I started getting tired on my run today. It was perfect weather — overcast, dry, and around 40 degrees. I was doing a short distance but pushing myself faster than usual. It felt good to be working harder than my typical slower pace, but my lungs were getting a little tired. Suddenly, I was breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth, long and sweet and just like when I am in downward dog on the yoga mat. I realized I had connected to my breath, something I have been working towards every day since January 1. Whether it be 10 minutes of yoga or an hour of road running, I have been practicing connection regularly for 18 straight days.
Breathing is, oddly, the hardest part of yoga for me. Whenever you are feeling lost in yoga, the teacher recommends to “focus on your breath.” That always kind of irritates me, because I would much rather focus on getting the pose right than on breathing, something humans constantly do without thinking. But I inadvertently focused on my breath during my run today, when my body suddenly began breathing differently in response to discomfort and pain. It was like the mindset I have been working towards on the mat finally solidified during the run.
I began to draw air in slow and let it out long, feeling the crisp environment enter my body and fuel it. The clean sky was becoming part of my lungs, each gust of wind part of what I was becoming. The outside air slid through my throat and nose and cooled more than the fire in my calves.
Instead of concentrating on finishing, I was focusing on breathing — something I have yet to master, but that moment makes me think I might be getting close. Or it is at least possible. It felt good to breathe that way, and reminded me that our bodies won’t do anything if we don’t give them the right tools. I also realized that part of why I enjoy yoga so much is because it is a great complement to running — running speeds you up, yoga slows you down. Running is a race, yoga is a place. Running breaks you to build you, and yoga stretches to heal you (and, for the record, my plantar fasciitis has barely bothered me at all since I started doing yoga at a minimum of three days a week).
I am glad that the two physical activities I enjoy the most marry so well. I am learning that I need both yoga and running to feel connected to breath, air, or anything at all.