July 17, 2011

Yoga & Minimalist Running – It’s all yoga! ~ Heather Church

I recently wrote about how our activities define us and outlined my Adventures in Minimalist Running. This made me dig deeper into my life and my yoga. It made me think about overlap in all of the activities in which I partake on a regular basis. As a yoga practitioner for the last 13 years, I’ve had highs, lows, gang-busta-in-your-face yoga for periods of time and almost non-existent stints of physical practice.

I took a distance learning class a few years ago and a phrase of the teacher’s stuck with me. “Life is cyclical”. I understood what she meant semantically, but not so much personally – until recently.

Nothing in life is linear.

Things don’t happen in a straight line.

Life circumstances happen and then happen again.

Everything comes back around.

Sometimes we have to endure the same or similar situations until we really “get it”. This is life. The lessons hardest to learn often present themselves in multitudes of ways over and over again until the light comes on – until we have that “A – HA” moment, so to speak.

I find this also true in my yoga practice – both on and off the mat. Some days flow beautifully on the mat. Some are blissful. Some totally rock my world. On other days I drag myself there out of obligation, and sometimes I don’t even feel much better when I step off the mat – until later. It always comes eventually and I always know I’m doing something good for myself each time I practice.

Everything on the mat is in direct relation to the things we need to learn off the mat. Yogic philosophy is far, wide and beyond human grasp in full understanding. But I’ve found that over the years more things “click” as I live them- “A – HA”.

All of this leads up to the way in which I see running – specifically minimalist running – as another kind of yoga for me. In my mind and life, the similarities are numerous . . .

1. I came to yoga for peace, calm and to quiet my mind. I found it, along with learning a different way of being in the world. I came to running for physical fitness and an aerobic activity. I found it, along with learning discipline and another way of observing my mind.

2. The difficulties I face in both my yoga practice and my running practice are the same. They both relate to the aforementioned discipline. Regular practice requires it as getting started is difficult from time to time. I must cultivate motivation regularly.

3. When I began running (with shoes) I experienced discomfort – no, PAIN! Because of my yoga practice, I knew it wasn’t right for me. Barefoot or with minimal shoes I don’t feel dis-ease. I feel in tune with the earth in the same way I do when practicing yoga.

4. Running and yoga complement each other perfectly. One provides aerobic activity, while the other provides proper breathing practice and stretching beyond any other activity. Just like we learn in yoga, its all about balance. Running and yoga together can provide perfect balance. Yin to the yang . . .

5. In both I experience breath and rhythm. I listen to my body. I notice tendencies. I practice the balance of effort and ease.

I am grateful I was a yogi first. I’m certain my running practice would look much different (knowing myself and my tendencies) if this weren’t the case. I approach running in the same way I approach my asana practice. I pay attention, listen from within and notice thoughts without attaching to them.

I imagine running is only one activity in a list of several that have become MY yoga. In the end, it is ALL yoga!

What about you? What else, besides asana is yoga for you?

Photo credit: Cyclical, Runner’s Yoga

Heather Church is a yoga teacher, writer and web strategist. She teaches at a local college and writes passionately about sustainability, minimalism, yoga, yogic philosophy and mindfulness. Heather also works for a rockin’ location independent technology company where she develops websites, provides web and social media strategy and writes in all forms. Beyond the professional labels, her passions include outdoor adventures like hiking, kayaking, rollerblading and minimalist running. When not on the mat, putting pen to paper or on an adventure quest, Heather is happiest at home living a quiet simple life with her husband, daughter and two dogs. Find her at namaste*heather, and connect on Facebook and Twitter.

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