As anyone that knows me will attest, I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with yoga. I’ll write articles proudly extolling the virtues of yoga to other runners (here), and then I’ll do a podcast for Marathon Talk where I basically portray yoga as a combination of witchcraft, spiritualism and pedantry (which is a kind of grammatical witchcraft). This week is no exception as I’ve come to realise that, for me, yoga is both critically important as much as it is sometimes a load of overrated toff. So lets start with the good:
Reasons Boy On The Run likes yoga
1. Yoga reduces my injury risk
Since I’ve been doing a simple 20 minute yoga routine after almost all my runs, my niggling injury has almost completely gone and everything just feels so much better. There is a whole world of complex, hamstring and calf niggles that have just vanished without a trace. Everyone says that prevention is better than cure, and this is prevention on a dramatic scale!
2. Yoga means that I recover quicker and can push harder
I did a 24.4 km race on hills on Saturday and pushed so hard that my eyeballs rolled into the back of my head and I was like a cowboy with hemorrhoids the next day. That morning I limped around for 2 hours, but after my 30 minute yoga session it was like a big pressure valve in my legs and hips had been released. It was amazing. I was back running easily the next day and I put a great part of this speedy recovery down to yoga.
3. Yoga gives me a different type of endorphin that compliments running
I’ll be honest, I don’t really enjoy the 20 minutes of yoga that I do after my runs. Even though Adriene is very upbeat and perfectly charming, there are only so many times that you can perform the same 20 minutes of stretching without tending to clock watch and wish that is was over earlier. Having said that, I love the way that I feel after yoga. I get the kind of double endorphin hit of my cardiac systems feeling joy that I ran, along with my muscles feeling joy that I actually stretched them (instead of just saying I will).
Reasons Boy On The Run doesn’t get on with yoga
1. Boy on the Run sucks at yoga
“I bet you’re not that bad” – I hear you say. No. I am that bad. I suck so much at yoga that most times I get taught yoga, I’m not even flexible enough to do the easiest extension that the teacher adds on to the pose. The teacher often has to either prop me up with blocks or come up with an extra extension that only I do. Sure, it isn’t pleasant sucking, but I can cope with it. I’ve given up my dreams of being a yoga champion along with my aerobics dream (see below), but it does have a practical application in that 95% of online yoga videos just aren’t relevant to my body. When the teacher cheerily states “just bend over and place your neck on the ground” and I can’t even get my fingertips to within one metre of the ground, I do tend to yell “**** you elastigirl and screw this hippie ****” before turning the yoga lesson off and going off to watch the cricket.
2. Boy on the Run finds yoga boring and repetitive
Now I touched on this earlier and I’m sure that yoga people would have read it and thought “yeah… well… if you do the same 20 minutes four times a week then sure you’ll get bored”. And you’re right, I should really try and mix it up. Maybe do a few different classes and try some different styles? But I’m not going to. Because I don’t care. Now I know a lot of people find running 6 times a week boring. I know a lot of people find track sessions the worst possible thing that they could ever do. I can totally see where they are coming from. But I happen to love it. The saddest thing about running a marathon is the week after where I can’t run. Whereas yoga, I find it a bit boring. Yoga for me is like food for the person with no taste buds: sure I need it, but it is not a solely pleasurable experience. I just need to get it done.
3. Boy on the Run doesn’t like some of the bull**** science that comes with yoga
My girlfriend says “how can you be so sure that Reiki is rubbish if you haven’t tried it?” I don’t know, maybe for the same reason that I know that unicorns aren’t real without having to prove it. And a thoroughbred horse painted pink with an ice cream cone stuck to its head doesn’t count. Yoga tends to appeal to people that never studied chemistry, physics, biology or mathematics but instead see the world as a combination of good and bad energies and think that “The Ring” is a documentary. I’m not so keen on this. I think that yoga works wonders, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to take on Reiki, crystal healing, tarot-card reading, seances and rain dances yet.
4. Boy on the Run thinks that some types of yoga teachers need to get over themselves
I know a chap who is an amazing yoga teacher. I am shocked by how flexible and powerful he is. I’d love my body to be like that and I think it would be really beneficial as I grow older. Mentally, however, I wouldn’t put him on such a pedestal. He is clearly one bad yoga class away from walking into a fast food chain with an Uzi and machine-gunning down anyone that won’t serve him breakfast. But, despite this, he seems to see himself as a kind of spiritual success coach of anyone that enters his dojo (or whatever you call it). No offence, but aren’t you just someone that is good at stretching. I’m good at writing software, but the last programming class I did didn’t involve a “purging” phase followed be a lecture on how we can all be nice to each other. Some people are great at cricket, some are great at running, some are amazing swimmers and some are brilliant cyclists. Yoga is the only discipline I’ve come across where being good at it seems to give you the right to tell everyone how to live their life. With the irony being that often the person conducting the glass spent 3 years in a straight jacket completely convinced that they were a glass of orange juice. I’m here to learn how to stretch, not to bare my soul. Shut up and tell me how to touch my toes!