Yogi on the run

I live in two worlds. The world of runners, where shoes, GPS-devices and times per kilometer are subject of lengthy discussions. And the world of yogis, where dinner-talk consists of exchanging class reviews, how the tailbone can actually! Move! In! and babble about how this visiting senior teacher taught baddha konasana leaning back.

Both worlds seem to be slightly suspicious of each other. The yogis have a hard time fathoming how I can run and not get stiff legs. The runners look at me bending forward during after-run stretching and smirk at my ability to not only reach beyond my knees, but even touch the floor with my hands.

Yogis are worried about my knees – how can they take the pounding of running 30k?

And runners… well, they worry about my knees as well. How can they take a pose like supta virasana or padmasana and not be broken?

Meanwhile, I need both. Not only does my yoga practice keep me flexible and strong enough to sustain my running, it also gives me more insight in my own behavioural patterns – both on the physical side as well as the mental side of things. My practice tells me when my left hip is pulling again before it results in pain. It teaches me to stand tall on my legs and use my core. And it tells me when I’m tired and need rest.

It teaches me to hang on and deal with fear. The fear of pain during a long run. The fear of falling out of inversions. Of getting out of breath. The fear of actually succeeding in something, a pose, or a run, and not being able to hide behind external factors anymore. It teaches me to quietly listen to my inner choir of critics who tell me that I can’t do this, I will surely injure myself, it’s too cold/hot/rainy/windy to go out on a run, I can’t stay in this pose any longer. Listen, without responding. And let the critics fight their battles until they become silent.

On the other hand, my running teaches me things about my yoga practice. Going outside to run, never mind the weather, makes me feel more able to deal with whatever is ‘out there’ as well as with what is inside of me. It makes me feel more in tune with the world – the space around me – never mind if it’s speed work in the city or a long slow and sweaty run through the glorious summer countryside. Snow-coated landscapes or steamy canals in the rain. It teaches me that all circumstances are actually okay, once you just stop fighting them.

Many yogis will say that yoga is actually the only thing they need to stay fit. Runners will say the same about running. But I’m a Jack of two trades… I see the beauty in both and alternating between the two helps me not to become too attached to the results of either one.

Now, if that isn’t yoga, I don’t know what is!