Okay, not trying to age myself here, but I’ve been running for over 11 years now. And in that decade, I’ve heard all the lectures out there about how running and yoga go hand-in-hand. So in theory, I should be one limber runner at this point, right?
But up until about 8 months ago, I hated yoga. Well, at least I hated the idea of yoga. Mostly because my tomboy roots taught me that building strength was more important than stretching, and reality taught me that I would never be able to hold one of these old lady legs above my head.
Although, since Corepower Charlotte was so generous to gift me a free month of yoga classes, I decided what better time to take this whole namaste thing for a spin. I attended 2-3 classes a week for four weeks, and believe it or not, after these 10 classes one could say I became pretty skilled at balancing on one foot. I was finally able to get my gorilla pose on, and I completely understood the benefits yoga has on a runner’s strength, speed, and overall health.
But these mighty achievements didn’t come easy. They took many failed eagle poses, several crash crow landings, and countless giggles. So in an effort to spare at least one newbie yogi some blushing cheeks, I’ve logged 10 tips for smooth sailing into your own journeys.
I’m not saying take an online crash course and memorize all 84 poses before your first practice, but maybe do a little YouTube surfing to get a grasp on the basics. Because this is exactly what I didn’t do before I walked into my first class. And as a result, I was too overwhelmed and confused to actually enjoy the workout. (And sadly, since there aren’t any woodland animal poses, my deer-in-headlights look didn’t do me any favors….)
Well, at least not in an aesthetic way. At my first Corepower class, I was ridiculously intimated by all of the fancy mats, mat towels, and other bohemian trinkets I saw scattered around the room. Just by the looks of all this colorful gear, I could tell that my fellow classmates were clearly more advanced than I was, and I knew deep down that my flimsy $5 TJ Maxx mat branded me as a newb. But throughout that Hot Power Fusion class, I realized that a pricey roll of rubber wouldn’t have elevated my practice in any way. My dinky pink mat did the trick, and I learned that you really don’t have to splurge to find your zen (even though I may or may not have walked out of Corepower’s in-studio shop with a shiny new magenta Lululemon mat that same morning…)
Because considering you will be spending 75% of your time staring at your toes and 30% of the class will be eyeballing them as well, trust me when I say you will want to have some pretty pink polish down there. Keep ’em tidy, folks!
Prepare yourself: there’s always going to be one girl in every class who sounds like she’s having a bit too much fun with her Ujjayi breathing. And who knows, you might just find yourself situated next to a real-life human humidifier. But here’s the thing: these odd-balls are actually doing exactly what you should be doing.
Because pranayama, or breath control, is a super important part of your yoga practice. Proper breathing allows you to be present, relax, and connect with your emotions. And according to Runner’s World, if you’re a runner like me, you should go the extra mile with your huffs and puffs, because “yoga’s deep-breathing techniques improve the function of stabilizing muscles in your core and pelvic floor, creating a more efficient stride.” So my advice: breathe in, breathe out, and don’t give a care about what anyone else thinks.
…and toe stand pose, and mermaid pose, and lounging lizard. Because unfortunately as distance runners, we’re prone to tight hip flexors. And up until recently, I had no clue that these buggers can lead to poor posture, including exaggerated anterior pelvic tilt (which causes you to arch your lower back and stick your butt out) – something I’ve been struggling with. 😕 So if you want to dodge this common running ailment and open up your hip flexors, I suggest that you drop down and get your pigeon on.
In the very first Corepower class I attended, Keisha, our instructor reminded us, “You allotted this time for yourself, so be here.” It can be so difficult to truly turn your brain off for an hour, but being mindful and present will truly take your practice to the next level.
In these past few weeks, I’ve learned that mindfulness is a skill which you should really hone in, because it improves your mental health, physical health, and overall well-being. But also, according to Runner’s World, “mindfulness turns on your parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers blood pressure, eases muscular tension, and slows your breath so you can run faster with less effort.”
So now, my favorite part of every class is at the beginning when your instructor leads with you with an intention. My advice: take these words seriously and get your mind right with a personal goal for each practice. Keep it simple and keep it top of mind. You’ll be surprised at the effect that mindset will have on your day.
No matter how intimidated you are or whatever worries you may have about face-planting on your mat, don’t you dare sit out on crow pose. Take a stab at it, even if you have that voice in your head telling you that you can’t. Because trust me guys, I’ve crash landed before. In front a room full of 10+ pros, and guess what: not one of them laughed at me. Yoga is all about acceptance and overcoming personal limits, so do yourself a favor and don’t set a preconceived limit on yourself. Get down, plant your hands, and stick that booty in the air.
And I’m pretty sure it always will be. I know I’m not the only gal who feels like they’re reenacting a trip to the gyno when they roll back into this spread-eagle stance. So get all of your snickers out in your first three classes, and then fall in line with everyone else who doesn’t think twice about looking like a dead cockroach. Because after all, it’s just another quirky part of the practice, and a killer hip opener for those of you with dysfunctional hips like me.
Yoga instructors sometimes offer “hands-on assistance” to help you with proper form. They also offer the option to opt-out with a simple wave of your hand at the beginning of class. But before you raise the walls of your personal bubble, know that there is nothing sensual about this help. Sure, being groped by a stranger is a legit reservation, but I assure you that your instructor is only there to help you perfect your practice. If you’re serious about learning the in’s and out’s of yoga, let down your guard and let the guidance begin.
I mean, a 2-3 minute unapologetic adult nap time? It doesn’t get much better than that! Oh, and Corepower gets especially creative with theirs: sometimes they fan you with towels, and other times they spread essential oils throughout the room. 🙌 The only downside: these blissful breaks are never long enough.
Images by Sweat & Sweets.