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Yoga for Runners

TriYoga for Runners class starts on Tuesday, May 2 at 7:30pm. First class free. 

The benefits and effects of yoga for runners

This is an excerpt from Yoga for Runners edited by Christine Felstead.

Effects of Yoga on Runners
Runners are often reluctant to try yoga; their most common fear is that they are not flexible enough. It is not uncommon for those attending their first Yoga for Runners class to ask whether the room will be filled with lithe and flexible bodies, in spite of the class being advertised “For runners; no yoga experience necessary.” This fear may be driven by the many media images showing people in advanced yoga poses, fueling the notion that you have to be able to bend like a pretzel to do yoga. This is the furthest thing from the truth. Yoga is suitable for every body type. It can be started at any age regardless of physical condition, and those who are the stiffest have the most to gain. Runners, specifically, have a tremendous amount to gain from adding yoga to their fitness regimens.
____Running can lead to injury because of its repetitive nature and the resulting musculoskeletal imbalances. On a physical level, yoga restores balance and symmetry to the body, making it the perfect complement to running. Runners are often drawn to yoga to deal with specific issues, such as improving flexibility or helping with an injury. Yet many are shocked at the world it opens for them, specifically, the strengthening capacity and the use of muscles they never knew they had. Let’s take a closer look at the effects of yoga, both physical and mental, on runners.
Physical Effects
As seen in the preceding definitions, yoga encompasses more than the mere physical postures. Nonetheless, the physicality of yoga is what draws most people to their first yoga class. The following summarizes the physical benefits that runners can expect from yoga.
Flexibility Many runners cite greater flexibility as the number one reason for beginning a yoga practice. This is a good reason, because yoga stretches the muscles that are tight, which in turn increases the range of motion in related joints. Increased flexibility decreases stiffness, results in greater ease of movement, and reduces many nagging aches and pains.
Strength Runners are strong in ways that relate to running. However, a running stride involves only the lower body and movement in one plane—sagittal (i.e., forward and backward). Thus, certain muscles become strong while others are underused and remain weak. Runners have strong legs for running, but when faced with holding a standing yoga pose, they are quite surprised to find that their legs feel like jelly. This is simply because a properly aligned yoga pose involves using all the muscles in a variety of planes. The muscles that are weak fatigue quickly, and those that are tight scream for release—thus, the jelly-leg syndrome.
____Overly tight muscles are also weak ones. To be fully functional, a muscle needs to contract when needed and also relax and lengthen when needed. For example, if your hand is perpetually in a state of contraction, as in a fist, its function is severely impaired. A healthy muscle is able to move through a healthy range of motion.
____Additionally, running primarily uses the muscles from the hips down, whereas a balanced yoga practice involves the entire body. Muscles that are simply not used while running are called upon and strengthened—specifically in the arms, upper torso, abdominals, and back. Moreover, yoga uses the person’s own body weight to create resistance, working against gravity to build the muscle and bone strength vital for overall health. Muscles strengthen by various methods of contraction, followed by rest and supported with proper nutrition. In running, the strengthening is primarily in the legs, whereas a balanced yoga practice contracts and stretches the muscles of the entire body. For example, a fairly basic pose such as plank requires numerous muscles to actively engage; otherwise, the effect of gravity would result in the belly, hips, and upper torso sagging.
____Strengthening the upper body and core helps improve posture during daily activities and also while running. Moreover, a strong core allows the arms and legs to move more efficiently, creating better overall form, less fatigue, less weight impact on the legs, and a reduced risk of injury. A strong core creates a strong runner!
____Additionally, a by-product of becoming stronger is greater muscle tone. Yoga helps shape long, lean muscles that do not hinder free range of movement in joints.
Biomechanical Balance Overusing some muscles while underusing others creates muscular imbalances, which affect the entire musculoskeletal balance and impairs biomechanical efficiency. For runners, biomechanical imbalances eventually lead to pain and injury.
