By Anthony Trem, DPT
Some running purists I’ve met, go for miles and miles without any technology tethered to them. They use the run to disconnect, from their mind and tension. Fascinating [and familiar-sounding], right? Some runners however, pound the pavement with a band bound to their arm, holding a phone that serves not only as a safety device and mileage tracker, but also a distraction to the distance.
Here’s the thing: regardless of whether you go with or without entertainment, at some point over a long run, the fatigue that has settled into bones, muscles and joints will creep into your mind. Maybe you’ll wonder where you are in your mileage? Or, maybe you’ll consider if you’re ready to go as long you initially intended.
Here’s where the yoga matters.
Mindfulness — the ability to be aware of and present with the current moment — is a constant practice in yoga. Every time we call, “breath in, lift; breath out fold,” we are bringing to mind the only two things that are truly current for you — your breath and that movement. Further, by focusing on your breath, you stay away from thoughts about the difficulty of a pose or when you’ll move on to the next. You maintain awareness of your inhale moving fully through your body and the exhale fully leaving it.
The more you practice yoga, the more naturally mindfulness comes. Not to say it’s ever easy or achievable involuntarily; in fact, then that is the opposite of mindful. But presence becomes easier and your breath more accessible, even when you’re stressed.
Beyond teaching you how to use breath to stay present, yoga provides the tools to help you control the cadence of your breath. Pranayama, the formal yogic practice of breath control, teaches you to control the length and steadiness of both your in and out breaths. The longer and calmer your inhales and exhales, the calmer your mind and body stays.
So now let’s go back to that long run — when your quads are heavy and lungs feel taxed. Bring your focus to your breath. The sound of your full inhale. The feeling of letting it all go on exhale. Hear the breath of this very moment, and stay with that. As your mind wanders, recenter back to breath. No matter what, each and every time, that sound will be there for you to use as a focal point.