Heal with slow, deep movement.
Don’t just believe me. Read an entertaining and cleverly written article from Paige Williams HERE. She was down and out both physically and mentally. 60 days of consecutive Bikram Yoga righted her ship – very inspiring stuff.
*By the way, I got 7th overall in the 10 mile race and beat my time from the previous year by 1-1/2 minutes – Thanks Bikram!