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Being both a yogi and runner has been enlightening this last year. As I recovered from a six month-long achilles injury, I increased my yoga practice. As I increased my yoga practice, I corrected a lot of misalignment and weakness in my feet and legs caused by running and increased my hip and hamstring flexibility tremendously. As my flexibility increased, my injury began to heal. Finally I was able to run again pain and shoe insert free!
But something had changed inside me besides my healed achilles tendon.
In the six months of waiting desperately to run, I began to really listen to my body. I realized that for years my body had been telling me things which I refused to hear. The constant pain I lived in from compacting my muscles from running long distances accentuated by stretching these tight muscles with yoga seemed normal. A runner is conditioned to push through pain and disassociate the messages our brain is telling us to run longer or faster because the body will.
The practice of yoga is called a practice because everyday we come to the mat and listen to what our body needs. Yoga helps us become mindful of what our mind and body is saying. We learn to turn off our mind of needless thoughts not as a way to push our body past a point of pain. Yoga helps us be comfortable in our bodies and minds.
I have started running again on trails and for short distances. I walk up hills sometimes instead of charging up them as if my life depends upon it and I really listen to my legs and bring awareness to my stride. I have woken up to what a body free of pain feels like and I can’t go back to punishing my body in the name of a PR. Marathons are still in my dreams but I have woken up and will approach my running with a new mindfulness and gratefulness. I have woken up and I have no choice but to listen.