Running And Yoga Are Totally Compatible

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Barbara Lincoln Tells You How To Get Ready To Race

I was running 5 miles a day, 5 days a week, when I first started practicing yoga seriously. Weekends weren’t for meditating, but for getting as many miles in as possible. So when a yoga teacher commented that a yogi could never reach their fullest potential while running because of the disparate use of the muscles that each activity necessitates, I balked. Could I practice yoga seriously, and still be a serious runner?

Barbara Lincoln, a Jivamukti-certified instructor and private yoga teacher doesn’t find conflict with the idea that someone can be a yogi and a runner. In fact, she often runs a workshop before the New York City Marathon about combining the two. YogaCity NYC’s Sofia Belen spoke to her before the upcoming Marathon about how yoga can help people cognitively approach running, what pranayama practice can do for the wheezers out there, and why she recommends lying down as a favorite asana. Read on.

Sofia Belen: What does your daily practice look like?

Barbara Lincoln: I practice yoga 3 to 4 times a week and run about 4 days a week. If I run more than that, my body gets cranky. As a runner, I like to keep moving and a Vinyasa flow class is more energetic and warms up the body.

SB: Running shortens your muscles, right? Can you develop a yoga practice while preparing for a race?

BL: It’s true that running might make some muscles tighter, but you also might get stronger, better at balancing, increasing your core strength, or have a greater willingness to try new and difficult things that comes from the determination needed to run long distances. Because each day that you come to your mat or go for a run your body is different, you have to be patient and figure out what feels good for you. Also, running is important for cardiovascular fitness. The heart is a muscle and needs to be exercised.

[Ed: Lincoln’s comment on cardiovascular fitness is an important one. In the The Science of Yoga, multiple studies find yoga has a low impact on VO2 max (a measure of cardiovascular fitness) while jogging can raise the VO2 max by 15-50 percent. In short, going to a Vinyasa class or an Ashtanga class does not a cross-training program make.]

SB: Can you still effectively compete in a race with a non-competitive, yogic state of mind?

BL: I think that it depends on your goals. Often, yogis lose perspective as to why they’re practicing yoga. Some practice yoga like they are running a race. Instead, think about what you’re doing when you’re doing it. When you’re in class, don’t think about running. And when you’re racing, don’t think about yoga. Being present will clarify your intentions and beneficially impact whichever practice you are doing.

SB: Do you work with pranayama in your workshops?

BL: Yes, I teach getting in touch with one's breath first, usually through ujayii. Sometimes I ask people to inhale to the count of four, exhale to four, for the same purpose. When things become challenging (in running and otherwise) it’s important not to hyperventilate... this can be helped by breathing from the abdomen and the lungs and chest to encourage very deep breathing.

SB: Do you recommend any stretches before a race? Is static stretching a yay or a nay?

BL: I think that static stretching before running is counter-intuitive. It is important not to stretch the leg muscles until after they have been moved around. However some lateral stretching, such as inhaling arms above head and side to side, is okay as are abdominals.

SB: What kind of questions do you get from yoga running students?

BL: A lot have questions about their home practice. I recommend the common stretches, focusing on the quads and hamstrings. I have students lie on their backs, using a strap around one foot and stretching the hamstring (Supta Padangustasana). And Viparita Karani, where you just lie on your back and lengthen your legs up the wall. This reverses the blood pressure and is incredibly restorative.

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SB: Perhaps because of poses like the ones Lincoln recommends, where great pleasure is found in great release, my desire to run has lessened. Now, running 5 miles a week is enough. Yoga is a beautiful antidote to muscle tension induced by running, and has changed my approach to racing and speed. I’m glad to find that the mindfulness necessitated by both practices imparts an automatic gauge of when to run and when to practice yoga.

If you forgot to sign up for the marathon, there are still plenty of great races you can enter in NYC like the Turkey Trots around Thanksgiving and others by checking running sites – and you’ll be all practiced and ready for next year's Marathon.

--Sofia Belen

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