____Depending on the action, a muscle is either contracting (i.e., an agonist) or lengthening (i.e., an antagonist). For example, if you make a fist and lift your forearm, the biceps contracts while the triceps stretches. If you want showy biceps and do repeated biceps curls to pump up the muscle, the triceps will shorten and you could lose the ability to straighten your arm.
____A healthy balance is to work to both contract and stretch to maintain muscle equilibrium as well as functionality. For example, when stretching the hamstrings, the quadriceps need to contract. This coordinated action not only creates a deeper and safer hamstring stretch, but also provides an opportunity to strengthen the quadriceps, especially the inner quadriceps, which are weak in many runners. This is crucial for runners because the hamstrings most likely need lengthening while the commonly weak inner quads need strengthening.
____Executed correctly, a seemingly simple yoga pose requires the balanced activity of opposing muscle groups. To hold a pose, some muscles need to stretch while others need to contract. In this way, a natural balancing of strength and flexibility occurs, which creates biomechanical balance over time. This is one of the major benefits that await runners who undertake a regular yoga practice.
____Every yoga pose is a balance of stability (muscles contracting and strengthening) and mobility (muscles stretching and lengthening). At no time is only one muscle group used. Even the simplest yoga pose requires an awakening of every part of the body. Downward dog is an exemplary pose to demonstrate this. Following is a summary of the major muscle actions in this fundamental pose.
Stability (Strength)
  • Arms: hands, wrists, lower arms, triceps, deltoids
  • Back: lower trapezius, serratus anterior
  • Legs: quadriceps, tibialis anterior (front of shins)
Mobility (Flexibility)
  • Arms: fingers, biceps
  • Back: latissimus dorsi, paraspinals (both superficial and deep layers of back muscles)
  • Legs: hamstrings, calves, Achilles tendon
A balanced yoga practice requires most of the muscles in the body to perform some action. At the same time, joints are taken through their full ranges of motion as the corresponding muscles contract or stretch to support the movement. The result is improved muscle balance, which translates to better form, stronger running, and fewer injuries.
A Complete, Inside-Out Body Workout Yoga provides a workout that includes every muscle and all the joints. Yoga uses all muscle groups, including the small muscles in the hands and toes, the large muscles of the legs and torso, the superficial muscles such as the calves and hamstrings, and the deeply layered muscles that are not visible. When examining a person in the downward dog pose, you can see clearly that the superficial muscles of the back are stretching. What is less obvious is the lengthening of the intrinsic layer of paraspinal muscles, creating space and decompressing the vertebrae.
____Furthermore, all of the body’s systems beyond the muscle groups are worked in yoga, including the cardiovascular, respiratory, skeletal, and endocrine systems. Additionally, the internal organs are massaged and oxygenated through yogic breathing and movement in the poses.
An Energized Body Many forms of exercise deplete the body of its energy stores. Yet a yoga practice oxygenates the blood and creates more energy, leaving the body and mind feeling restored and energized. Yoga provides a vehicle through which the body can actively recover from the physical demands of running.
Improved Breathing Lung capacity is of prime importance for runners, because it creates the ability to maintain an even breathing pattern through all phases of running. The better the lung capacity is, the more oxygen is circulated through the system, which is most helpful for running long and strong. However, the breathing pattern used in running and other forms of aerobic exercise involves quick and shallow inhalations and exhalations. This uses only the top portion of the lungs, leaving the middle and lower portions untouched. Yogic breathing involves slow, deep inhalations and long exhalations, making use of the upper, middle, and lower portions of the lungs. Yogic breathing has been shown to increase lung capacity, and greater lung capacity increases endurance and improves overall athletic performance.
____In Sanskrit, prana means “energy,” and yogic breathing is called pranayama. Through the breath, you bring in oxygen, feeding your cells and creating vital life force, and remove carbon dioxide, eliminating toxins. The use of the breath in yoga is vital. Whereas holding the breath creates internal tightness, tension, and anxiety, deep breathing releases tension, reduces stress and anxiety, and physically helps the body ease into poses, particularly those that are challenging. Through this conscious breathing, the body is energized as a result of increased oxygen circulation throughout all of its systems.
Register now for the TriYoga for Runners class, starting May 2. This is a 9-week class, through June 27.
Improve flexibility of posterior thighs, hip flexors and ankles. Improve balance and focus. Have fun! 
Non-runners also welcome. A great class for beginners, too.
We have all the props you need, but if you have your own mat, bring it. 

