Merge 25K: Yoga

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I’m having great fun helping my neighbors at Merge Records and bull City Running with planning and training for their upcoming Merge 25K on March 22. It’s going to be a unique and fun race with a wonderful postrace party! Here’s a post from me they ran on their blog yesterday.

In my books on yoga for athletes (including The Runner’s Guide to YogaThe Runner’s Guide to Yoga), my classes at Carrboro Yoga and at Durham Yoga (three blocks from the Merge 25K finish line), and my videos at YogaVibes.com, I teach yoga to help keep you balanced for your running. Yoga will help you strengthen your core, loosen your hips, and sharpen your focus. But yoga isn’t just something that happens on the mat. Yoga is connection, union. Yoga happens when we pay full attention to what is happening in the moment. Music can get us there, and running can get us there, too. Here are two keys to connecting body and breath as you train for and run in the Merge 25K.

Form: Find Mountain Pose

Mountain Pose, Tadasana, not only is the base of most other yoga poses, it also holds the fundamental alignment for running. To find mountain pose, stand tall with a fist’s width between your feet, your knees soft, your pelvis level, your core engaged, your chest broad, your arms relaxed, and your neck long. It’s that simple. As we grow more fatigued in long or hard runs, we tend to get sloppy: curling the spine into a question-mark shape, lifting the arms too high, kicking one heel too wide. When you notice you are deviating from a neutral mountain-pose posture, come back to the best form you can muster. Stand tall, relax where you can, and let this form check give you a fresh start for the next mile.

Breath: Sync with Movement

On your next training run, notice how you’re breathing. How does the breath coordinate with your movement? Which foot is hitting the ground when you begin an inhalation, and how many steps do you take as you breathe in? Which foot is hitting the ground when you begin an exhalation, and how many steps do you take as you breathe out? How does this pattern change from the start of your run to the middle to the end? How does the breath shift in response to hills and different paces? Each of us may have different answers about how the breath moves and what is the right breath at any given moment; all of us should be as relaxed as is feasible while we run.

As your training continues and in the race itself, come back to form and breath. When you get distracted or if you get discouraged, form and breath will get you on track, fully connected with what is happening right now.

Coach and yoga teacher Sage Rountree, co-owner of the Carrboro and Durham Yoga Companies, is author of several books on yoga for athletes and mindful racing. Find her and watch free online videos on yoga at sagerountree.com.

Merge put together this playlist for you to enjoy as you practice.

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