Yes you yoga. But WHY?

Over the past several years it seems that yoga has really been establishing itself as a necessity in the fitness community. As athletes, we know the importance of cross training and stretching and yoga affords us both of those things in the same workout. Depending on which style you choose it can range from sweaty, challenging cardio or a more restorative, relaxing, release for tired muscles. The vast majority of people that I know who do yoga started practicing to compliment some other sport, such as running. I did it the other way around. My yoga journey began years before my running journey and when I attended my first class, getting a good workout was not my main objective.

Let’s rewind to 2007. I was living in Hollywood and was a total basket case. For a long time I was having frequent panic attacks over things that – looking back – were just NOT a big deal. I completely lacked the ability to handle any kind of stressful situation. I was the queen of self-sabotage. A short time later I started dating my then-boyfriend/now-Mr.Salt long distance style across the country and opened up to him about these feelings I was having. I mean….I pretty much had to because there would be times when I would flip out on him for no explainable reason. Thankfully he is the most patient and understanding man on the planet and gently suggested that I go speak to a professional.

Had anyone else suggested that to me I would have been really offended. He’s lucky I like him so much.

It took a while to get in with this really good psychiatrist – probably because everyone else in my old neighborhood needed to see him too – but once I did it only took a couple visits for him to pinpoint my problem. I was diagnosed with GAD or Generalized Anxiety Disorder and just having a name to put on something that I had been dealing with for years made me feel so much better. Like this was a problem that other people had and I wasn’t just insane. This would be something I could control. And at first it was controlled with Lexapro.

I was not a fan of the whole drug idea, but once we figured out a dosage that didn’t turn me into an extra from The Walking Dead it was incredibly helpful. Especially in June of 2008 when I was moving from California to Maryland; a process that probably would have buried me under a mountain of panic if I wasn’t taking anything. Once I was resettled on the East Coast though I began to wonder if there were other ways I could manage my anxiety other than with a pill. I started reading about yoga and the impact that a regular practice can have on your mental well-being. It was worth a shot.

Probably a good thing I was still on the Lexapro when I went to my first class though because I likely wouldn’t have been able to get myself in the door without it. Taking your first yoga class can be such a scary thing! I know all to well now that there is nothing to fear. It is a no-judgement zone. Everyone is there to better themselves and I am living proof of that. We all have our own baggage to leave at the door.

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Anyway, within a couple months of regular practice, I was able to start cutting my dosage in half. Then I was only taking it a couple days a week. Then eventually not at all. For the first time in as long as I could remember, I was able to focus my energy without outside help. Yoga got my anxiety under control and during that process I also learned some seriously cool party tricks.

photo 3

Love these ladies.

Whenever those anxious feelings start to arise, a class or even just running through a few sun salutations in my living room are the perfect Band-aid.

Yoga is very useful to me for many other reasons now. It’s the best stretch I get during a week of hard runs. During injury, it’s a fantastic way to heal. While I’ve been dealing with the entrapped nerve, my best gauge that I am improving is not the miles I’ve been able to put in, but the crescent lunges I’ve been able to do. There was a point about a month ago that I couldn’t bend my toes up to get into a crescent lunge at all without wanting to scream in pain and now I can. Progress!

That's not me, but you get the idea.

That’s not me, but you get the idea.

In the beginning though it was all about learning to calm my mind and I’m so thankful for it every day. Happy 6th Yoga-versary to me! I’ll be celebrating with a class in a few hours and probably a frappuccino right afterward.

Why do YOU practice yoga?

xo,

Salt

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71 thoughts on “Yes you yoga. But WHY?

  1. Beth @ Running with the Sunrise says:

    Yoga has been a huge help for my anxiety, too. Learning and practicing mindfulness is incredibly helpful, and I know a lot of fellow yogis at my studio who also practice yoga as a big way to help with their anxiety. I’m glad it’s worked well for you! I started practicing because I had read it would help my running, but now I practice to find that mental stillness that I can carry throughout my day. Thanks for the great post!

  2. laurenwayjurlee says:

    I love this. I started practicing yoga to supplement my running. I started back in Feb/March when training for my first half marathon. I liked it – it stretched me out, but was still challenging. I wasn’t sure about the spiritual part of it, it was mostly about the physical workout.

    Now, I still enjoy the physical aspects of my yoga practice and love when I make progress. It is still an integral part to my training program and being balanced in my overall health. However, I am loving the mental challenge it has become, how great it is for my stress relief. I love the community in my classes. I’m a Christian, so I use my yoga practice as a time to clear my mind and even as a time of prayer.

