Growing up, I was never a runner. I sort of played on a couple soccer teams, but there wasn’t much joy in it since there wasn’t any music. Forced running in gym class at school was only tolerable because I was able to put space between myself and the teacher for a few beautiful minutes. Most of all, I hated running outside in the cold, with icy skin and toes, and aching ears.
In college I ended up working for a company that did timing for running events, mostly 5Ks and the occasional obstacle run or triathlon. I had to get up at the ungodly hour of like 4:30 AM to go to some of these events. If you know me at all, you know early morning activities are not in my playbook. But there was something about working at the runs that made them fun—fun enough that I stuck with the job for a few years.
It was during this time I started voluntarily running. It was awful. I couldn’t breathe. I hurt. I was cold. It took hours of procrastination and psyching myself up to drive to Wash Park and drag myself around the two outer loops that equal (well, did at the time) about 5 miles. The only thing that got me through the misery of running was the greatest invention of 2004: the iPod Mini. I’d run for 50 minutes chasing after the fleeting 5 minutes of euphoric tingling and goosebumps that only come when you’ve pushed your somatic stimulation to the edge of tolerance.
It took many years, but eventually running became a familiar and comfortable friend. The repetition of movement lulls me into a hypnotic pace. It’s a moving meditation that frees up then reorganizes my mind.
I did and still do cycle in and out of running splurges, but it’s always there welcoming me back and fitting perfectly on my body. Until it doesn’t… At some point, my old friend wears out its welcome and wears down my body. Running and I have to take a break and spend some time apart in order to appreciate each other again. That’s when I amp up the time with my other good friend, Yoga.
Yoga is the friend who soothes and counsels. When my hips are achy, my knees hurt, and my shoulders and neck are tight, I turn to Yoga. I know, I should give all my friends equal attention instead of binging then moving on, but seasons of the year and seasons of life don’t usually allow for that.
The yoga flow that I designed to address running-specific issues focuses on lengthening muscles that become tight from the repetitive movements of running. “Tight” muscles fundamentally mean shortened muscles. And shortened muscles manifest themselves in tension, lack of muscular flexibility, and pain in seemingly unrelated areas of the body. Tight, or shortened, muscles tug on inter-related muscles and bone which creates inflammation and pain, as well as asymmetry in the body. All of these have a cascading effect within the body.
I, of course, recommend a regular yoga practice to every person on Earth to alleviate the physical stress brought on by gravity, physical demands of lifestyle, and the skeletal imperfections we were all born with. (Not to mention the mental benefits, but that’s another conversation.) But for runners who want to target issues common to their sport, here is your Vin-Yin sequence.