Yoga or Running? Neither…

Find Your Comfort Zone, Then Leave It

Oh it was so boring. We had gathered for a running session and here he was giving lessons on Yoga for runners.

Breath 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 be equal to the time taken to breathe out. I wasn't liking one bit of what he was wanting us to do.

“How many times a week should I do Yoga?”, I asked him. 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 have to do Yoga and run every day.

He ordered me to sit and start doing the breathing exercise again but with arms on my knees. This time after about 5 or 6 deep breaths I could match the time breathing in with breathing out.

Some how he knew that this will happen after running.

He taught us, the breathing part was called Pranayama Breathing and also introduced some gentle yoga poses. Now I know, Pranayama is the yogic science of breathing and is very beneficial for the mind and body. Yoga is the foundation of all exercise that we do.

Later in life when I started my physical exercise routine, I started with Pranayama only. Now 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, refreshing.

I started with 6 Pranayamas with three to four repetitions initially. Let me give you some idea about these. You will note that each and every Pranayam is in some way helpful in running.

Pranayama

Bhastrika

Sitting in Padmasana/Sukhasana, inhale deeply and then exhale slightly forcefully through your nostrils.  Do it for five minutes daily. 

  1. It calms your mind.
  2. Is very effective for your respiratory and digestive system
  3. Increases the vitality of all organs thus energising the whole body and mind.
  4. It Strengthens the core too.

Kapalbhati

This is actually not a Pranayama.  But is usually done with other pranayamas.  Sitting in Padmasana/Sukhasana exhale from nostrils with force full contraction of abdominal muscles.  Inhalation is involuntary.  To be done five to 10 minutes daily

  1. It is very beneficial for the internal organs like the liver and pancreas
  2. Aids digestion and helps removal of acidity and gas-related issues.
  3. Helpful in weight reduction
  4. Strengths lungs and increases their capacity

Anulom-Vilom

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

  1. Excellent for lungs
  2. Very good for the nervous system. 
  3. Relives the body of all toxins
  4. Builds up stamina
  5. Reduces stress and depression.

Bahya

Sitting in Padmasana/ Sukhasana exhale completely then hold your breadth pulling the stomach in.  Hold for 5 to 30 seconds then release.  Repeat five times.

  1. Helps in better digestion
  2. Prevents constipation
  3. Controls gastric problems
  4. Beneficial in problems like Hernia and diabetes.

Bhramari

Cover your ears with your thumbs and your eyes with the fingers.  Inhale then release the breath from nostrils with a very slow humming sound.  Repeat three to five times.

  1. This is very relaxing and cures stress
  2. Lowers blood pressure
  3. Soothes nerves and calms you down

Udgeeth

Sitting in Padmasana/ Sukhasana inhale and then while exhaling from your mouth 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 for 5 to 10 times.

  1. Slows the pace of breadth
  2. Increases focus
  3. Makes the immune system stronger

Although Yoga has lakhs of asanas I do only the very popular ones, the ones recommended by my Guruji Swami Ramdev. You will notice each of those asanas are strengthening some part of the body which is directly related to running.

  1. Vajrasana – Strengthens legs & back. Stretches ankles, thighs, knees & hips.
  2. Mandukasana – Strengthens back, hips, knees & ankles Improves digestion
  3. Shashankasana – Strengthens back muscles.
  4. Gomukhasana – Strengthens ankles, thighs, shoulders, armpit, chest, deltoid and triceps.
  5. Vakrasana – Reduces belly fat.  Increases elasticity of the spine.
  6. Dhanurasana – Improve the blood circulation to the spinal nerves
  7. Bhujangasana – Stretches chest and lungs, shoulders, and abdomen.
  8. Trikoneasana – Stretches the hips, groins, hamstrings, and calves; shoulders, chest, and spine
  9. Tardasana – Tones your hips and abdomen and helps to gain control over your muscular movements.
  10. SuptaVajrasana – Makes the spine flexible and tones spinal nerves
  11. Ushtrasana – Opens up the hips, stretching deep hip flexors.
  12. Shalabhasana – Helps in getting rid of unnecessary fat around abs, hips, waist and thighs
  13. Setubandhasana – Strengthens the back, glutes, and hamstrings
  14. Uttanpadasana – Strengthens the back and hip and thigh muscles.
  15. Pawanmuktasana – The asana strengthens back muscles as well as tones muscles of 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 had this tendency of falling sick very often.  This decreased gradually.  I actually started living with some of the problems thinking that all these are part of growing up.  For example, I used to think that our bodies are so designed that

  • We breathe from only one nostril at a time. 
  • Falling sick is mandatory when season changes every quarter of the year.

Yoga changed all that slowly and steadily.  I now realized, what freely breathing is and you can live without falling sick for years together. Yoga has improved my immunity, mental health, flexibility, digestion, eyesight, blood circulation.

Running & Yoga

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.

Now I started doing Yoga on Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday but Pranayam daily before running and Yoga.

For the first time, I realized that due to my regular pranayama I was less breathless compared to others and my breathing was much more even. I also breathed from my nose most of the time with mouth closed initially. And it was still deep breathing compared to others.

Due to Yoga, I practically had no cramps. Touchwood, till date I never have 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 run and all these were just like my yoga. It was amusing. I added various asanas in my schedule after running

  1. Anjaneyasana – Strengthens, stretches and relieves tension in your quadriceps, glutes, and core all at the same time
  2. Virabhadrasana III – Strengthens the shoulders and back muscles
  3. Malasana – It stretches the thighs, groin, hips, ankles, and torso
  4. Adho Mukha Svanasana – Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands

Running has improved my stamina, strength, speed and endurance. While Pranayam and Yoga have improved breathing, immunity and flexibility.

For sure Yoga has 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 duration of 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.  Yes, now there are lots of people around me who have started these getting inspired by me. 

There are so many benefits of doing both together or on alternate days. You just cannot do too much of both. When I run too much on a particular day Yoga gives such a soothing effect with all the stretches and breathing.

When I do too much yoga on a particular day, running becomes a breeze the next day. You just feel like flowing with the wind. Actually, Yoga is never too much.

Benefits of Yoga

  1. Faster Recovery Time Yoga helps reduce the physical stress that can result from running. The after-run asanas have such a soothing effect on the body that you feel fresher rather than feeling tired.
  2. Yoga and Running can increase awareness and confidence – I am now much more confident about my body and overall health.
  3. Doing both regularly reduce the risk of injury – It has been widely acknowledged that the risk of injury is almost nil in people who perform both regularly
  4. Strong Core is equal to good form The core becomes very strong. Due to the strong core, the running speed also increases.
  5. 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.
  6. Yoga and Running both are basically meditation – Doing both activities on alternate days is a further boost to your meditation.
  7. The Joy of Mindfulness You understand how to rehab your tight muscles and stressed brain. Both the activities complement each other in keeping the body stress free removing any kind of 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.