    • runsaltrun says:

      That is another thing I have always loved about yoga. It’s very easy to see progress that you make whether it’s learning a new pose or increased flexibility. I’m so glad that you have found it useful in so many different ways!

  3. Kimberley@Black Dog Runs Disney says:

    I started taking yoga as a compliment to my running. I figured if I was going to beat myself up, I might as well try and be good to it too. I wish I could recapture how I felt after that first class, as I had never felt so peaceful before, and haven’t since. And yes, I was the total yogadork who fought back cathartic tears at the end of the class! Unfortunately, i haven’t gone in quite some time and REALLY need to get the dupa back there! Maybe this is just the push I need, so….THANKS! 🙂

    • runsaltrun says:

      So true. 🙂 Where running all these miles shortens our muscles, it’s great to have a way to stretch everything back out! Oh and I have definitely been that yogadork before too. Pigeon pose tends to get me. We store a lot of negative emotions in our hips and during deep hip openers those tears tend to flow. 🙂

  4. bluecoyotelifecoaching says:

    I started taking yoga in the late 90’s when the company I was working for offered classes on site at lunchtime. I’ve been an on / off practitioner ever since and every time I start up again I wonder why I left. It’s the most wonderful sense of peace and serenity.

  5. Lauren @ ihadabiglunch says:

    You have no idea how much I can relate to this post right now! I just started seeing someone for my anxiety and am trying not to take any pills (although I have a small dose of one for those “extra special” moments haha). I really, really need to find a community of people to do yoga with regularly because I know it can really change your life and how you view your issues. Thanks so much for sharing this because it’s nice to read about someone who went through a phase full of anxiety and panic and came out on the other end happy (even though I know you go through your fair share of things still!)

    • SuzLyfe says:

      I too started yoga after a period of intense anxiety (getting diagnosed) and a series of anxiety attacks. I wouldn’t say that yoga has cured me, but I think that it, with running and some other pursuits, has helped me learn how to see beyond the moment of intense nerves. Last year, I was extremely nauseous (I had a stomach bug) and I remember laying on the bed in savasana and Alex thought I was dying. Nope, honey, I’m just trying to not toss my cookies…

    • runsaltrun says:

      That’s exactly how I felt about it. At the time I’m glad I had the pills because there was probably no amount of yoga that would have helped me through my big cross country move, but it really has helped to manage the panicky feelings. Do you have any Meet Up groups in your area? Where I live there are some really great ones. (Of course I can never get to them because they are all at times when my husband is working, but I would be there in a second if I could!) I definitely know how you feel and feel free to message me anytime if you want to chat!

    • Ange @ Cowgirl Runs says:

      I fought taking ANYTHING for my anxiety for a long time. Now that I’m on a (very very) small dosage it feels silly for fighting it. Yes, sometimes there are side effects (I’m lucky in that I have virtually none) but I’d take them for not feeling like I have an elephant sitting on my chest all day long.
      I’m far from a drug pusher, but there really is nothing wrong with needing a little extra help.
      http://cowgirlruns.com/life-anxiety/

  6. Bryan says:

    I have just recently been getting seriously interested in doing yoga or tai chi. This post really has solidified that. I guess when I get back I’ll need to jump in and finally do it. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • runsaltrun says:

      I’m so glad I could help. 🙂 I have done tai chi a couple times and enjoyed it, but the class I took was a lot of very elderly people (it was at my old gym), so I felt a little out of my element. I would love to try it again in another setting though. It was very meditative and cool.

  7. Sara @ lifebetweenthemiles says:

    Love this! I started yoga last October regularly (thanks to you) and it has not only greatly helped my running, but my piece of mind. I now “need” my weekly yoga classes. They challenge me in ways other things cannot and I am able to work out my stress in a healthy way. It’s taught me so much about myself and how far I can push myself and still be okay! Plus, I when I nail a new, difficult pose, I feel on top of the world!

  8. txa1265 says:

    First off, great post and thank you SO much for sharing. You are an incredibly strong woman and an inspiration – and Mr Salt & lil’B are lucky to have you in their lives!

    I don’t yoga … I just run. But my running has an incredible leveling effect in my life. I tend to be pretty mellow and even keel in general, but I can get very edgy (as can anyone) and sometimes ‘fail to compartmentalize’ (i.e. yell at the kids for a minor thing because of crap at work, etc) … again, we all do. But for me running is what helps me keep it all in perspective and proportionate to what is happening.

