Dear Yogi Marlon,
I’m a runner and consider myself in really good shape. That’s until a friend took me to his yoga class. I got totally slammed. Dripping with sweat, I was completely unable to do many of the poses in which others seemed to be luxuriating. Am I right to think that my body is just not made for yoga? I’m not flexible, especially in my lower back!
Santa Monica, CA
Krishnamacharya, one of the most profound teachers of the 20th century said, “There’s a form of yoga for everyone.” Your body and all bodies are appropriate for yoga, but not the same yoga. Unfortunately for you, those of us that do yoga regularly become zealots, who often bring our friends to our class so they can feel as good as we do. Expecting you, as a runner to handle an intermediate or advanced class would be like asking an NFL player to win a Salsa championship just because he’s agile. Clearly, what you and all beginners need is a beginner’s class. That’s because grasping the form is pinnacle. If you are trying to keep up in a class (Were you losing your breath?) you’re much more susceptible to injury.
Krishnamacharya also scoffed, “Running is for horses.” The fact is the ultra high impact of running is detrimental to the joints, particularly the knees. The older we gets the less capable the body is of replenishing cartilage that keeps joints mobile and pain free. Over time the impact also decreases vertebral space, which can result in displaced or herniated discs and immobilizing pain. The tight low back you mentioned is clearly not a step in the right direction.
Alternatively, I believe life is too short to deny our passions. Each runner I recently questioned flipped into alpha waves just thinking about running. Many of the biochemical reactions running triggers are not easily reached without long and intense physical endurance. Being solitary helps, too. Although I do believe a well-directed and challenging yoga practice can produce similar responses, there is consensus that an extraordinary mental state is achieved by running, that generally runners have been unable to duplicate elsewhere.
As always, I see my job here to educate you on yoga and to support the person you are right now. So if you are able to run without experiencing pain during or after, please allow me to advise a few steps so that your runs are safer.
· Add a daily glucosamine supplement to your diet to boost cartilage regeneration.
· Hydrate by drinking 2 quarts of water daily, before and after running.
· If you are concerned with electrolytes, buy a natural Gatorade alternative.
· Run on softer surfaces such as wet sand or grass, not hard ones like concrete.
· Consider replacing running as your preferred form of workout by the time you are about 60.
Good low-impact alternatives are walking, dancing, swimming, cycling and yoga.
· Do much more than perfunctory stretches. Allow for a minimum of 10 minutes of long, slow stretches to the hamstrings, quads, calves, ankles and hips before and after each run.
If you decide to give yoga another try, remember that you did not experience the heights of long distance
running your first time out. I advise you to over a period of months. [See How To Choose a Teacher]. Practice regularly in the company of a teacher who will teach you much more than postures. Pranayama, [mantra] http://askyogimarlon.com/gayatrimantra.html, kriyas, bandhas, and meditation are amongst the many treasures yoga offers that provide heights that are seemingly otherworldly.
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