At the Pence Gallery. Sign up now.

Nada Yoga- Peace, Bliss, Self Realization -the Goal of Yoga - through Music

ॐ ॐ ॐ ॐ 

There are many ways to enter the meditative state.
Try focusing the mind on uplifting music. Many yogis have deemed music to be the easiest of all paths to inner peace.

Focus the mind on uplifting music.  One can do this by listening to peaceful, uplifting or devotional music, or one can sing mantras. When people meet to sing in a call and response style, this is kirtan. Kirtan is a form of Nada Yoga, the yoga of sound. Nada refers to the flow of sound and the subsequent flow of higher consciousness.
The harmonium, shown, is a keyboard so often used in Kirtan. Vina, flute and mridagam also provide sacred vibrations to enhance meditation. Listen to a Peace Chant with Kaliji and Mercury Max.
Beautiful sound reduces stress, maintains health and invokes spiritual awakening. As our experience shows us, sound has a profound effect on consciousness. 

Just as a child is lulled to sleep by lullabies, just as a person is pleased with good words from another, just as a beautiful melody can open the heart, the practice of Kirtan, the effortless and complete absorption into the source of sound leads us to sacchidananda. That is the deepest meditation of existence, knowledge and bliss. 

What food is to the body, music is to the soul. Sing kirtan, chant mantra, listen to higher truths, or read sacred scriptures from any tradition. Such activity is a wonderful pathway to meditation and knowing one’s true self. When devotional music replaces clutter in mind, we can hear the inner voice of our higher mind and the ageless wisdom. Read on for more info on Kirtan below.

                                        ॐ ॐ ॐ 
Kirtan and Mangos -Nada Yoga 
Having returned home from teaching TriYoga Basics this morning, I read last night’s Davis Enterprise newspaper. Two announcements of Indian music concerts in Davis this weekend caught my eye and I am excited to share them with you. The first is Kirtan and the second an Indian music concert---read on.
One of my very favorite things in the whole wide world to do is Kirtan (Save Saturday at 7:30p, Kaya Yoga Studio)! What is Kirtan? It is singing along with others in call and response fashion, following a lead singer. The songs are usually in Sanskrit, are meditative and can be devotional in nature. Instruments vary but often include at least one Indian instrument like a harmonium, tabla, vina, sitar. You’ll also hear guitar, bells and other percussion, flute, violin and more. Click here to listen. 
The chants speed up and slow down, in doing so creating the ability to lead the audience into ecstatic highs of joy, love and harmony. Perhaps the most famous American kirtan leader is Krishna Das, who is credited with introducing this transformative practice to the West. Many others have contributed to making kirtan what it is in the United States, including Deva Premal, Jai Uttal, Bhagavan Das, Russill Paul, Wah!, and Dave Stringer. Kaliji and her Chant Band are my favorite, naturally.
Though someone whom I found online, named Sri Prahlada said the following, this is close to what I would have said about my joyful experience of kirtan.

”My personal experience of kirtan is that when the lead chanter and the group participants are sincere and sing from the heart with devotion – there is nothing in the world that has the power to move and uplift me like kirtan. When I look back on my life, my happiest, most blissful moments, were all in kirtan.

Most kirtan authorities share that the benefits of kirtan cannot be explained in words, it has to be experienced in order to be understood. How do you explain the taste of a mango to someone who has never tasted these fruits? You can intellectualize over the taste by saying it’s something like a cross between a peach, pineapple, and an orange, but until a person tastes a mango, they can never really know its flavor. The same is with the experience of kirtan – you have to experience it to know what it is. Satchidandana Swami put it eloquently when he wrote: “Words can show us the direction in which to look for the kirtan-experience, but only when you sit down, move towards your inner space, and then sing out, will you start to know what kirtan really is. Because at that time your soul will rise up and start to dance…

People will experience kirtan differently. Some people might immediately love it, like meeting a long lost friend or returning home after a long time away. Others might take a little while to get used to an unfamiliar experience. Additionally, kirtan can often sound raw and unpolished. Hence, some might find the mango a little green – immature and therefore unpalatable. But in India, people love green mangos (eaten with salt and chili powder pickled) as much as they love ripe mangos. They can also discern between different varieties of mangos – some are sweeter and others have a slightly bitter taste, others stringy, and others are more or less firm. Similarly, a kirtan connoisseur can discern and appreciate different varieties and flavors of kirtan."

Haven't done your asana practice today? Try This!

