Thursday, January 17, 2008
RUNNING AND YOGA GO HAND-IN-HAND - Emily Carlson
How one yoga-loving runner expands her exercise horizons and reaches new levels of fitness
From Runner's World
Cross-training and outdoor exercise can do wonders for your body and mind. "Expanding your exercise horizons beyond yoga is a good idea," says Walt Thompson, Ph.D., a professor of health and exercise science at Georgia State University. "It's good to challenge the body in new ways." Most traditional yoga styles, he notes, don't raise the heart rate high or long enough to develop true heart-saving cardio-respiratory fitness. Nor do they develop the kind of strength you can build through rock climbing, bicycling, swimming, or running up hills.
We're talking about cross-training here, adding another complementary activity while you keep right on practicing. In fact, the best part about taking your workouts outdoors, besides the sheer fun of it, might be the way they'll take your yoga to another, higher level: Improved endurance from running or hiking helps you get through tough classes with ease. The strength built from biking or swimming or rock climbing lets you hold poses longer, go deeper, and try that "too-advanced-for-me'' posture you've been avoiding.
Take the example of Nicole Nakoneshny, a 34-year-old fundraising consultant who lives in Toronto. You can often find her on the popular biking and running path that runs along Lake Ontario near her home. As her feet bounce along the pavement, her mind soars. "Because running is such a repetitive activity, I find it quite meditative," she says. "By the end of the first mile, I'm into this groove." That state often sparks flashes of insight that can have real value in her day-to-day life. "Solutions come to problems you've been struggling with," says Nakoneshny, who has been practicing yoga for 4 years. "I can recall one instance when I had been trying to come up with a way to approach a prospective donor for a charity I was consulting for. During a run, I had a moment of clarity, and a strategy emerged that resulted in a seven-figure gift for the charity."
"The breath is a remarkable tool for calming," she says. "Just doing the ujjayi breathing from your diaphragm will help you get into that semi-meditative state.'' Gently constrict the throat, creating a little resistance to the air flow and producing a soothing sound when you inhale and exhale. Some compare it to the "ocean'' sound you hear in a seashell; others call it "Darth Vader breath.'' Either way, says Nakoneshny, "just take some real deep breaths and start moving."
How yoga helps her running: "In a sense, my running is sort of an extension of the yoga class. Through the deep breathing and quieting of the mind we all learn in class, I can get into that moving meditation when I run."
How running helps her yoga: "Endurance is never an issue for me in my yoga classes, so if we have to hold some particularly difficult pose for a long time it's not a problem, and I'm certain that's due in large part to my running. From a strength point of view, running has given me strong legs, which is enormously helpful for some of the standing poses."