    I am totally open to therapy – everyone else in my family, including both boys, has gone at one point or other for a bit – I just haven’t hit that point yet. And I honestly believe the ‘meditative state’ I get in running (no music of course, even on my recent 22 miler) is a big part of that. Being out for a 2-3 hour run all alone gives you LOADS of time to sort out your feelings 🙂

    • runsaltrun says:

      Thank you very much for your kind words. 🙂 I feel so lucky every day to have THEM!

      I feel the same way with running. Unfortunately it’s actually a source of anxiety right now more than a way to DEAL with anxiety so I’ve been heavily relying on yoga more than ever in the past few weeks. I can’t wait for everything to get back to normal and then I will have a few different stress relief options.

  9. Hailey @ Striding Strong says:

    Had to laugh because I literally just got done with a frappuccino :). I’m glad you found something that’s able to calm your anxiety. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I’m thinking I need to give it a try. I stress about the most ridiculous things and manage to find things to stress about when I’m not stressed. Running usually helps to take care of it, but when there’s some reason I can’t run then that’s a problem!

    • runsaltrun says:

      That frappuccino was DEELICIOUS! 🙂
      Thank you so much, friend. I am the exact same way sometimes. Thankfully my husband is super mellow and talks me down a lot when I start to overanalyze things. I really think I married the perfect person for me. (I also think I give him gray hair.) Running is a great outlet for me as well, but since I’ve been having the foot issues I have been relying on yoga more than ever!

  10. chasingchels says:

    For my mind, strength, and flexibility. Yoga had taught me a lot about how to quiet my mind (occasionally), and the things that I’ve been able to do there are just as cool to me as what I can do running. Both show me how strong I am and what happens when I work toward something, which is pretty good in my book 🙂

  11. runningsouthern says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I love yoga for how to affects my running, flexibility, and overall mentality. Although I practice sporadically, I always leave feeling refreshed.

  12. sarahdudek80 says:

    I am just now getting back into yoga and trying to get a session per day in. I tend to let my mind wander too much and I feel like I don’t get that “bliss” that everyone else does from it. But the deep breathing has worked wonders for me and I find that it helps my endurance immensely. I also can’t believe how tight my body was without it. So glad you found such great help from yoga. I always tell people that it has been around forever so there must be something to it, right?!

    • runsaltrun says:

      Reining in my brain has always been the most challenging part of yoga for me. I’m always all over the place and going 100 miles a minute so it’s hard to just detach from all that. The breathing is definitely helpful though…the first thing I noticed when I started running last year was how much easier it was for me to breathe than it had ever been when I had tried running previously and it had to have been the yoga!

      Haha and yes the ancient-ness of it speaks volumes that it must work! 🙂

  13. DarlinRae says:

    This makes me miss yoga SO MUCH! I know I keep talking about going back, but my schedule just hasn’t been working out lately 😦 Hopefully after the move (when I have a car again!), I can get back at least once a week.

    • runsaltrun says:

      You will get back!! Even a home practice could help! I’ve been researching a website that has live classes that maybe I could share on here and you could try some of those!

      • DarlinRae says:

        I would love it if you’d share the link! I was thinking about hitting up youtube tonight, actually! I’ve been super stressed with the move and everything and I think yoga would be extremely beneficial right now.

  14. fitfoodiemama says:

    Funny you posted about this today- I am dealing with GAD right now too and just got done texting my psychiatrist ( I have no idea what she will even prescribe me). It isn’t something I really talk about although I am sure if anyone spent enough time with me it would be quite obvious that I suffer from anxiety. I have tried yoga in spurts to try to control those anxious feelings but have never been able to get into it because of well, my anxiety. I am not a patient person and it just felt unnatural to me. I am not looking forward to taking meds but maybe I could incorporate some more “yoga time” into my routine even if it isn’t the traditional kind.

    • runsaltrun says:

      ::hugs:: I totally understand (especially the bit about the anxiety getting in the way of the yoga practice. Maybe a home practice would be good though and starting off small, not like jumping into an hour+ long class at a studio. I’m so sorry you are going through these things and you always know where to find me if you need to chat. ❤

      • fitfoodiemama says:

        Aw thank you! I am really okay- just suffer from insomnia that is apparently anxiety related….sleeping meds caused straining in my neck muscles (weird side effect). I think I am more just high strung that anything and a bit of a worrier! I really admire your openness about everything and I am so happy that you were able to find a way to alleviate your anxiety without meds! That’s really fantastic!

