You Don’t Need To Be Flexible To Do Yoga

When you think of yoga, a few words probably come to mind – flexibility, stretching, and breath. For those who perceive themselves as not flexible and unable to touch your toes, this can be very discouraging. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard: “I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible”.  This seems so silly to me. That’s like saying that your teeth are too dirty to brush. Flexibility is a product of yoga, not a prerequisite. I think people’s perception of what they think yoga is and what yoga actually is may be skewed, so I hope to change that. Continue reading You Don’t Need To Be Flexible To Do Yoga

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What is Yoga & Other Frequently Asked Questions

Whether you’re new to yoga or have been wondering the same thing for years, I’ve got some answers to some of yoga’s most frequently asked questions.

What Is Yoga?

When you think of yoga, do you think of people hopping up into handstand, doing seemingly impossible balances, and weirdly twisted poses? I bet some of you do… well yoga is much more than that. Yoga is a 5000 year old Indian body of knowledge and was derived from the Sankrit word “yuj” which means “to unite or integrate”. Yoga is all about harmonizing the body with the mind and breath through the means of various breathing techniques, yoga postures (asanas) and meditation.

What Does Namaste Mean?

Nama means bow, as means I, and te means you. Therefore, namaste literally means “bow me you” or “I bow to you.”

Namaste is a gesture/greeting that represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart chakra. The gesture is an acknowledgment and universal recognition of spiritual energy. By stating namaste, your souls is recognizing and honoring the light in someone else’s.

What Does Om Mean?

Om is a mantra, or vibration, that is traditionally chanted at the beginning and end of a yoga class. It is said to be the sound of the universe. The entire universe is moving nothing is ever solid or still. There exists a pulsating, rhythmic vibration that the ancient yogis acknowledged with the sound of Om. We may not always be aware of the sound, but it’s there. You can hear it in the blowing of the leaves, the waves crashing on the shore, or inside a seashell.

Chanting Om allows us to recognize the universal movement through our breath, our awareness, and our physical energy. We begin to sense a bigger connection that is both uplifting and soothing.

Do I Have to Be Vegan or Vegetarian to Practice Yoga?

The first principle of yoga philosophy is ahimsa, which means non harming to self and others. Some people interpret this to include not eating animal products. There is a debate about this in the yoga community. I believe that it is a personal decision that everyone should make for themselves. If you are considering becoming a vegan or vegetarian, be sure to take into account your personal health and perhaps consult your doctor. You do not have to be either to practice yoga.

How Many Times Per Week Should I Practice?

Yoga is strengthening, cleansing, and detoxifying. Whether you practice once a week or everyday you will still see and feel the benefits of yoga. However, when you go more frequently you will experience the shift in your body sooner. I suggest starting with two or three times a week. Go when you can. After a while, I am sure your desire to practice will increase and you will find yourself doing more and more.

How Is Yoga Different From Stretching or Other Kinds of Fitness?

Unlike stretching or fitness, yoga is more than just physical postures. Yes you’re body will become stronger and more flexible as it would if you just stretched, but so will your mind. Through yoga we are able to connect the movement in our bodies with our mind and to the rhythm of our breath. When we do this, we begin to direct our attention inward, allowing ourselves to become more present and aware of our experiences. Yoga is about building awareness in our bodies without judgement.

Is Yoga a Religion?

Yoga is not a religion. It is a philosophy that began in India an estimated 5,000 years ago. The father of classical ashtanga yoga (the eight-limbed path) is said to be Patanjali, who wrote the Yoga Sutra. These scriptures provide a framework for spiritual growth and mastery over the physical and mental body. Yoga sometimes interweaves other philosophies such as Hinduism or Buddhism, but it is not necessary to study those in order to practice yoga.

I’m Not Flexible. Can I Do Yoga?

Yes! You are a perfect candidate for yoga. Many people think that they need to be flexible to begin yoga, but that’s not true. Come as you are and you will find that your yoga practice will help you become more flexible as well as balanced, stronger, and more coordinated.

What Do I Need to Begin?

All you need to begin is an open mind and a desire to learn. When you begin, look around and find a studio and style that’s right for you. Consider investing in a nice pair of leggings or shorts and a t-shirt or tank.  Make sure they are not too baggy and maybe get some things that are sweat wicking. We practice barefoot, so there is no need for shoes and socks, leave them at the door! Bring a water bottle and towel, as well as a yoga mat to class if you have one.  No mat? That’s ok, most studios have mats you can borrow.

