Yoga and running: perfect partners

Buenos dias de Costa Rica!
The retreat is over already and we had such an amazing time! It was a wonderful week of yoga classes, workshops, beach time, surfing, waterfall jumping, zip-lining, pool time and healthy eating – an amazing time was had by students and teachers.
I’m now staying on here for a couple more weeks to practise yoga with a great teacher I have here and continue working on an exciting new business project.

In preparation for my next yoga retreat – April’s Yoga and Chi Running weekend – I’ve been reading up on Chi Running, it all makes perfect sense and has so many overlaps with yoga… Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time trying to perfect my running technique into the safest, most energy efficient style because I’ve always believed that running is a natural action, injuries shouldn’t be expected and it need not take a huge amount of effort. And my yoga practice has helped with this through increasing bodily awareness, improving my breathing, strengthening my core and developing flexibility.

For many people running has become synonymous with injury, as though injuries are to be expected, part of the sport and even perhaps necessary on your way to becoming a better runner! I believe this to be a massive myth, as does Chi Running founder Danny Dreyer. So, rather than suffering with aches, pains and injuries what is the solution?

I love the key principles of Chi Running, as they are the same principles that yoga has taught me that I apply to my running.

Relax – running does not need to be a struggle!! If it is then your technique is wrong. By allowing gravity to do more we can do less. Many athletes I see in yoga find it very hard to relax at first but the final relaxation gradually gets easier and will pay off in your running.

Child like – running should be fun. All children run naturally and perfectly without thinking about it, without strain – we need to remember how to do this. Bring back child-like movement in yoga by making shapes that you haven’t done since you were small! You can learn so much about your body merely by moving around in ways you don’t regularly.

Form – the most common injury is not over-training, but bad form. If you try and train more, go faster and further with bad running form you have a recipe for injury. Most people don’t take running lessons, but taking the time to get the right technique keeps you safer and more energy efficient.

Body awareness – rather than fighting through pain, listen to your body. Pay close attention to what your body is doing and how each movement feels. This way we can observe bad habits and learn new skills. The physical practice of yoga is moving mindfully with the breath, by doing yoga more often we are able to take this awareness into our running – and beyond.

Energy flow – in yoga we practise standing and sitting with perfect posture to enable energy to flow optimally, breathe more efficiently and protect our spine. Chi Running follows the same principles – by running from a strong core (your energy centre) your limbs follow with muscles in a relaxed state and loose joints. Running with proper bio-mechanics means less stress on the body.

So, by running with great technique we have excellent posture, a strong core, relaxed limbs, open joints, a calm focussed mind, good breathing and more energy. All things that yoga increases as well. Both yoga and Chi Running teach us to listen to our body more and learn from it. We become internally motivated, rather than externally driven because moving in our bodies starts to feel so good that we want to do to for the pure love of it. Becoming a faster runner becomes a by-product!

I’ve been reading Chi Running by Danny Dreyer, which I can recommend to all runners. If you want to learn more than you can from a book you can join myself and Chi Running coach Balavan Thomas, 22-25 April at Lime House Yoga Retreat, for a weekend of yoga for runners and Chi Running workshops.

How has yoga influenced or affected your running? I would love to hear your comments!