I recently caught up with Eoin Finn, one of Canada’s top yoga instructors, to discuss his works with competitive and professional athletes. He is the founder of Blissology Yoga, a style of yoga that is designed to build a foundation for movement during sports by resisting gravity.
This way of moving reduces the compression of joints and develops better energy flow for healing injuries, re-establishes neuromuscular patterns, clearer thinking under pressure and helps with recovery from the stress of sport and everyday life.
Here, Eoin shares his insights on how yoga can benefit runners of all levels.
How does yoga benefit runners?
Eoin: Yoga corrects body imbalances that are exacerbated by repetitive, high-impact activities like running. Running tightens and strengthens particular muscles groups (such as the quadriceps) while leaving others disproportionately weaker (such as the hamstrings). This is akin to a tree that is trying to grow straight, but cannot because it is constantly hammered by a strong prevailing wind. The tree will continue to grow lopsided, even when the wind is not blowing.
I focus on posts that benefit skeletal alignment by lengthening the overly tense muscles tighten and strengthening any muscles that become disproportionately weak.
Can you give me an example of applied Intelligent Yoga?
Eoin: All the activities we engage in affect the soft tissues (muscles and fascia), which in turn affect the skeleton. When running causes tight hamstrings and calf muscles, those muscles tug on the sit bones, which can shorten the back body and cause stress to the lower back.
An Intelligent Yoga practice addresses this problem by loosening the tight back body and strengthening the front body. A simple pose like downward dog is great for this.
How does yoga help the runner’s mind?
Eoin: Running is definitely a mind game and the runners we work with always comment on the affects of yoga on the mind and breath. Just like running, yoga is enjoyable, but each pose presents a challenge.
When we resist such challenges (either during a 10K race or intense yoga practice) and starting thinking things like, “Oh god, I am only 1K into this run and I have nine to go,” our muscles tense and breathing becomes uneven or restricted.
Yoga teaches us to remain physically relaxed when facing a challenge or stressful situation. When the body relaxes, we also relax mentally and open ourselves to positive thoughts that carry us through a 10K with far less effort.
How does yogic breathing help that?
Eoin: The technique I teach is called LSD breathing, which stands for Long Slow and Deep. The goal is to focus on the quality of breath rather than the quantity (number of breaths per minute). Doing LSD breathing while running sends a stream of relaxation-inducing signals to the nervous system and muscles.
One of Canada’s most well-known and well-loved yoga instructors, last year Eoin Finn released his fifth DVD promoting yoga as an integral part of athletic cross-training. The Pursuit of Happy Hips was designed with beginner and advanced yogis in mind, and features a series of alignment-based yoga sequences that will benefit everyone, from professional athletes to weekend warriors and desk jockeys. The Pursuit of Happy Hips is available for purchase at Lululemon stores across Canada and online at http://www.blissology.com.