It feels so wonderful to follow the flow description below. This Sun Salutation was transposed from a TY on line live by Gayatri, TriYoga Maison teacher in Arizona. These photos are of Gayatri doing TriYoga on her paddleboard. 
Gayatri doing TriYoga on Her Paddleboard
I'm hoping to try paddleboarding for the first time this summer at Lake Natoma Recreation Area in Sacramento. Want to join me?

TriYoga teachers are everywhere-in 35 countries!

Sun Salutation

Keep flowing even when you’re not at class! To complete one round, move through this sun salutation on the right and left side.

Pratyahara- when the mind begins to focus inward; the sense don't draw one away from this inner focus.

FAQs: Would you please talk about the Sanskrit term pratyahara?

Kaliji has previously answered this question much better than I could:

Pratyahara is the fifth limb of Ashtanga Yoga as described by the Sage Patanjali 
Patanjali, sage & grammarian 
about 500 B.C. 

Ashtanga Yoga is the 8-limb path of yoga. Pratyahara means to withdraw the mind from the sense objects, to “make a U-Turn back into the Self.” 

Continually, our minds are pulled to the world by our senses. Pratyahara is the term that reminds us to place our focus where we want it, not to be controlled by any outer force, like a horseman controlling the horse with the gentle discipline of the reins. The yogi controls the power of the senses, then controls the mind.
A yogi applies the wisdom and lives according to the flow instead of giving into the sense pleasures. This does not mean we should not enjoy the beautiful gifts of the world through the senses. But it means we should control our minds by living within the world, but not of the world. We can enjoy creation through the senses but not overuse them; otherwise, we will feel the drain of energy.
For example, when we are full from our meal, we should not allow the sense of taste to make us overeat. If we overeat, we feel tired and lack energy. When in meditation, we should not allow our minds to roam, but rather we should focus it on the desired object of concentration. Then we can feel the heightened energy flow.
Basically, when we follow our inner wisdom, it is the same as applying the skill of pratyahara. That is, we are in the flow . . .

Have a question about TriYoga or a yoga lifestyle? Send it to us: we'll do our best to answer.

Doing Yoga more than once a week gives tremendous benefits!

Why do yoga multiple times per week? When we asked our students they said:
"I would recommend 2 or more classes a week to anyone, even a beginner like me. I find it is easier to remember the flows, both in terms of actual memory and muscle memory. I appreciate having at least one class during the work work because it helps a lot with stress reduction. I also think doing 2 classes per week sets the stage for getting to 3 times a week because I just have to do one session on my own to reach that goal. It is also nice to do the classes at different times of day to the get different benefits regarding energy levels and sound sleep." M.B.

"After each session I always feel better, better stamina, flexibility, balance, and relaxation.  Also, it's a good break from daily activities, helps clear the mind and gain perspective, maintain posture and mitigate the effects of repetitive activities, and work off any stress.  Two classes vs. one per week enhances these effects, helping to maintain body, mind, and attitude." M.D.

"I attend yoga classes 1-2 times a week and do some flows at home other days as my schedule allows. I find that doing yoga more than once a week has many benefits.  My body seems to be stronger, more flexible and I have less “old age” pain.  The flows and breathing improve much more with multiple classes and I more easily am able to transition to a state of well-being.  After nights when sleep has evaded me, a session of yoga is rejuvenating and provides energy for the rest of the day." S.D. 

"The benefit of doing yoga twice a week, for me, is the ability to maintain and improve my flexibility and all the other negative side effects that we all must endure as we age.  Balancing and the strengthening poses, plus the meditation and breathing techniques that we do, are all very conducive to becoming more balanced and confident-especially when I do them more than once per week." R.P.

These students' testimonials are backed up by scientific studies:

One study, entitled "Frequency of a Yoga Practice on Health: Results of a National Survey of Yoga Practitioners" is of interest. Read the research article which studied frequency and benefits of a yoga practice. This was done by National Health Institute and University of Maryland. This just their conclusion. Go to the link above to see the whole study.

"In conclusion, yoga may be a useful intervention for improving health behaviors or life-style-related health conditions. Frequency of home practice appears to be very important—more important than how long an individual has been practicing or how many classes one takes. This emphasizes a simple fact: it is not enough simply to learn how to do healthy behaviors. Rather, healthy behaviors must be incorporated into one’s daily life. While these findings suggest that individuals will only glean benefits from yoga practice that are proportional to the energy they are willing to invest in making it a part of their lives, the findings also suggest that they do not have to practice for years in order to reap the rewards."

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