A new form of running that combines the posture and theory of yoga is taking the community by storm, and Ahwatukee Foothills' Lisa Takamiya is at the front of the pack offering specialized workshops and one-on-one training for "chi running." Takamiya calls the phenomenon a mindful approach to exercise, and uses a method taught by Danny Dreyer, the creator and founder of chi running. She is the only certified instructor of the trademarked chi running and chi walking in the Valley. A yogini and avid runner herself, Takamiya said she focuses on two things: injury prevention and energy proficiency. "I want to be able to enjoy a lifetime of running, injury free," she said. "Most runners end up suffering from lower leg injuries. That's because traditional running teaches us to run with our hips instead of simply learning to use gravity and engage the core of our bodies." Takamiya explained that using mental methods of yoga - working on mindfulness and focusing on inner alignment - also helps turn running into an effortless practice. "If it's difficult, you're not doing it right," she said. It does take a serious shift in thinking, Takamiya noted, and many times sprinters and those who run competitively are not able to make that adjustment. But chi running is perfect for marathon runners who are not competitive, and Takamiya said the act of practicing and preparing for a marathon and then completing it can be very emotional. That's where the methods of T'ai Chi and yoga come in. "It's such a huge focus, and it can be very intense," she said. "Running for five hours, it helps to be able to just focus on the present moment and not constantly having your mind wander." Takamiya recalled one of her toughest marathons where, after several months of preparing and finally completing the run, she cried. "I couldn't understand what was wrong, why I was so upset," Takamiya said. "But a friend of mine who was a more experienced runner said it was normal and natural to have that kind of release after going through so much." In her classes, Takamiya first teaches students how to change their form or posture, then works on helping them increase distance. First, she explains how to use the core of the body - not the legs - to move forward. "The core leads and the legs follow," Takamiya explained. Next, she instructs her students to let the gravity do the work. "This can be hard for some people to get used to," she said. "First I lean forward against a column to show them at what angle their bodies should be at while running. Then I explain how to relax the legs - instead of propelling yourself forward with your feet, you lead with the body and your legs naturally flow out behind you." Takamiya drives this method home by instructing, "Knees down, heels up," which allows runners to land on their mid-foot, not their heels, and hopefully putting an end to painful knees and heels, and reducing the chance for injury. And lastly, of course, is to focus the mind. Takamiya said students don't need to be experts in yoga practices to take her workshops, adding that yoga fans will appreciate applying the practice to another sport. "It will transform the way you think about fitness." Takamiya will hold the next chi running workshop on March 10 at Yoga Youphoria, 4025 E. Chandler Blvd. The intensive, interactive workshop lasts from 1 to 5 p.m., and includes handouts, a nutrition-packed smoothie, ongoing training and support and optional weekly group runs. To reserve your spot, call Takamiya at (602) 690-6669. For more information on Takamiya or chi running, visit www.chirunyoga.com.

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