The Practice of Yoga and Tai Chi to Improve Running Form and Style1 Comment April 23, 2007 / Posted in Running Form & Style
The Practice of Yoga and Tai Chi to Improve Running Form and Style
c.2001 Austin “Ozzie” Gontang, Ph.D., Aleksi Kolehmainen, and Bruce Poston
Aleksi Kolehmainen inquired
Hi Everybody, Do any of you practice Tai-Chi ? I started taking
lessons of Qigong in the beginning of the year and I’ve truly enjoyed
those. We have a Chinese teacher who also practices Chinese medicine. So
I’m also taking a Tuina (acupressure) class during the same day. It
really teaches you awareness of yourself and your body. Qi. As a result
of this I’ve also gotten quite interested of alternative (sports)
Bruce Poston queried rec.running:
Could someone comment on the differences between Yoga and Tai Chi?
While I am mostly looking at taking a class in one of these from a
runner’s perspective, I’m also interested in how the methodology taught
will aid other areas of my life.
Thanks, Bruce Poston
These questions gave me pause to reflect.
As a runner I have used Yoga and Tai Chi to increase my flexibility, range of motion, and muscle tone They are both great practices to do in order to balance the negative effects many of us have experienced from our years of running. Some of the results of the years of unconscious running are: excess tightening of the muscles, injuries due to inflexibility and fascial constrictions from faulty posture and poor running form, and strain on the joints by improper running style.
Yoga or Tai Chi are excellent ways to balance the running body so that it can continue to run for years without injury or deterioration from the wear and tear due to muscular imbalances.
Yoga stretches and Tai Chi movement done properly work every muscle in the body. They can greatly increase flexibility and reduce muscle tightness. Held standing postures (asanas) or the movements of Tai Chi greatly increase strength, stamina, breath control, and concentration. Yoga and/or Tai Chi may not only keep a runner from getting injured, they may enable the running body to run better for longer periods of time injury free with less strain and minimal effort.
The idea for Yoga and Tai Chi, is moving mindfully. If you can move the body in one of the asanas, (poses) or one of the Tai Chi movements only a thousandth of an inch further each day, in a thousand days you will be able to go an inch further. Yoga and Tai Chi take the mind/body and spirit without strain or stress to a place of new possibilities.
For me I took up Tai Chi as a way to run faster by moving as slowly as possible. Walk in slow motion and you will see that your arms get out of sync with your legs. Walk slower and it only exaggerates more.
Tai Chi is total body movement. It’s the larger muscles moving the rest of the body’s muscles in unison. Yoga is active total body stretching. It’s the entire body moving to its maximum point of stretch without effort.
Yoga and Tai Chi add the flexibility that comes with movement in all directions. A problem when one only goes in one direction-running forward.
Either will give you mental and physical flexibility. The problems that many runners experience with inflexibility and their injuries created from this inflexibility is due to psychoslerosis. This dreaded disease of the brain is defined as “hardening of the head.” It is related to doing what one does without thinking of what it means to move like the graceful animals we can be or become.
Yoga and Tai Chi are both exercises that one can do even when one is recovering from the injuries of running. At the same time, those who do Yoga and/or Tai Chi find themselves able to run for longer periods of time without incurring injury or imbalances to portions of the body.
Yoga and/or Tai Chi are practices, like running can be a practice. They are all part of the practice of taking care of one’s body so that the mind and brain need never worry about the past – which no longer exists, nor the future – which is not here. Only the present exists. All three give one, if one is in the moment, a present of being present, It is at this present moment that the brain becomes a secondary organ, as Joseph Campbell said. It’s no more important than spleen, heart, kidneys, lungs, etc. We are here to be fully alive and as good animals as fully as we are able.
St George said “We are called to be heroes, poets, artists, philosophers and saints, but most of all we are called to be good animals…we are called to be good athletes.”
Go for the grace of total body movement, and make your running a dance. Yoga or Tai Chi will only further assist you in this graceful dance.
Mens sana in corpore sano.
I went with my family to see Stomp tonight. I love rhythms. For Christmas, my daughter gave me a digeridoo. It will help me with my breathing.
The above was written three Christmases ago. Tonight I am going to hear Mark Connor play at the San Diego Museum of Art. Over the past two years I have become pretty good on my digeridoo and the one I enjoy most is the one I’ve made out of inch and a half PVC..