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Yoga and Running

Posted on February 12 2018

"Everyone who has run knows that its most important value is in removing tension and allowing a release from whatever other cares the day may bring." 
-Jimmy Carter

Being a runner myself, there is absolutely no way my body can survive the strain without yoga.   Each and every hour run is followed by 30min or more of yoga.  As soon as I walk in the door, I throw on my YogaPaws and hit the floor.  The muscles are warm and respond with immense gratitude as you create flexibility and space in muscles, tendons, and joints. During the course of an average mile run, your foot will strike the ground 1,000 times. The force of impact on each foot is about three to four times your weight.  By incorporating yoga into your running regime you are decompressing the body for this physical stress. The body needs this like water, creating a perfect balance of strength and flexibility.  Keeping your body injury free, so you can keep running.

Runners can use their yoga practice to balance strength, increase the range of motion, and train the body and mind.  Breath is a prime example.  Yoga focuses so intently on pranayama, the art of breath control.  The same tool which calms the mind and body for yoga and meditation works to create a rhythmic breathing in running. By listening to your calm/controlled breath, you to fall into a meditative state, barely noticing the miles as they fly by.

Now we understand why the body benefits from the marriage of yoga and running, but more importantly, our mind benefits the most.  Take this commercial from Asics 2011 Global Campaign. This is something runners and yoga practitioners can attest to feeling on the second half of that yoga class or the final stretch of your run.  Your body has a rhythm, releasing all of the “I can't”, worry, and stress from your physical body.  Replenishing your mind and body with confidence, endorphins, and self-satisfaction.


The body, mind, and spirit connection of running and yoga is undeniable. Both are enriched deep in cultures around the world and used as a personal tool not only for a healthy body but a strong mind as well.   A moving meditation, cleansing the spirit through its practice.

There are three cultures that not only shine in their ability to run impressive distances, but using the tool of running for meditation, fun, clarity, and peace.   All the qualities which are direct fruits of any yoga practice.  

The Tarahumara are an isolated tribe of Rarámuri (running people) living in one of the most remote places on the planet: between the mountains of Copper Canyon, just west of Chihuahua, Mexico.  Christopher McDougall quotes Caballo Blanco in his book Born to Run, on his wisdom shared before a run. 

“Think Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless… When you’ve practiced that so long that you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smooooooth. You won’t have to worry about the last one – you get those three, and you’ll be fast.”    If you changed the last word of Caballo's advice to "fluid" = yoga.

Next are the marathon monks, who live in the Enryaku Temple atop Mount Hiei. Their practice begins by walking or running approximately 50 km around the mountain to return in time for meditation and the meal. This is done over 100, 700, or 1000 days, depending on how far along the initiated is in his monastic training.

Last June I ran the relay for the Rock and Roll Marathon in San Diego.  Running the 3rd leg of the 4 part run, I had several hours to get settled and warm up with some yoga.  I had my YogaPaws so was able to do yoga right there on the pavement without hurting my hands or worrying about face planting. 

I remember just hanging out, waiting for the second leg runners to appear when the announcer called out that the first full marathoners were about to pass.  WHAT!  I thought the runners were not supposed to be here for another 20 minutes!  We all rushed to the side of the road only to see a glimpse of 4 Kenyan runners wisp by.  They seem to be floating along, huge smiles, waving to the cheering crowd.  This was my first and only experience witnessing the super athlete endurance of these amazing people. No wonder they’ve been major players in nearly every major marathon worldwide; with two exceptions (South Korea and Ethiopia), Kenya has dominated the Boston Marathon since 1991.  Kenyan Richard Limo won the 2010 Rock and Roll, running 23.6 miles in only 2:09:56.  I still remember his smile.



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