Speed Up to Slow Down: How Running Changed My Yoga Practice

Molly Haight
Speed Up to Slow Down: How Running Changed My Yoga Practice

At some point, the asana gets easier.

I’m not saying it gets easy or boring or that you start running out of things to work towards, but you get stronger. The crushing feeling from doing Chaturanga mellows out, backbending becomes bearable, and the feeling of not being able to breathe in any and every twist starts to recede.

The physical practice starts to bring out more grace and strength than you knew your body was capable of, and you begin to feel comfortable or at least comfortable with being uncomfortable in most poses.

Progress starts to slow down and you reach a plateau.

Practicing despite plateauing, even when things get less interesting is what really roots you in your practice. Often, overcoming this plateau and staying committed to your practice means finding ways to make it interesting again.

I may have a hint of Type A in me. Like most Type As, when I first started practicing yoga, I was drawn to sweaty, hot, and fast-paced Vinyasa classes. It was in these classes that I was finally able to find silence and calm amidst the chaos in my brain.

For the first time in my life, all the pent up energy in my body had a place to go, and I was able to rest both physically and mentally. I began to crave this “rest,” this refuge for my relentless supply of energy. I loved the daily endorphin kick I got from these challenging but fun classes.

As someone close to me kindly pointed out, I was addicted to yoga.

What it really was, is that I was addicted to a feeling of clarity. When I started practicing yoga, I was really depressed and every yoga class felt like the fog of depression was being lifted off of me, even if only for a few brief moments.

My relationship with depression still fluctuates, but regardless, I know that my mind and my body always need to be active, and finding yoga meant finding the thing that satisfied both. Time passed, and I went from practicing once a week, to every day.

After a couple of years, yoga lost some of its original power. I reached a plateau. My mind and my body needed more. Practicing every day wasn’t enough anymore. My depression started easing back in, I still had the pent up energy of a 6-year-old, and it needed an outlet.

Most of my teachers would probably tell me that yoga is enough, that done right it should satiate all my needs, but it doesn’t. Maybe one day it will. But for now, I run.

When I started running again two years ago, I found another physical practice to add to my daily asana practice.

Again, I was able to find refuge in a physical challenge. Finally, I was able to work hard enough physically to be able to be still and feel content again.

Running hard and on a regular basis took a toll on my body though. Once I started running, my yoga practice slowed down drastically, and my relationship with my body as well as what I thought about my body changed completely.

I noticed tightness everywhere, not just in my hips and hamstrings, but in my back, neck, and feet. Everything began to feel different. Poses that once came easy took a little extra care and effort. The most advanced poses fell wayside to long distance runs and faster miles.

I knew my body couldn’t handle the same high intensity, sweaty yoga classes I had been going to for years. My body craved long holds and slower movements, and my mind searched to find the reasons for the minor injuries I had been incurring though running.

Slowly, I began to practice more mindfully. I began to see the weak parts of my body that needed to be strengthened, and the parts of my body that needed to be loved and stretched out. I noticed that the weak areas affecting my running were the same weak areas affecting my yoga practice.

My practice evolved and became interesting to me again. Yoga became an investigation to find the parts of my body that were weak, the spots I was totally unaware of, the spots that were asleep, the spots that would only wake up if I woke up.

Both yoga and running have changed my life.

Yoga is still what gets me out of bed in the morning. I still practice every day, I still live my life through the teachings of yoga, I still turn to yoga when I am suffering the most and it always is there waiting for me with answers.

Running has balanced me out though. It has made me stronger where I need to be stronger, and softer and gentler in the spaces that need more love.

Running has taught me so much about what my body’s tendencies are, and becoming more acquainted with these quirks has allowed me to feel more connected and in tune with my body.

I can finally slow down in my yoga practice. I can find clarity in laying in Pigeon all night, or Forward Folding for 15 minutes instead of doing 20 Chaturangas. My body has become my own little workshop where I am constantly working to find the balance between pushing myself and easing up a bit.

Yoga and running are no longer just two separate hobbies I am addicted to, but two physical practices constantly evolving and inspiring one another, keeping me grounded and clear and above the fog.