When I was approached by the mighty and powerful Run Oregon Oz about writing a piece about running and yoga, I thought to myself that I, of course, would be the perfect contributor to write about running and yoga.
But let me begin with this confession. I can’t touch my toes. To make matters worse, I’m a certified yoga instructor. More so, I can count on one hand (and approximately two fingers) how many times I’ve actually practiced yoga this year.
Before I dive any further into this spiral of a yogi’s disgrace, I offer you a not-so-brief biography of my yoga journey.
I discovered yoga in 1997 while I was pregnant with my first child. I was suffering from a seriously achy back and read in a magazine that cat-cow, a common, gentle series of two yoga poses could help reduce the discomfort I was feeling.
It worked and I was hooked.
I practiced off-and-on for several years, alternating with running and a stint as a bodybuilder. Around 2006, I developed a more consistent practice which was the perfect outlet to balance the stress I was suffering from a job in emergency services. As my practice grew, my desire to expand my knowledge grew too. A teacher and mentor I was studying with at the time suggested that I attend a teacher training program to allow me to dive deeper into the practice. While I never intended to teach yoga, I enrolled in a year-long teacher training program at Heartsong Yoga in Beaverton in 2009 and the journey began!
A few months into my training, I learned that my position (in said emergency services field) was going to be eliminated due to budget cuts. I was laid-off in April of 2010 but by June, two months shy of actually completing my teacher training program, I was teaching yoga. Never have had wanted to actually instruct others, I couldn’t imagine how rewarding teaching would be. Or how grateful I would become to have a gift to offer others and a career to fall back on when times got tough!
Fast forward to the end of 2014. After 4.5 years of teaching, and focusing more and more energy on running, I decided to quit teaching yoga to give my full attention to training for the 2015 Boston Marathon. While my personal practice was suffering, I was still benefiting from the limited time on my yoga mat thanks to the four, or more, classes and private lessons I was teaching each week.
And then I stopped practicing all-together. Which resulted in a dramatic reduction in my flexibility, stiff, sore joints, and shame. Ha!
The reason that I share this is, is this:
Everyone can, and should, do yoga. Flexibility is not a prerequisite. Even the smallest amount of time you can give yourself to develop a regular, consistent yoga or stretching practice will reward you over-and-over, especially as a runner. It will compliment every aspect of your life and help create balance to counteract the demand running places on the body. (Insert the “do as I say, not as I do” quote here.)
If you are new to yoga, I offer these suggestions to help you find a studio or instructor that will help you make the most of your time on the mat.
- Be clear about what you are seeking from a class. Strictly a good stretch? Or does some meditation or chanting strike your fancy? There are literally a hundred styles of yoga so narrow down what you want before you spend a ton of time (and money) figuring out what your ideal yoga experience is.
- Check out several studios and instructors. Don’t be shy about visiting multiple studios and/or classes. Many studios offer an introductory special for new students. Not every teacher is right for every student so shop around.
- Start with a beginner class. There is no shame in being a newbie. A good instructor will help you build a solid foundation. Attending a class beyond your current ability will leave you feeling discouraged and possibly injured. Create a foundation and build from there.
- Be open minded. While you may not be looking for meditation, or chanting, you might be exposed to some of the other elements that a yoga practice offers. They can be deeply nourishing to the soul so long as you have an open mind.
As for the state of my current yoga practice… it’s a work in progress. But I’m slowly finding my way back onto the mat to study as a beginner (and my body is so grateful!). We are all human, after all.
If you have questions about yoga, finding a studio or instructor, or creating a home practice, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com.