by Morgan McAslan

Six weeks before my first 26.2, this past March’s Asheville Marathon at Biltmore, I started to get a niggle in the back right side of my right knee. After every run I would ice extensively. I was taking ibuprofen regularly. I needed to keep the knee from getting worse or turning into something more serious.

I cut my weekly mileage for the rest of training sacrificing a couple long runs. It was under these desperate conditions that I first started doing yoga regularly. It was the only cross training I could think of that wouldn’t risk injury or exhaust me. I made it through the marathon without any knee trouble.

The last 6 miles of the marathon however were hell. My hips were screaming and foot turnover became difficult. I lost all pacing. The feeling of glass in the ball of my hip joint was unexpected.

In the wake of that experience, I decided to add a yoga class a week and to work on strength and flexibility. Things were going really well until my running took a swan dive over the summer. I got a nasty case of strep throat in June that required two courses of antibiotics and steroids. I went through an awful breakup and between that and my running woes my confidence was non existent.

Anyone who is a distance runner knows that the mental challenge is the entire challenge. The last week of September I was planning my training schedule for the Asheville Marathon, but first I needed to get my mileage back up to 35 miles a week in the intervening month to be able to train the way I wanted to. I was not feeling optimistic. I was only running short distances a few times a week. I needed something to help me feel connected to my body and mentally capable of taking on five months of training.

As it turns out, Asheville Yoga Center does a 30 day unlimited class introductory rate. So everyday in October I took a yoga class. I tried pretty much everything, and I took classes with as many instructors as I could. I learned a ton about yoga and what I discovered was that the way I had been practicing yoga up to that point was not what my body needed and that I had only tapped the surface of what yoga can do for me as a whole person and as a distance runner.

I decided going forward to practice yoga short amounts of time everyday and go to classes with instructors that I could learn from in order to build my own personal practice. Right as I made this decision, I saw that AYC was offering a six week Kaiut series.

Kaiut is a fairly new form of therapeutic yoga created in Brazil by Fransisco Kaiut. It is about the joints. It uses uncomfortable poses, combined with micro movements to activate the joints and use gravity to release and unwind restrictions.

We need to move the body in the most intelligent way, not the toughest or most intense way.

-Francisco Kaiut

The theory behind it is to help undo the repetitive damage and growth that happens from habitual sitting. I work at a computer, much like a good percentage of America. Kaiut helps with sleep dysfunction, chronic illness, pain and recurring or troublesome injuries.

This type of yoga really spoke to me when I practiced it in class but I wanted to learn more. I have a chronic illness and combined with the stress of running, anything to be kind to my joints was something I wanted to embrace.

Tucker Shelton spent October in Brazil taking a deep dive into Kaiut and on his return to Asheville he was conveniently offering this six week Kaiut series. Tucker’s classes are productive and well composed. The practice is individualized and appreciates that our bodies are capable of different things on any given day.

Kaiut is difficult and rewarding and right now I feel good. I am back to running 6 days a week, I practice yoga for 20 minutes when I wake up and I am practicing Kaiut twice a week. My miles have gone from over 9 minutes to between 8:16 and 8:26 minutes in a few weeks, which is how I was running six months ago. It feels really good to be back to my natural pace and I’m taking care of my joints and doing the work to keep my body happy and healthy and running.

But most importantly, I once again feel grateful for my body and what it is capable of. I am in a good place at the start of my training. I cannot wait for strong long training runs in the brisk Asheville cold. I never thought I was the type to adopt a mantra, but something an instructor recommended in a class has really stuck with me. When I’m in a rough mile, I inhale with the thought “I am aware of my entire body” and I exhale with “I smile.” It’s really difficult not to smile and carry on.

“In stages, the impossible becomes possible.”

-T.K.V. Desikachar

Stop by Yoga and Massage at the Asheville Marathon and Half

YAM (Yoga and Massage) is our yoga provider at the Asheville Marathon and Half at Biltmore Estate! The YAM staff is available on both days, offering massages to our participants. This is such a great way to wind down after your race and soothe those sore muscles. Be sure to stop by their booth when you join us in March! 

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