Fine-Tune Your Form: Integrating Yogic Principles with Running

Are you training for a future marathon? Do you just enjoy the meditative quality of a rhythmic run every day? Well, if running was the yang and it needed a yin to balance itself out, it would be yoga! Similar to yoga, running cultivates strength, form, and perseverance. But what about when the going gets a little tough?

Mindfulness, an imperative component of the yoga practice, is a tool that emboldens mental focus, physical awareness, and conscious breathing. When the mind starts to wander, or when the breath becomes shallow and quiet, there are four yogic techniques that can be effortlessly integrated into the skillful art of running long distance!

1. Strong and Safe: Mountain Pose Alignment 

The more often you can muster mountain the better you’ll be able to keep your form together and remain efficient. When you’re feeling distracted or bored during a run, come back to mountain pose alignment. When you’re feeling exhausted and miserable, come back to Mountain Pose alignment. Wherever you are on the spectrum of pacing and managing intensity, Mountain Pose alignment will help. 

2. Conscious Cadence: Let your Breath Guide you.

Knowing your breath’s normal habits allows you to notice when there are problems and to take steps to correct them. How does your breath coordinate with your foot strike at an easy pace? At a tempo pace? At a mile pace? At a 400-meter pace? How many steps do you take as you inhale? How many as you exhale? Which foot is striking the ground when you begin your breath in? Which foot is striking as you begin your breath out? You might find yourself surprised that you don’t know the answers. They are easy enough to garner, though.  

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You Think, Therefore You are:

Reciting Mantras While you Run.

The Sanskrit word mantra translates literally as “instrument of thought.” Repetition of a mantra helps harness and concentrate your thinking brain, and it can help route you into the flow state—the runner’s high. Sometimes the words of a mantra are meaningful, sometimes they are not. The meaning of the words is less important than their repetition. A few mantras could be “form and breath” or “strong and smooth.  

Eyes of the Prize: Utilizing Drishti  The drishti or "gazing point", is an anchor for your awareness. In the context of an asana practice, drishti helps you direct your focus to a particular point. Using drishti on the run helps you fasten your attention to one thing. Sharpening your mental focus in this way lets you bring all your awareness to the task at hand, instead of being derailed by outside distractions.