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Interview with top Yoga instructor Gillian Gorman


Posted by Joanna R under Yoga on 20 March 2012 at 9:28 AM

Gilly G loves the creative, ever-evolving process that is Yoga. She is a 500-hour certified instructor with a passion for teaching Vinyasa, as well as an NYS licensed massage therapist (touch assists!). Gillian has completed several teacher trainings that inform her flow style, most recently with Ana Forrest. Gillian co-founded and co-directs Radiance Yoga, a hot Vinyasa studio in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. She has taught yoga in Woodstock, NY and NYC, at such studios as Kula Yoga Project, Pure Yoga, and Om Factory. Gillian is influenced by adventure both on her yoga mat and off, where she continues to travel and expand her knowledge of Yoga, movement & meditation to better serve her students. 

You are a yoga teacher and also a runner – right?  Tell us why you like the combo?

I LOVE Yoga! It is a tremendous, life enhancing practice that threads body, mind, soul and breath. Yoga provides the opportunity to be creative, to challenge myself, to listen, to be in the moment. The physical effects of Yoga I have noticed in my body range from a stronger core to longer, more intelligent muscles. However, a large component missing from a Yoga practice, including a vigorous one, is the heart healthy benefits of cardiovascular activity. The zen I feel after running is like nothing else! Bringing my heart rate up even during a short run provides me with energy and focus that sustains me throughout my (generally busy) day. 

I can feel Yoga and running synergistically supporting the growth of my body. The compression and repetitive contraction of my muscles after a run are smoothed out by the lengthening and spreading of my muscle tissue via Yoga. Utilizing Yogic breathing while running enhances my lung capacity and stamina.

How do you bring your yoga to your running and vice versa? 

My deep Yoga breathing is key to my running practice. Before I became a yogi, I would run without considering my breath until I was huffing and puffing. Now the breath is integral to pacing my running rhythm and maintaining a state of calm when a run is intense and I want to give up. The postural cues in Yoga help a great deal with helping my spine, especially the low back, on longer runs. Since my body naturally prefers an anterior pevic tilt (AKA low back arched, bootie out and up), reminding myself while running to re-engage my low abdominals and lengthen my low back is paramount to a healthy spine.

Running has affected my yoga practice in ways I didn't anticipate. Since running contracts the hamstrings, glutes and hip rotator muscles, I often find these parts a little cranky when I first step onto the mat. However, as a chronic over-extender, I have always been very flexible with open ligaments. Running has gifted me the ability to create boundaries for my hyper-mobile body and strengthen my muscle tissue. I am also far more aware of the pump of my muscles (engage-release) due to running then I have from practicing Yoga, where Yoga generally asks us to sustain a muscular engagement to create a stretch for corresponding muscles.

What are the best yoga poses for runners

Downward Dog! So good for the achilles tendons, calves, hamstrings and back body. It also gives the breathing muscles that frame the chest and shoulders a chance to open up.

Other great postures are Anjaniasana (crescent lunge with back knee down), Natarajasana (dancer's pose), Ustrasana (camel pose) and Supta Virasana (reclined hero's pose/inner thighs touch with shins wide) to open the hip flexors that are always too contracted from running.

Pyramid pose, Warrior 3 and 3-legged dog pose are superb to open the hamstrings.

To juice up and unlock contracted glute muscles, the piriformis and other deep hip rotators: a pigeon pose, Gomukasana (cow face pose/seated with knees bent and stacked with feet outside opposite hip) and Badhakonasana (cobbler's pose) are the best medicine. Lastly, to traction the spine, position yourself in Uttanasana (standing forward bend) and twisting chair pose. Voila!

You're set to take part in the Tough Mudder (me too!), how does yoga help you train for this?

Oh the Mudder! What fun that will be :). The Tough Mudder is a 10-12 mile course full of super hard obstacles, including cold water plunges, a half pipe and electrocution (I mean really!). Because of the nature of these obstacles, having a limber, mobile & strong body is the best equation to navigate through the course. Unlike a traditional marathon, where you are doing the same lifted movement for many miles, the Mudder asks you to squat, crawl, jump, climb, twist and squeeze your body through a plethora of challenging exercises.

I've attended some of your Hot Yoga sessions for my Tough Mudder training, what are the benefits of it?

Hot Yoga, similarly, creates an environment that intensifies, opens and challenges the body simultaneously to create a stronger, leaner body. In addition, the meditative component to Yoga, particularly maintaining a steady breath during a challenging practice, is helpful to prime the mind to remain focused and present during intense physical exercise.

Lots of top athletes now use yoga as part of their training, what benefits does it bring to their game?

It's a must! Athletes, depending on what sport or activity they do, utilize so many muscles in their body in an often repetitive way, which can induce overuse syndrome, injury or simply tightness. To maintain limber, healthy muscle tissue, a movement practice that emphasizes optimal anatomical alignment and a balance between strength and flexibility, traction and integration is the best. The athletes I have had as Yoga students point out the importance of the self-awareness component of Yoga, particularly when healing injuries and recuperating after pushing themselves past their body's limitations in the midst of an athletic event.

And what are your thoughts on Bikram?

I personally am not a fan of the Bikram Yoga system. The sequencing of postures often baffles me, especially the longer I study anatomy. With that said, the high heat factor (100 degrees +) combined with deep forward bends and spine arching poses can overextend the muscle and tendon tissue, most definitely it will overstretch your ligaments. I feel Bikram is best for those with tight and compressed bodies that have little range of motion.

So what are your thoughts on the benefits of yoga on your other sports? Which poses would you recommend to get the most out of your body?