I Replaced Marathon Running With Yoga: Here's How It Changed My Life
Running was always my thing.
I still remember the excitement in my chest as I’d lace up my sneakers and step outside before a long run. Since the age of 14, I had turned to running as an outlet for my body and mind—no matter if I got into an argument with my mom, or wanted to explore a new city.
I craved going on a long run like some people crave a slice of pizza. It satisfied my need to release pent-up energy while giving me the space to think and process. It wasn’t just exercise—it was a daily ritual. Running was my sacred space to confront the ugly, weird issues in my life—without judgment.
But when I graduated from college and entered the working world, those cravings began to change. I no longer had the flexibility to go on a run whenever I had the urge to just think. My workouts needed to fit into my newly busy life, and the shorter they were, the better.
I also noticed that my body was changing. A lot. Before I spent all day in an office, my legs were fluid and strong. I craved breathing the fresh air if I was stuck inside for too long. But a few months into my job, I began to get aches and pains that were never there before. After going on a run, I would find myself feeling tight and stressed instead of refreshed.
I finally realized that running had become just another box to check off on my never-ending to-do list. It was no longer serving its purpose: to re-energize my body and my soul. It slowly became a once-a-week activity instead of every day.
To my surprise, yoga filled that void.
I had never thought of yoga as my thing. Although I had always liked it, yoga felt like something you do on an active rest day—not a workout in and of itself. I never imagined that I’d feel as satisfied after a yoga class as I did after a 10-mile run. Or that it would do anything for my body, really, except make me more flexible. Although running was my ritual for many reasons, I had to admit I liked the way that it made my body look, too.
Over time, I realized I couldn't have been more wrong about yoga. In it, I found a sacred space where I could challenge both my body and mind. It changed my life in countless ways. Here are a few of the ways I've grown since becoming a yogi:
1. I learned to listen to my body.
As a marathoner and long-distance runner, I had learned to push through the pain. That skill was actually really important to my success as a runner. And while I wouldn’t trade those lessons in mental determination for anything, I learned how important it was to listen (and respond) to my body, to care for my body, to take a break if my body was asking for it.
Yoga taught me that being kind to yourself should be your highest priority. And that outlook has spilled over into my real life: I spend less time comparing myself to others, and instead, I focus on what’s best for me.
2. I've discovered a new kind of strength.
While yoga is fluid and soft, it requires a type of physical strength that I never had to develop as a runner. Balancing in crow pose takes muscle strength I didn’t even know existed. The muscles I’ve gained since I’ve become a yogi were an unexpected effect of my practice—and a reason that I’ve stuck with it. I love leaving a yoga class knowing that I worked hard.
3. My focus has become sharper.
When I ran, my mind would jump around. While my body was moving on autopilot, my mind was doing cartwheels. Yoga requires concentration, balance, and connection. My thoughts flow, instead of jumping around. While both activities helped me work through my issues, yoga forces me to complete one thought before moving on to the next. Practicing this skill has improved every aspect of my life.
4. I found a new community.
One of my favorite aspects of running was finding people who were just as passionate about it as I was. I loved the instant camaraderie I felt with fellow runners—whether I met them in the supermarket or on the running trail.
But I’ve found that the yoga community has been just as strong—if not stronger—than my running family. There’s a connection that goes deep in the yoga world because it’s not just about the physical practice. Yoga attracts a type of person who is on a path to betterment in all areas of their life.
Who wouldn’t want to be around people like that?
As a yogi and a runner, I've found that each practice complements and enriches the other. Both offer a sacred space to learn and grow as a person.
But my most important lesson in all of this has been that you don't always have to have the same "thing." As you grow and evolve, your interests, passions, and pursuits will, too. The key is to listen to your body and your spirit and respond to what you need in each moment. Do that, and you can't go wrong. You'll always stay true to yourself.
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