Hi! I’m Jess from gorunjess.com. I’m currently training for my first marathon on May 19th, 2013 and blogging along the way. Training for a marathon has been challenging work, both physically and mentally. Workouts can go well, workouts can occasionally go poorly. Mentally, I often suffer from what I call “hamster brain” which is my inability to hop off the wheel at the end of the day and relax. During training, I’ve struggled with worrying over injuries and whether or not I’ll be ready for the 26.2 miles on race day. I’ve used yoga as a means of cross training, and also as a means of relaxing my often over-stimulated mind. I’d like to share a unique aspect of my marathon training that might be helpful, especially if you have ever been hit with anxiety or stress, whether from training or just every day life.
Three years ago, while taking a yoga class at my local YMCA, I was introduced to the practice of Yoga Nidra or “yogic sleep.” My yoga instructor had us all lay in “shavasana” or the “corpse pose,” aka, lying down with your back flat on the floor. In a calming tone of voice, she led our class through a guided meditation where we first focused on deep breathing and then took our attention to one point of our body. With her directions, our attention shifted in a circular path along our bodies, perhaps first starting with our left big toe and then working up the foot to the leg, arm, wrist, hand, etc. My first few attempts at Yoga Nidra put me to sleep, a typical reaction to a soothing voice asking you to focus quietly. But, a few weeks in to the class, I experienced a relaxed state where I was still conscious, but calm and focused on the instructor’s words. At one point I was so excited, I wanted to yell “I got it!” but, yelling in the middle of a yoga class probably wouldn’t have been a good idea! I returned to class and continued to enjoy this practice, even on the nights when my focus failed and I fell asleep. My heart rate seemed to slow, my “hamster brain” seemed to stop spinning and I felt calm and relaxed when I left class each week. I’m not alone in my results. A quick internet search shows that Yoga Nidra has been found to be a good stress reliever and has even been used in patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
I’m no longer taking yoga in a formal setting, but I still love using the meditations I’ve learned to help me relax and unwind, especially before a race or the night before a long run. With the help of technology, I’ve discovered a variety of Yoga Nidra resources on line, and I’ve even introduced my two children to the practice, giving them CDs they can listen to on nights that they are unable to fall asleep. If you own a smartphone or an Ipod, there are apps and podcasts available for free or minimal costs. All you need at home is a quiet place to lie down and 15 minutes of time to give it a try!
Happy running all! If you have questions, I’d love to hear from you. Stop by gorunnjess.com and leave me a note. And thank you to Heather for letting me share my ideas with all of her readers!
QOTD: What is your favorite kind of yoga?