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Running’s newest recruits? Yogis

running in yoga pants
(Photo: Flickr/Lululemon Athletica)

Look around a yoga class and you’ll likely spot a runner there working on her flexibility. But until recently, if you counted the yogis lapping Central Park or killing it on the treadmill, you’d still have a free hand left to hold your water bottle.

The cardio tide is slowly turning for yogis, says Alie Carey, a life-long runner and an instructor at YogaWorks, and at Jack Rabbit stores. “For a long time I thought running was working against my yoga practice by re-tightening all of my muscles. But I learned how to optimize the relationship between running and yoga, and lately I’ve seen quite a few serious yoga practitioners make the leap, too.”

It’s no surprise to Amanda Taylor, founder of Yoga Gives and a former distance runner, that the Berlin Wall separating yoga and running seems to be crumbling. “I think both yogis and runners tend to be very disciplined people who ‘need’ their asana or their runs to stay centered,” says Taylor. “So they appeal to parallel personalities.”

Some yoga studios even make leaping into a pair of cross-trainers seem logical, like I.Am.You. Founder Lauren Imparato, a yogi and a runner with a “love of sweat, endorphins, and a cardiovascular challenge,” leads an athletic practice that gets the heart racing as well as centered. The vibe here is that your higher self can also be your more athletic self. Once you see what you can physically do on the yoga mat, the thinking goes, you get inspired to try other demanding practices or sports.

Of course, improving endurance and cardiovascular conditioning are probably the most talked about benefits of running. But less discussed are its more subtle payoffs that may appeal to yogis—like learning to find and work in a zone, quieting the mind, staying in the moment, and focusing on breathing.

“When yogis take up running,” says Elizabeth Neuse, a marathoner and senior teacher at YogaWorks, “they realize the runner’s high feels a lot like that post-yoga bliss.” —Ingrid Skjong

Know a yogi or two with a pair of cross-trainers to break in? Email them this article!