  15. Running Boston and Beyond says:

    I don’t particularly like yoga and do not find it relaxing. I will do it when I’m in heavy training and have difficult speed work and temp runs. I’ve actually started looking forward to it after these speed sessions to ease my muscles and soreness. Still don’t enjoy it and count the minutes til I’m done, but I do it because I know it will help reduce those dang injuries.

  16. Sweaty Mess says:

    I just posted about my yoga class this morning! Great minds think alike. ❤ I'm so glad to hear you were able to replace your meds with yoga. Happy yoga-versary!

    I'm glad I'm able to fit it in as a complement to running. I felt totally amazing and relaxed this morning and ready to take on the day (and was able to shake off last night's speed debacle). It's much more amazing in the class instead of in my living room too.

    • runsaltrun says:

      You are really making me want to sign up for that gym. I miss classes and it would be so nice to have access to one early in the morning. I definitely wouldn’t call last night a “debacle” though. More of a “learning experience”. 🙂 My first speed workout didn’t go quite so well either!

      Totally agree that the studio is a whole different (better) experience too!

  17. Elizabeth says:

    I love your story! Medications are good when they’re needed but I always love it when I hear about people who are able to transition away from medicine and use more natural means to manage symptoms. I’m currently trying to get off some medicine I’ve been on for a while by changing my diet, it’s definitely a process. I only just started incorporating yoga into my routine, and my boyfriend and I are trying to find a class that we can take together. It’s something I enjoy doing every time I’ve tried it I really want to keep exploring it!

    • runsaltrun says:

      It was definitely a process, but I was so happy to finally have it out of my system. Another thing that really helped me though the tail end of it was acupuncture. As I was weaning completely off it I had some pretty bad headaches and going to acu a couple times got those under control. Just something to consider as well. 🙂 That’s wonderful that your BF wants to do yoga with you! He needs to talk some sense into my husband!

  18. Mar on the Run! says:

    wow… I love this so much. Thanks for putting yourself out there and telling your story. We need a meet up like pretty much immediately! 🙂 I don;t practice as often as I should but yeah, it’s pretty much to complement my running. Though when I do get there, it’s more to calm my spirit because I have a pretty fast paced life too and it’s good to just “be” sometimes.

  19. AutumnPTW says:

    Such inspiring stuff here! That is the coolest party trick ever! Oh what FUN it looks like a great group. I must admit I have been slacking in the party trick department, making a mental note to work on that! But yours is sooo awesome, I might just steal it!!! Yoga is both an inner and outter strong to practice. Dont fret, it will take some time before I catch up to you 🙂 You are Brave and Awesome dont change a thing.

    • runsaltrun says:

      They are a great group! If you ever have a party and need someone to come by and act as a table for people to put their drinks on, I can be of service.

      Thank you so much. 🙂

    • runsaltrun says:

      The mind calming takes a LOT of practice and in my opinion is the hardest part. My brain is always going about a million miles a minute and it took me a long time to learn how to leave all that behind for a little bit.

  20. Eat Pray Run, DC says:

    love this post. i love when folks are honest and open — that’s the stuff that resonates the most. i’m a hot mess in yoga so i leave it to my amazing friends like you but you know i’m all about the barre. honestly, how you feel about yoga is how i feel when i’m at church or listening to worship music or praying. it’s amazing the sense of peace it can provide. xx

  21. Michele @ PaleoRunningMomma says:

    I can relate to anxiety, I’ve had my share on and off over the course of my life. Running definitely has helped me relax, as has just having more life experiences and dealing with life in general, but yoga has always been something I feel like would help me but I haven’t tried yet. Thanks for sharing your story with it because for sure a lot of people can relate to anxiety and are looking for ways to manage without meds! Glad you are doing well now!

    • runsaltrun says:

      I was on the fence about posting it, but that was ultimately where I was trying to go with it (helping other people that might want to try other management methods). Running has really been my therapy as well, but since I can’t really do that without anxiety right now, yoga has become really extra important. 🙂 Thank YOU!

  22. Chaitali says:

    I kind of did yoga off and on since college but the times I stuck with it were the times when I was most stressed out. I definitely feel it helped me to relax and be more sane. I’m actually not in a period of a lot of stress right now but I’m doing yoga because it complements the running so well!

    • runsaltrun says:

      Hehe it really is so useful! Before my foot issues it was the best compliment to the running and now it chills me out when I’m feeling anxious about running. 🙂 I’m so glad it has helped you!

