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Going Running or Being Run?

In ChiRunning a key concept is to cooperate with external forces of nature. When you cooperate with the external force of gravity, it can feel as though you are “being run” by the pull of gravity. To reach that point; alignment, relaxation and balance are all needed so that the supporting motion can happen with less and less effort.

There are many tools you can use to move towards greater alignment, relaxation and balance. One type is a visualization. Here is a visualization I have been using for some time that may also work for you (see images below):

  • Step 1: Align your posture through the sequence of ChiRunning steps for feet/legs, upper body, level pelvis and column.
  • Step 2: Now consider that attached to the back crown of your head is a small weather balloon. Let’s say orange and about 2 foot around with about 2 feet of cord. Imagine that balloon floating above your head filled with helium. Notice that you are not thinking so much about your posture, but you have not deviated much from your original position.
  • Step 3: Now picture the balloon deflating. Notice you might “slump” a bit.
  • Step 4: Now picture the balloon refilling and notice you return +/-  to the original position. So we can use a full (helium) balloon to aid in alignment.  And the more aligned you are, the more relaxed you can be.

  • Step 5: The next step is to get moving by tilting our aligned column slightly forward to engage the pull of gravity. What if you imagined a light breeze come up behind you? What would that do? It would probably push the balloon slightly forward … tilting your aligned column slightly forward from the ankles.

With mental focus on the balloon:

  • The balloon can help keep you in alignment.
  • It will be hard to lift the chin since the balloon is attached to the back crown of your head. This will also limit your head being forward of your shoulders.
  • It will be hard to bend at the waist since the balloon is lightly pulling you up as you tilt forward.
  • You will not likely lean too much if you imagine a “light” breeze at your back. Leaning too much is a common challenge; it is usually much less lean than you think. If you feel like you are going to fall and are tensing up, you are probably leaning too much.
  • You will be distracted from effort/tension in the lower body. This will allow you to go with the subtle pull with little resistance.
  • You can use a variable mental breeze at your back to practice balance at different speeds.
  • You can reduce the mental effect of an actual headwind.

This balloon visualization can also aid in alignment, relaxation and balance on different terrain. If you come to an uphill, imagine a slightly stronger updraft breeze. If you come to a downhill, consider a little less breeze at your back. Once you get a sense for this visualization, the “practice” is to keep it active as often as needed to develop new habits. A phrase that I find works very well is “let the balloon do the work”. The key word is “let” as it sets you up to allow something else to “run you”.

After a recent lesson, a friend said jokingly that she was going to take her balloon for a run. If you own a dog where the dog routinely takes you for a walk, you probably relate more to this comment. In reality, her balloon was going to take her for a run.

There are all kinds of focus points to help you create alignment, relaxation and balance. When working on a specific adjustment, you can work on it directly or indirectly. This visualization is doing a lot indirectly by allowing something else to keep you aligned … and relaxed … so you can develop your sense of balance.

Please also check out this early post about “Float vs. Flow” which also describes this visualization. And note the same visualization can be used all day long as you sit, stand or move around ChiWalking.


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David Stretanski is a holistic health, fitness and wellness coach – and Certified ChiRunning®/ChiWalking® Instructor.  For more information on David, please see his About Me,Contact page or his website at

ChiRunning® and ChiWalking® are registered trademarks of ChiLiving, Inc.

Posted on Monday, Apr. 4th 2011 5:13 PM | by echifitness | in All, Barefoot/Minimalist, ChiRunning, ChiWalking | 4 Comments »

4 Comments on “Going Running or Being Run?”

  1. Ryan Says:

    Great post David. This visual has worked very well for me since you introduced me to it at Kripalu. One thing that can be added to this technique is breathing.

    On an *inhale* breath fill the ballon.
    On an *exhale* breath pop the ballon.
    On an *inhale* breath re-fill the ballon.
    On an *exhale* breath imagine a slight breeze blowing against the ballon.

  2. echifitness Says:

    Thanks Ryan. Adding the breath focus to my next run.

  3. Eileen Kirk Says:

    Thanks, David. I will try to use this visual all day long to help me with my posture. I won’t have to “work” so hard. I will let the balloon do the work and I will relax more.

  4. John Belkewitch Says:


    Grooving on the notion of “being run”.

    I’m a very big proponent of “being breathed” by the movement in all training, in the interest of attaining flow, so it’s good to see this concept being promoted in running.

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