Q: I’m on London Marathon Countdown. How can yoga help me prepare for my best 26.2?
First of all awesome work. It takes big-ass discipline and determination to get this close to your 26.2 and I know it’s not easy. I earned my medal (that’s mine up there and me below) four years ago. I was a super fledging yogi-in-training (BC – Before Chopra) and using yoga asana (poses) purely for the physical benefits, as a lot of us do.
Truth is I didn’t really get that there was much more to it. I may even have shrugged it off as not for me. Big mistake.
I didn’t know just how much yoga could offer a massive edge to my training, performance and overall wellbeing. I’m here today (AC – After Chopra) to show you how it can and if you’re open, to share some yoga inspired pre-marathon preparations to send you on your way to your best 26.2. Feel free to share them with your athletic friends and family.
I’ve heard some of you weren’t so sure it was me behind this newsletter. So here I am at the finish line. This was taken in London 2013.
Let’s get started.
Pre-marathon Problem 1: Doubt. Have You Done Enough?
Yogi Preparation 1: Do Some Soul Searching.
We touched on this in your last Q&A on tapering. It’s so easy to let doubt rule and decide to do one more run or add one more mile – just for luck. Before you do, can you tap into your intuition and include your soul in your soul searching? Yes I used the S word…but stick with it
We have a sixth sense but often we don’t listen to it, or trust it. The yoga texts tell us our intuition is located in the space between the eyebrows and encompasses the pituitary gland, eyes, head and lower part of the brain. It’s called Ajna which means beyond wisdom and it’s said balanced energy in this area leads you to an inner knowledge that will guide you to make the right decisions, if you let it.
How do you enliven or balance your Ajna energy?
Get quiet and listen. Just like any of the spiritual energy centres or chakras, Ajna is best balanced through meditation – I can get you set up in a practice in 7 Days – take my meditation challenge right here.
You can also try Bee Breath
Brahmari or the bee breath is a Pranayama breathing technique. It can feel a little daft, but go with it, be open and give it a try – or not. As always, you are in charge – but here’s how.
- Bring both hands to your face.
- Place the two middle fingers over your eyes. Allow the index fingers to rest on the eyebrow line and the pinky fingers under the cheekbones.
- Close your ears with your thumbs.
- Take a deep inhalation and exhale the word AUM with the emphasis on the “M” sound while creating a buzzing sound like a bee.
- Do this for two minutes or more.
As well as freeing energy and opening Ajna, it can also release tension in your head.
Pre-marathon problem 2: Over excitement. Food goes right through me.
Yogi Preparation 2: Tame your wind. Yes, really, but I don’t mean that!
Let me introduce you to Ayurveda. It’s the sister science to yoga and an ancient mind/body health system. The ancient Ayurvedic medical texts reveal that when the mind is racing and you’re feeling ungrounded it’s a sign of excess ‘Vata’ or air and wind elements in your body/mind constitution or dosha. Vata dosha is responsible for all movement within your physiology – so we’re talking about your circulatory system, nervous system and digestive system. When Vata dosha becomes aggravated or excessive, you can experience anxiety, insomnia, palpitations, and digestive problems.
How to balance your Vata dosha?
Balancing any dosha works on the principle of bringing in the opposite elements to the dosha that’s out of whack. So, if Vata (air and space) is in excess right now, you probably have too much coolness and dryness running the show.
The solution? Bring in the opposite qualities of heat and moisture (Kapha dosha – Earth and Water and Pitta dosha – Fire and Earth) to balance things out.
A go-to tip when you’re feeling ungrounded is to seek out the stability of the earth. Take your runners off and go for a walk barefoot. You could also try to seek out some sun, or any heat source. Head for the spa, but choose the steam room (wet heat) rather than the sauna (dry heat). And when planning your pre-marathon menus go for warming, oily foods that are nourishing to the body whilst avoiding dry or uncooked foods, especially salads, raw fruits and vegetables.
Pre-marathon problem 3: Anxiety.
Yoga Preparation 3: Mantra and Breath Work.
Begin your meditation by silently repeating a mantra or perhaps observing your breath. This will cause the mind to settle, and because the mind and body are interconnected, when the mind settles the body also begins to experience a more restful state. This is because the body is moving out of the fight and flight response (sympathetic nervous system) and is more able to access the parasympathetic nervous system, our rest and digest response.
It can be helpful to consider that all experiences are just thoughts, feelings, sensations, and images that come and go. The object of meditation is not to get rid of our experiences, but remain the witness to them, without trying to hold on to or reject anything.
How would it feel to find freedom in being able just “go with the flow,” trusting that something bigger than you is organizing everything perfectly? Now ask yourself how does it feel when you impose your ideas of how things should be. Does it feel good to struggle against the tide? Embrace uncertainty – it’s where possibility and potential lives.
Pre-marathon problem 4: Disturbed Sleep
Yoga Preparation 4: Ayurvedic Routine
Sleep problems are also pointing us back to a Vata imbalance and Ayurveda again offers a daily routine to work with that. Try any or all of these.
- Waking up at the same time every day. This will help you develop a good routine and ensure you get abundant, restful sleep. This is vital for athletes who are often guilty of pushing to the point of physical or mental exhaustion.
- Avoid overly exciting, dynamic, or intensely concentrated work in the evening. Begin winding down for sleep at least 30 minutes before you intend to go to bed. Enjoy some inspirational or light reading – sorry, no zombie movies or horror stories.
- Enjoy a relaxing, warm bath before bed; add a few drops of aromatic oil such as vanilla, lavender, sandalwood, or rose to the water.
- Aim to be in bed with the lights off by 10:30 p.m.
Pre-marathon problem 5: Niggles, Soreness and Tightness.
Yoga preparation 5: Incorporate focused relaxation poses into your pre-marathon programme.
Athletes really do put the body (and mind) through the ringer. Over the next couple of weeks can you be kinder to yourself? Ahimisa is the first one of the Yama’s, the first of yoga’s eight limbs, and teaches us to approach our physical practice with the intention of calming and caring for the body rather than conquering it by force.
If you’re experiencing pain, stiffness or soreness, rolling out your mat and practicing some gentle yoga can go a long way to help bring some healing between now and the big day.
Did you know mild to moderate exercise, like yoga, actually decreases physical pain? Yoga can also:
- Increase the flow of oxygen to the brain and muscle tissues improving your energy levels and sense of well-being.
- Release muscle tension held in the body by combining breath awareness with physical yoga movements.
Many forms of focused relaxation poses are helpful. Start with a simple Balasana (Childs’ Pose) or Savasana (Corpse Pose). You could also try conscious relaxation techniques like scanning the body for tension and releasing it, or try any form of guided relaxation.
I invite you to wash all this juicy information down with a pre-marathon anxiety-busting, digestion enhancing, muscle soothing smoothie. (Pictured above is one I made earlier with orange, carrot and ginger).
You can choose fruits or veg to suit your taste, (room temperature and no ice) but the key ingredient here is ginger.
Ginger is a pungent, aromatic herb that has long been used in traditional healing systems to improve digestion, absorption and elimination. Studies have also found that ginger contains powerful anti-inflammatory phytonutrients known as gingerols, as well as strong antioxidant and antibacterial properties. From an Ayurvedic perspective, ginger’s heating qualities make it an elixir for all us over-anxious athletes.
You’re set. If you enjoyed this content and know someone else who could use some pre-marathon yoga tools, feel free to share this post.
If you have any feedback, questions or tips of your own, I would love it if you could start the conversation and leave a comment below or hop on over to Facebook.
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