My Treadmill Yoga Project
About 9 years ago, I tore my ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) during a routine run down the blue square trail in Vail, Colorado. Upon further inspection by the orthopedic surgeon, it was clear that I needed surgery and fast. I had completely destroyed the most important stabilizing structure in my knee, and although a future in professional sports was not my goal, the road seemed daunting.
At that time, I had been an avid runner. I ran about 6-8 miles four times a week for four years, and had come to rely heavily on my routine as a way to maintain my fitness and sanity. This being my freshman year at NYU, I was thrown through a loop at the prospect of not having my run to ground me in this new and sometimes intimidating environment, but unbeknown to me at the time, my casual relationship with yoga that had begun as mere curiosity would come to serve me in immeasurable ways.
My injury occurred in the spring, surgery in the summer and a long road of recovery followed. Luckily, I regained range of motion and flexibility quickly, but unfortunately hastiness and overambition hindered my progress. My therapist encouraged me to take my healing slowly, but I was eager to get done with physical therapy and resume my regularly scheduled programming. I refused to wait the recommended 6 months of strength training before attempting a run, and jumped back on the treadmill 3 months into my rehab. I didnt see why this should be a problem since even my doctor was impressed by the speed in which my recovery was progressing. Needless to say, over the next few years I accumulated a variety of knee related injuries while pursuing my runners high (hamstring pulls, hip misalignment, psoas strains, and ankle instability), eventually resulting in a second ACL repair surgery in the spring of 2006.
Throughout the 7 years chasing my pre-injury body, I had cultivated a dedicated yoga practice which essentially saved me from myself. It may seem hypocritical to practice a discipline that speaks to patience and non-harming while so blatantly doing the opposite, but this is the beauty of the yoga. It works on you. No teacher can tell you the lessons yoga teaches, they can only guide you so you can come to learn them on your own, through your own experience. Once you come to know this, the sweetness can be tasted and the fruits of the effort manifest in your life. For me, injury has come to be my most valuable teacher to this day, continuing to teach me non-attachment, compassion, patience, and balance.
Last winter, a few months shy of the 3 year mark since my last surgery, I decided to give running another shot. This time, committed to starting slow, I maintained a steady 16 minute mile walk gradually adding some elevation and speed over time. Whenever I began to feel the impulse to “see if I could do it faster”, I came back to the vinyasa, watching my breath and slowly putting one foot in front of the other, confident that my body would let me know when it is ready to advance further. As I got stronger and started adding some interval runs, I could always count on my valued teacher to resurface as a pull or a strain if I needed a good helping of humble pie. Luckily, this time around, I am receptive to its teachings and have been better for it. Almost a year into my treadmill yoga project, I am 5 miles strong (9-10 minute mile) and counting.
See you on the trails…
Yoga tips for running:
Here are some tips I have integrated into my running routine;
1. Pull your belly in and breathe into your diaphram. Keep your chest lifted and feel your ribs expand as you inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth to keep your body cool.
2. Think light feet as you land on the ball of your foot and use your inner thighs and outer hips to press your leg back as you stride. Some people find lifting the knees helps lessen the impact upon landing.
3. Maintain a straight torso. Torso should be aligned over the pelvis to ensure equal weight distribution and proper muscle development of the leg, in addition to helping avoid knee, ankle strains and shin splints.
3. Keep a steady gaze and an equal inhale to exhale ratio. If you find you are holding or having trouble equalizing your breath, decrease the speed or walk for a few minutes to regain breath control.
4. Enjoy and be safe!