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Back to the (Power) Yoga Mat

Yesterday I did something I hadn't done in many, many months: power yoga. I was once a regular of these classes, but I'd made a decision prior to my marathon training to keep only one yoga class per week, and that was my ashtanga yoga class. While ashtanga is essentially a power practice, it is a set series of poses, and it incorporates more flexibility (much to my liking) than most power classes do.

Since completing my marathon, I've been thinking of ways to improve my training regimen. The last plan got me through, but I feel like it barely got me through. I knew all along that I was not doing enough strength training, but I was so focused on making my running goals that all else fell by the wayside. In retrospect, I think many of my injuries and near injuries could have been prevented or helped if I had just done the dang strength training. Also, in my 20/20 hindsight, I realized that my injuries--while never severe--were all from repetitive movements that created stress on certain areas of my body. I did two things repetitively for four months: I ran (which can cause any number of stress injuries--such as shin splints and piriformis syndrome, both of which I suffered), and I did ashtanga once per week. I didn't do any other forms of cross-training.

The ashtanga form of yoga is really meant to be practiced more than once per week (serious practitioners do the whole series, which can take upwards of 1.5 hrs, daily), and, I would argue, it's not a great accompaniment to running. The many, many vinyasas--transitions in between poses--that are done in ashtanga yoga require a good amount of upper-body strength. Because I was largely relying solely on this once-a-week practice to maintain strength, I was not really building any strength, and therefore I didn't really get any stronger in my practice. Consequently, I felt like I was just tearing my shoulders up and always stressed in the scapula area. This is a pain I felt in my long runs, simply from trying to maintain good running posture.

This time I want to do differently. Not that I've committed to another marathon, but even for the half-marathons I do have planned, and especially for Tough Mudder, I need to be stronger and feel more whole.

So I went to a Power 2/3 course yesterday. I've taken this class before, and it's made me cry. I'm not accustomed to not being able to do many things in yoga, which is partly (and sadly) why I find it so satisfying, but the poses in this class require strength--lots of it. And I simply didn't have it. But man could I feel my muscles the next day or two. I did go back several times, despite my internal breakdown after one of the classes, but when marathon training started, I found I was all too happy to let that class go. So my experience yesterday was somewhat like the time I cried, except I didn't cry. I knew this would be even more challenging than before, since I'd been out of practice for a while. I wasn't able to get myself into a handstand from a forward bend (which I can't normally do anyway), and I wasn't able to move from half-moon pose to dancer pose without first falling out, but I gave everything my honest best effort, and I commended myself for even going, knowing it would be more difficult than usual.

So my plan for this next training cycle is to take two of these power classes per week in addition to my running. The classes vary in their sequences, so my body shouldn't suffer from overuse of any one area, and I'll be strengthening different muscles. At first I thought that a yoga class--even power yoga--wouldn't be an adequate strength-builder; but after yesterday, I fully retract that thought.

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