Why Are You Supposed to Refrain From Eating 2–3 Hours Before Class?

In class we will twist, turn, and bend. So if you have not fully digested your last meal, it may make you feel uncomfortable. If you’re afraid that you might get hungry or feel weak during yoga class, experiment with a light snack such as yogurt, a few nuts, or juice about 30 minutes to an hour before class.

 

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The Need for Speed

I have never incorporated speed work into my marathon training before this year. I was always intimidated by track workouts and was too afraid to push myself beyond my comfort zone, where I had difficulty breathing. I am more of a slow and steady kind of gal.  I could go on forever, but hate short bursts of speed. However, I have set a goal for myself to qualify for the Boston Marathon and in order to do that, I need to get faster.  So for this training cycle, I’ve decided to give speed work a try.   Continue reading The Need for Speed

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Hill Yeah!

Uhhhh hills … if you’re like me, you avoid them whenever possible (at least I use to), you hate when your running group suggests a route with the monster hill you hate (I know we all have at least 1); you dread them when you look at the elevation charts of races, they are the bane of your existence.  While we tend to spend so much time hating them, it’s important to remember that hills will make us a faster, stronger, and healthier runner. So rather than hate the hills, let’s embrace the hills. Continue reading Hill Yeah!

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20 Things to Know When Dating a Runner

Are you dating or married to a runner? Maybe thinking about getting involved with someone who runs? Well dating a runner, tends to add a new dimension to romance and your relationship. Here are some things you need to know when getting involved with a runner!

  1. They have more exercise clothes than street clothes.
  2. They have a large collection of running shoes.
  3. They love their high knee compression socks.
  4. It’s a special event when they put on “real” clothes and when the ladies put on a “real” bra.
  5. You start to accept their really worked feet and are happy to treat them to a pedicure in order to help hide their missing or black toenails.
  6. Sleeping in on the weekends is an obsolete notion. They will always want to get up and run, don’t expect them to lay in bed and cuddle.
  7. You wake up to their alarm and think… “another run, when’s rest day?”
  8. Rest day is the worst day of the week… approach them carefully and beware!
  9. They have a special drawer or cabinet (or both) for their fuel, headphones, arm bands, running belts, sunglasses, headbands, hats, etc….
  10. Get used to sweaty, salty hugs. There will be a lot of them.
  11. Laundry day means separate loads for their running clothes.
  12. Your vacations are often in conjunctions with a destination race.
  13. And just because you’re on vacation, does not mean they’ll stop running.
  14. When traveling, they need a separate suitcase for all their running gear.
  15. It’s easy to shop for their birthday or holidays, because they always want new running gear.
  16. Their idea of nice jewelry is a medal, or an inspirational pendant or bracelet.
  17. You don’t mess with pre-race rituals.
  18. You love joining them for their post race feast.
  19. They love to talk about running, races, PR… they use jargon you aren’t aware of, but quickly learn to understand.
  20. You love their crazy, quirky side and are happy to celebrate their victories with them!

It’s fun to be in a relationship with a runner. Just remember, they’re always on the move, think you can keep up?

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Yoga for Runners

For me, yoga and running have always gone hand in hand. Yoga has many benefits on both a runner’s body (improved flexibility, range of motion, muscular strength, prevent injuries) and mind (more focus, less stress). Yoga is a great way to help runners improve performance and prevent injury. Yoga also helps to relieve soreness and tension in your muscles and restores range of motion so you can run better the next time you’re out on the road.

Many people often ask how I can run so much, while minimizing injuries. For me, the number one reason why, has been yoga. Yoga has helped me in countless ways over the years, both physically and mentally.  No one wants to get hurt; injuries are not only painful, but can sideline you for months. I couldn’t even imagine what I would do with myself if I couldn’t run. Therefore, it’s important we remember to be smart and train smart.  Smart training can help make sure that injuries don’t stand in the way of your training. Therefore, spending some time on your yoga mat might be your best bet and just what the doctor ordered, it certainly has been for me. Practicing yoga asanas (poses) can help keep muscles limber, and yoga’s emphasis on mindfulness can bring about increased focus and awareness. So why not practice? Today is a great time to start- no time like the present as I like to say!

