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Yoga for Runners

15 Yoga Lessons to Get You Moving

Tap wisdom from the mat to motivate you on the road.

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Maybe you wake up each and every day ready to crush your personal record or tackle that advanced pose you’ve been working toward, but most of us go through a rough patch at least every now and then when we’re less than ecstatic to get moving. Whatever your momentary stumbling block, it’s nothing that a little extra encouragement can’t fix. Keep reading for some quick inspiration—then get back out there. You can do this!

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Hey, bad habit. Yoga teaches us to notice the movement patterns in the mind, what the Yoga Sutra calls citta vritti, or the fluctuations of consciousness. But that skill can be applied to the physical as well and prove one of yoga’s biggest benefits for runners. Watch how the mind swings from thought to thought, feeling to feeling, and how your arms start swinging to the side when you’re sucking wind. As you begin to make choices about whether these patterns serve you, you can move toward the purpose of yoga: Stilling them.

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“The very heart of yoga practice is abhyasa—steady effort in the direction you want to go.” —Sally Kempton

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Hug the hard stuff. When things get tough remember this advice from Sadie Nardini, yoga teacher and author of The 21-Day Yoga Body: To get through your challenges, both physical and mental, let go of your resistance to them. Accepting difficulty doesn’t mean you have to like it, but hugging into challenges and looking for a lesson in them, rather than pushing them away, can help you let go of them sooner.

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“The willingness to practice at all is a form of bravery. Practice courage in these small ways on the mat, and it will be there for you when you need it most.” —Marianne Elliott

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Give yourself some time. Yogic philosophy applies to running too. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra teaches that self-transformation doesn’t happen overnight. If you are gentle with yourself and accept your setbacks with compassion, you can do whatever you set your mind to.

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Don’t go it alone. A supportive environment is a must whether you’re training for a marathon or simply aiming to live a healthier lifestyle. Don’t be shy—reach out to family and friends for support. “Gravitate toward people who already have what you want and be willing to have people gravitate toward you,” says Kelly McGonigal, PhD, a yoga teacher and instructor in psychology at Stanford University and author of The Willpower Instinct. “You don’t have to be your sole source of strength and support anymore.”

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“Remember, this moment is the only one. The beginning and the end of your experience is the here and now.” —Mirka Kraftsow

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Get amped. Research shows music can make exercise feel easier! Tunes you love can reduce your perception of effort and increase your ability to push yourself—in both running and your asana practice. Music shifts your mood and your experience in your body. Turn up your favorite song next time you need a little motivation.

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Savor silence for success. Music can be a great motivator, but there are benefits to pushing yourself without it, too. Quiet allows you to tune in to the sounds of your body and immediate surroundings, says yoga teacher and running coach Sage Rountree. That connection to your breath and body gives you skills for staying present when things get tough on the mat, on the road, or in your daily life.

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Make each moment count. At 35, Debbie Cropper, an elementary school teacher in Anchorage, AK, was suffering from fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, hypothyroid disease, anxiety, and anorexia. Fifteen years later, Cropper had run 50 marathons (one in every state), taken control of her anxiety, and improved her flexibility. “Even though I was racing and wanted to place, the challenge became about the experience: slowing down, taking the time, and absorbing,” says Cropper about applying lessons from her yoga practice.

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“When I wake up in the morning, I know it’s going to be the best day of my life. I never think about what I can’t do.” —Tao Porchon-Lynch

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The power of visualization is real. All change begins with imagination. To truly transform ourselves, we must leap into the unknown. Your first step for killing a marathon or Mayurasana: Seeing it in your mind’s eye. Just as the thought of biting into a lemon makes your lips pucker and salivary juices start flowing, a study from the Cleveland Clinic found that simply imagining contracting specific muscles—without actually doing it—every day for a period of weeks resulted in a significant increase in the strength of those muscles. Each day devote some time to visualizing yourself achieving your goal.

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“Yoga is not about touching your toes. It’s about unlocking your ideas about what you want, where you think you can go, and what you will achieve when you get there.” —Cyndi Lee

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Get great guidance. Coaches and teachers can be vital to our growth as yoga students and athletes, says yoga teacher and running coach Sage Rountree. Left to our own devices, we can grow complacent, following the same routines, running the same routes, practicing the same poses. When you find yourself in a lull, consult a coach or teacher to motivate you to move beyond our perceived boundaries and into new places we might be afraid to try on our own.

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“Practice and all is coming.” —K. Pattabhi Jois

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