In my years of running, I have watched various athletes complete their warm-up “stretching” routine. With good intentions, feet are pulled to buttocks and heels are pushed down while walls are leaned against. The stretch lasts for a few seconds, then it’s on to the next. While this feels effective, nothing of real value is happening to the muscles, connective tissue, or fascia. Athletes require a systematic, scientific routine that progressively opens the body – and not a few seconds before a race.
Yoga seems to be the answer. The root of the word yoga is “yuj”, or in English terms, to yoke, to bring together…to unite. The goal of yoga isn’t flexibility, it’s connection; connection of mind, to body, to breath. When these connections are created and working in unison, the human body knows no limits. One of the best examples are free divers – the athletes who dive deep in the ocean on one breath of air.
They spend hours prepping for one dive by meditating and working through a series of breathing (pranayama) techniques using many of the systems in their bodies. In doing this, they are engaging the vital connections of mind…to breath…to body. When those connections are complete, they can perform almost superhuman feats that only a few short years ago, were deemed impossible.
Back to running… it’s only when every system is optimally connected are records broken, times shattered, and podiums graced. Yoga helps create that connection. More and more top-level athletes are turning to yoga for the physical, mental, and psychological connections that create peak performance. What seemed esoteric and “new-agey” ten years ago is now commonplace in most professional athletes’ training regimens. In our work with runners, common threads are apparent – they are focused, driven, committed, dedicated. However, we also see a general lack of knowledge and research into their chosen sport. More time is spent researching “stuff” (shoes, jackets, ipods, accessories) and worrying about finish times, than researching anatomy, form, and alignment. Yoga is the route to connecting the runner’s mind with the runner’s breath, with the runner’s body. This increased awareness results in injury prevention, improved performance, and ultimately, advancing in your sport.
That was the intro…stay tuned for the next installment “The Best Yoga Stretch for Runners and How to Do It”.
About the Author: Rob Thomaes is the Co-Owner and Director of Moksha Yoga London & Moksha Yoga London West. He has been an athlete for as long as he can remember and translates his lifelong passion and study of the human body into his classes. Outside of yoga his passions are running, weight training, surfing, and photography.