Yoga or Running? Neither…
Oh, it was so boring. We had gathered for a running session, and here he was, giving lessons on yoga for runners.
Breathe in while the arms go up and out when you bring them down. My coach was guiding me. The time taken to breathe in should equal the time to breathe out. I didn’t like one bit of what he wanted us to do.
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“How many times a week should I do yoga?” he asked. He understood that I was not interested in what I was doing. I was told to run two rounds of the football field where we were learning yoga. When I returned, he said you must do yoga and run daily.
He ordered me to sit and start doing the breathing exercise again, but with my arms on my knees. After about 5 or 6 deep breaths, I could match the time breathing in with breathing out.
Somehow, he knew that this would happen after running.
He taught us that the breathing part was called Pranayama Breathing and introduced some gentle yoga poses. Now I know that Pranayama is the yogic science of breathing and is very beneficial for the mind and body. Yoga is the foundation of all exercises that we do.
Later in life, when I started my physical exercise routine, I started with Pranayama only. I started loving doing it in the morning in the twilight hours. Trying to keep my mind blank and free of any thoughts. It’s easier at that hour. It felt so soothing, awakening, calm, cool, and refreshing.
I started with 6 Pranayamas with three to four repetitions initially. Let me give you some idea about these. You will note that every Pranayam is in some way helpful in running.
Sitting in Padmasana/Sukhasana, inhale deeply and exhale slightly forcefully through your nostrils. Do it for five minutes daily.
- It calms your mind.
- It is very effective for your respiratory and digestive system.
- Increases the vitality of all organs, thus energizing the whole body and mind.
- It Strengthens the core, too.
This is not a Pranayama. But is usually done with other pranayamas. Sitting in Padmasana/Sukhasana exhales from nostrils with a forceful contraction of abdominal muscles. Inhalation is involuntary. To be done five to 10 minutes daily
- It is very beneficial for internal organs like the liver and pancreas.
- It Aids digestion and helps remove acidity and gas-related issues.
- Helpful in weight reduction
- Strengths lungs and increases their capacity
Sitting in Padmasana/ Sukhasana, inhale from one nostril, keeping the other closed with your finger, and then close it and exhale from the other nostril. Reverse and repeat the process.
- Excellent for lungs
- Very good for the nervous system.
- Relives the body of all toxins
- Builds up stamina
- Reduces stress and depression.
Sitting in Padmasana or Sukhasana, exhale completely, then hold your breath, pulling your stomach in. Hold for 5 to 30 seconds, then release. Repeat five times.
- It helps in better digestion.
- Prevents constipation
- Controls gastric problems
- Beneficial in problems like Hernia and diabetes.
Cover your ears with your thumbs and your eyes with your fingers. Inhale, then release the breath from the nostrils with a very slow humming sound. Repeat three to five times.
- This is very relaxing and cures stress
- Lowers blood pressure
- Soothes nerves and calms you down
Sitting in Padmasana/ Sukhasana, inhale and exhale from your mouth and make a sound of extended O and then extended M. The sound shouldn’t be very loud. You should be able to hear yourself. Feel the vibration in your whole body. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
- Slows the pace of breadth
- Increases focus
- It makes the immune system stronger
Although Yoga has lakhs of asanas, I do only the popular ones recommended by my Guruji Swami Ramdev. You will notice each of those asanas is strengthening some part of the body directly related to running.
- Vajrasana – Strengthens legs & back. Stretches ankles, thighs, knees & hips.
- Mandukasana – Strengthens back, hips, knees & ankles. Improves digestion
- Shashankasana – Strengthens back muscles.
- Gomukhasana – Strengthens ankles, thighs, shoulders, armpit, chest, deltoid, and triceps.
- Vakrasana – Reduces belly fat. Increases elasticity of the spine.
- Dhanurasana – Improves the blood circulation to the spinal nerves
- Bhujangasana – Stretches chest and lungs, shoulders, and abdomen.
- Trikonasana – Stretches the hips, groins, hamstrings, and calves; shoulders, chest, and spine.