  23. Jennifer @ Running on Lentils says:

    Great post! My yoga practice has changed over time. When I first started a few years ago with Ashtanga, I did it for the pure physical challenge. Then I started connecting the mental aspect to the physical, and that helped me learn how to stay calm and centered in stressful situations. A year or so later I took up running & hurt my hip. I used yin yoga to heal it & still do that once a week for injury prevention. Currently, my job is extremely stressful & I’m running a lot so I do shorter, gentle sessions more frequently to complement my running and to ease stress. Ashtanga has been calling to me again, so I think after my fall half marathon I’m going to start doing that again. I love that no matter what my body needs, there is a yoga style for it.

  24. piratebobcat says:

    This is great! Thanks for sharing. I do yoga for many reasons…for the strength and flexibility I gain. But mostly for the life lessons I learn in class. I come to so many revelations either through myself or from the teacher. So many lessons I’ve learned from yoga that I carry over to running and to life in general. It definitely helps to focus on my breathing when stuck in traffic! Mainly, after each practice I feel better and I want to be a better person.

  25. kristenk says:

    I kind of just cried reading this post…I have never been this much of a mess and I really think that even though I love Alaska and I’m going to stick around here for a while, the whole cross country move/remove to Anchorage has changed me into an extremely anxious and overwhelmed person. I know you read my post already so you know what’s going on, but I hate that I feel this way. I really want to get it together and never even considered seeing someone about medication, especially since my doctor didn’t suggest it yesterday and thinks it should get better once I’m settled. In the mean time, I want to try to do a little bit of yoga every day. I’m finding a few short sequences online and I think that’s what I need right now. When I’m in Anchorage I definitely want to take classes so that I never get this stressed again! Thanks for sharing your story and always talking about how great yoga is!

  26. Cynthia says:

    Thanks for opening up and sharing about your anxiety. I don’t do yoga, but I have anxiety, general and social. I have been thinking I should do yoga for fitness reasons, but your experience tells me it could help my anxiety too! Thanks

  27. Kathryn @ Dancing to Running says:

    What an incredible yoga story you have! So many doctors recommend yoga for so many reasons, and it seems like its been the perfect stress and anxiety reliever for you. I started doing yoga back in March after my TIA. My neurologist urged me to find a way to relax more, and yoga offered just that. It doesn’t hurt that its also complimented my running.

  28. Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine says:

    I’m so glad that yoga was able to help you in the way it did! I can’t even remember why I started doing yoga…I think it probably had to do with staying flexible after I stopped dancing after high school. But I really only did DVDs so I didn’t get the real class experience until years later when I was already going to a gym and they offered classes. Now I feel like there are a million reasons why I keep going back. The one thing that keeps me from going more is the cost. I don’t love the classes at my gym (I much prefer the studio classes at Charm City Yoga) but its too much to pay for a gym membership along with a yoga membership! So I do what I can.
    Also, I love teaching yoga to my kids (well not “my” kids- the students I work with!) to help them relax. They love it- especially the girls!

  29. northernambitions says:

    Lauren this is amazing. I’m so proud of your story. I am guilty of letting my anxiety get away from me and not managing it really well. I have considered speaking to someone, but I also like the idea of trying to engage in regular yoga practice. You’ve totally inspired me to make this a priority

  30. Sun says:

    Wow, I think it’s amazing that practicing yoga helped get your anxiety under control! I don’t have a ton of experience with yoga but reading your posts makes me want to take a class. Maybe it’s just the thing I need to help get certain nagging running issues under control 🙂

  31. Sue @ This Mama Runs For Cupcakes says:

    Wow, great post and thanks for opening up, I know that can be tough! I started yoga to use it as a crosstraining thing because I had heard it was good for runners. I have a hard time with the breathing of yoga so haven’t fully come into my own with it, but it definitely helps me relax, for sure!

  32. littlegreenrunningshoes says:

    What an awesome tribute to the powers of yoga. I have found it so helpful in repairing my body from years of destruction from dancing. I am able to pin point trouble areas so much easier and I’ve learned how to help heal them. Yoga is truly a wonderful method of healing both mind and body. Thank you for opening up and sharing such a personal story, I love getting to know you better.

  33. Farrah says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your story! I’m so glad that yoga has helped you so much! I unfortunately have not been doing much yoga at all, although I really do feel that I should start incorporating it into my life again. It’s such a great way to stretch and de-stress!

    I don’t know if you do these, but I’d like to nominate you for the Inspiring Blogger award! :] More info can be found at this post: http://www.fairyburger.com/inspiring-blogger-award/

    I hope you have a great weekend! :]

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