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Worcester Telegram & Gazette – October 8, 2014

Original article HERE

Yoga classes give runners a lift

By Dave Greenslit CORRESPONDENT

Like many people, runners can benefit from yoga, which can relieve stress, help in losing weight and, in some cases, ease pain.

But they can also gain core strength and flexibility that will help them improve their running and, if they listen to their bodies, keep them running injury free, according to two area yoga instructors who teach classes for runners.

“I really found the benefit of doing yoga for athletes,” said Kristin Borowski, 33, after holding a class Saturday for 14 runners at Miles to Go Sports in Sutton. “Yoga helps you connect your breath with your body, with your muscles, and understanding how your body works.”

Nari Malkhasyan, 31, who is teaching a class for runners at Central Mass. Yoga and Wellness in West Boylston, says yoga complements running, providing a needed counterbalance to the stress and pounding that runners experience.

“It helps you get aligned, slow down and find your center, physically and emotionally,” she said.

And Borowski recommends yoga as a form of active recovery from hard training and racing, aiding in preventing injuries that could keep a runner off the roads or trails for six months or more.

The women, both marathoners, said that yoga will help runners temper the mentality that tells them to push through pain — and into injury.

“When you don’t listen to (the body’s) subtle messages, it sends you a big enough message that you have to hear,” Malkhasyan said.

She speaks from experience, having recently suffered a stress fracture after shrugging off an alignment issue with her left hip. While she’s good at listening to her body while practicing yoga, Malkhasyan said she’s got a ways to go in that regard as a runner, and tries to share that experience with her students.

She said runners tend to be stiff, and having a class for them enables instructors to target their specific needs, focusing on hips, hamstrings and other areas where runners have problems. It also gives them an alternative to static stretching before exercise, which is generally discouraged now. Instead, many experts recommend that athletes warm up with dynamic exercises that get blood flowing to the muscles. That could be walking, slow running or doing a few yoga moves.

Malkhasyan noted, however, that runners too often bring their competitiveness into the yoga studio, something both instructors strive to discourage.

“Runners try to out­yoga one another, and it’s a little scary,” she said. “A lot of runners are very goal­oriented, so if they see a posture and they see this is what the ideal looks like, they will do their darndest to just get there. Keeping the focus on the mat is the biggest challenge.”

Borowski agreed. “Sometimes you have to remind them that your mat’s your island. Don’t compare your island to someone else’s island,” she said. Postures can always be modified.

Runners do not necessarily need to take yoga classes that are specific to them, but if they don’t, Borowski recommends that they take a beginner’s class to learn the fundamentals and core concepts. She said there are also some good yoga videos on YouTube.

“If we can start getting runners into good habits, this is one way we can go ahead and prevent injuries,” she said.

For more information on Central Mass. Yoga and Wellness, visit http://www.centralmassyoga.com. For more information on Miles to Go Sports, visit http://www.milestogosports.com.

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