So why strike a pose? Studies have shown that yoga decreases stress, helps with weight loss, eases pain, helps people stick to an exercise routine, and even improves running times.

Here are some other reason runners should try yoga….

Yoga is a great partner. Training for the NJ marathon? Yoga can help you stay injury free by cultivating a balance between strength and flexibility in the body.

Yoga helps you become more present and aware of what your body needs. One key way yoga can help prevent running injuries is by cultivating mindfulness. The more aware you are of how your body feels from day to day or from pose to pose, the more likely you are to notice tight or injury prone areas that need attention.

Competitive and endurance sports like running encourage us to override the internal voice that wants us to stop, especially when we hit the wall in a marathon. However, sometimes when we ignore this voice, we can get injured. However, when we start to listen, as we do in a yoga class we can align and support ourselves in a more kind and mindful way.

Build mind-body awareness. Runners can use yoga practice to balance strength, increase range of motion, and train the body and mind. Asanas move your body through poses while teaching you how to coordinate your breath with each movement. Eventually your body, mind, and breath will be integrated in all actions.

Yoga helps you stretch smarter. Yoga’s combination of active and passive stretching is one way to help keep injuries at bay.

  • Active stretching—moving and stretching the body dynamically creates warmth and mobility to the tissues.
  • Passive stretching—holding a posture for a minute or more in a way that’s relaxed, allows muscles to lengthen even more.

Yoga allows you to stretch your feet. Flex, point, or fl-ointing your feet, allow them to feel good! Hitting the pavement again and again can take its toll on your feet, so it’s essential for runners to make time to care for them. A typical yoga practice stretches, strengthens and brings increased awareness to the feet.

Yoga helps build strength in the body and allows you to conquer chronic injuries. Yoga helps you find a state of equilibrium in your body that helps prevent chronic injuries and illnesses.  In yoga, you’ll work your core, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, & IT band (amongst other things, but these areas are extra important to runners). Working, stretching, and strengthening these areas will help you to run more efficiently and stay injury free.

Your hips will be happy. If your hips are tight, your mobility becomes limited, which can cause IT band pain, knee pain, as well as extra and unwanted stress to the back of your legs and feet.  Yoga will open your hips, keep your muscle in peak condition, and allow you to run pain free.

Yoga can help bring your body into balance. The pain most runners feel is not from running alone, but from imbalances that running causes and aggravates. Yoga can help you balance them out, so you can keep running long and hard for many years to come.

Yoga can be the ultimate cross-training for runners. Poses that mimic the running stride, for example, lunges, can help you stay flexible through the range of motion you use to run.

Yoga helps you to be humble. It can take years to learn and truly master yoga poses, so don’t go to your first several classes and expect to learn everything immediately. And certainly don’t go and worry about what the person next to you is doing. So what if you can’t do what they can, just focus on you. Yes, you may be a great runner, have had tons of PRs, have won races, whatever… but on your mat, none of that matters. Yoga is not about winning or being better than someone else, it’s about being the best YOU in that moment. Accept and appreciate your body and mind for where it’s at and don’t’ be so hard on yourself. Allow the movement and stretching to feel good.

When you’re ready and the time is right for you to start, be sure to shop around and find a class that is right for you. There’s no single style of yoga that’s best for every runner, but it’s important to find one you enjoy.  Find a studio (i.e. Empower Yoga) or class that makes you feel good, has a good vibe, good instructor, etc.. and just keep going and doing it.  Practicing yoga consistently is more important than what type of yoga you practice.

Namaste

 

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Feeling Fabulous at 35!

35As most of you know, especially if you read my blog last week, I am 35. I am happy to say that at 35, I am in the best shape of my life.  Growing up I played sports, but after high school I pretty much stopped working out. In college, I only used the gym as a way to meet people, particularly guys.  It wasn’t until my late 20’s that I started working out again and once I hit 31, I became an avid workout and health enthusiast. Because of my hard work and dedication to fitness and health these last several years, I have to say that I believe that I look and feel my best and am in the best shape I have ever been in. While I still have goals for myself and I continue to push my limits in order to see what I am truly capable of, I know that I am in good shape and it feels great! Continue reading Feeling Fabulous at 35!

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