Many runners come to our yoga classes at the Academy and we are very grateful to Penny for sharing her story about coming to yoga and the benefits she found and how they have enhanced her running experience and performance- thanks Penny!
Here is her story:
I will be open and honest. I was never a fan of yoga. I never saw any purpose to lying around breathing deeply unless you were trying to go to sleep. I certainly did not see yoga as a sport. I was fairly vocal about my stand point to anyone that said ‘you should try yoga’. As a runner my ideal is to spend my time outside and pushing my mind and body. Not inside, hot and moving slowly.
So how am I writing a blog for the Auckland Yoga Academy? The great thing about human nature is we grow and evolve. There was once a time when all I would run for was the doorbell to let the pizza delivery guy in. I now run ultra marathons. So my evolution to being a yoga advocate isn’t such a leap. You just need to find the switch and flip it.
Change comes in many different forms depending on your situation. Mine was two stress fractures in two years. Both metatarsals; more commonly known as a footballers injury as it is the bone in you fore foot. More frustratingly known in running as complete rest for anywhere between 6-8 weeks.
My initial stress fracture forced to do some rehab while I lived in the UK. I had my first foray into yoga and Pilates with my friend Sarah Odell who would come to the house and do an hour of yogalates with me. I viewed these sessions as a means to an end and only lasted for the duration I was in the moon boot. As soon as my bone healed I went back to thrashing around the trails.
Back in New Zealand after my second stress fracture I went back to the time with Odell and remembered how I felt. It was more than just the moves, I felt light and full of joy each time she left. Feeling fairly lonely back in New Zealand, in need of a community and a way to manage my body so I can keep running in to my retirement I went to Google for the answer. I saw the Auckland Yoga Academy was on the street I worked on. I thought I would pop in and see what it was all about.
Having classes within the lunch hour was so convenient, leaving me no excuses. I committed to go twice a week for a month and just see what happened. I certainly didn’t want to be lying around heavy breathing!
My first class was challenging, a far cry from my outspoken dislike for yoga. I felt challenged in my mind and body. I concentrated to stay tuned in to the teachers word flow and then try to move my body in to position. It was a lot trickier than I had thought. So I went again the next day. By the third day I could barely walk. My muscles had been worked so hard that it felt like I had run a marathon. I was hooked.
How could such controlled movement work my whole body so well. I was now ‘doing yoga’. Wow, who would have thought? What I loved the most was the feeling of freedom I had when I went out running. If you have been running you will know that some runs you plod along wishing time would hurry up so you can stop. Then other days you float along and everything seems easy. After yoga I found I had the floating feeling with ease. So much so that I came second and first in the next two races I did. “Doing yoga’ was my new secret weapon!
After consistently ‘doing yoga’ twice a week for a month I got in to the sequences of the moves and could relax my mind more. This is when I had the realisation that you don’t ‘do yoga’ you ‘practice yoga’.
Each class I was getting deeper in to moves thanks to the guidance of the teachers at Auckland Yoga Academy. I was releasing more muscle tension and increasing my flexibility. Unlike any other sport I have done though the moves keep challenging you. For example, once you can get hold of your toe, you then can put your hand around your foot, then you can interlock fingers. I found yoga just keeps pushing you. I loved this.
Having this constant push for greater limits has transpired in to my running too. Instead of just going for a run I am thinking about my form and where I am breathing from. I keep making adjustments to get the perfect run, a lesson taken for practising yoga.
A month slipped by and I realised that I was prioritising my yoga practise. I was also feeling the community I had lacked. Another realisation I had was the mind clarity. After a crazy morning working I could scurry along the road and up the stairs. As soon as the incense hit my nose I could just be present, everything melted away as I concentrated on pushing myself to deeper moves and clearing my head.
Taking this out on the trails and roads running has given me great clarity. I can now focus on being present running and not the million things I need to do when I get back to work or home. I have even stopped listening to music so I can have a clear head.
Now for the runners out there you might think I am now just floating along and not hitting my pace or heart rate. I would have thought the same. So I looked in to it through my Garmin files and to my surprise my pace has slightly increased while my heart rate has stayed the same. I was elated.
Especially when time is a precious entity and we need to use it to the fullest capacity. I can honestly say that cutting a run out a week and practising yoga has made me a faster athlete. I have more flexibility, breathe easier, have more drive and passion.