- Tadasana – Tones your hips and abdomen and helps to gain control over your muscular movements.
- SuptaVajrasana – Makes the spine flexible and tones spinal nerves
- Ushtrasana – Opens up the hips, stretching deep hip flexors.
- Shalabhasana – Helps eliminate unnecessary fat around abs, hips, waist, and thighs.
- Setubandhasana – Strengthens the back, glutes, and hamstrings
- Uttanpadasana – Strengthens the back, hip, and thigh muscles.
- Pawanmuktasana – The asana strengthens back muscles and tones muscles of the legs and arms.
Immune Support Boosters
Due to Pranayama and Yoga, I felt my health improving. But I lost my beautiful tummy to a great extent. I also felt the incidence of me getting cold and cough decreasing over time. Yoga was directly benefiting my immune system.
My health improved a lot in these years. For example, earlier, I tended to fall sick very often. This decreased gradually. I started living with some of the problems, thinking that all these were part of growing up. For example, I used to think our bodies were so designed.
- We breathe from only one nostril at a time.
- Falling sick is mandatory when the season changes every quarter of the year.
Yoga changed all that, slowly and steadily. I now realize that freely breathing is, and you can live without falling sick for years. Yoga has improved my immunity, mental health, flexibility, digestion, eyesight, and blood circulation.
Yoga for Runners
I was introduced to running seven years later by some friends. Three days a week, Monday, Wednesday & Friday. Other days were rest days. Later Sundays were going to be long run days.
I started doing Yoga on Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday, but I do Pranayam daily before running and Yoga.
For the first time, I realized that my regular pranayama made me less breathless than others, and my breathing was much more even. I also breathed from my nose, often with my mouth closed initially. And it was still deep breathing compared to others.
Due to Yoga, I practically had no cramps. Touchwood, to date, I never have had cramps. Yes, muscle soreness also faded away after some time. Minor injuries were there but almost negligible.
We used to do stretching exercises after our runs, just like my yoga. It was amusing. I added various asanas to my schedule after running.
- Anjaneyasana – Strengthens, stretches, and simultaneously relieves tension in your quadriceps, glutes, and core.
- Virabhadrasana III – Strengthens the shoulders and back muscles
- Malasana – It stretches the thighs, groin, hips, ankles, and torso
- Adho Mukha Svanasana – Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands
Running has improved my stamina, strength, speed, and endurance. Pranayam and Yoga have improved breathing, immunity, and flexibility.
Yoga has certainly helped a lot in running, in various podium finish marathons in having very balanced and steady runs in all my races. My running pace is more uniform throughout the run.
Due to running, I feel calmer during my pranayama & yoga. My breathing is more relaxed when doing asanas. I feel more meditative while running as well as doing yoga.
So much so that I have started recommending Yoga and Pranayama to everyone I meet. Many people around me have started these, getting inspired by me.
There are so many benefits of doing both together or on alternate days. You cannot do too much of both. When I run too much on a particular day, yoga has a soothing effect with all the stretches and breathing.
Running becomes a breeze the next day when I do too much yoga on a particular day. You feel like flowing with the wind. Yoga is never too much.
Benefits of Yoga
- Faster Recovery Time Yoga helps reduce the physical stress of running. The after-run asanas have a soothing effect on the body, that you feel fresher rather than tired.
- Yoga and Running can increase awareness and confidence – I am now much more confident about my body and overall health.
- Doing both regularly reduces the risk of injury – It has been widely acknowledged that the risk of injury is almost nil in people who perform both regularly.
- A strong Core is equal to good form. The core becomes very strong. Due to the strong core, the running speed also increases.
- Breathing and heart rate become very stable – This is especially felt during the last few miles of the marathon when the yogi runners are at absolute ease.
- Yoga and Running are meditation – Doing both activities on alternate days further boosts your meditation.
- The Joy of Mindfulness: You understand how to rehab your tight muscles and stressed brain. Both activities complement each other in keeping the body stress-free, removing any tightness from the muscles.
I am now much more inclined towards physical fitness than ever before. Now, I can say every day I am the best version of myself today.