10 reasons why a runner should practice yoga
1. Controlled Breathing for better running
Breathing is the foundation of the yoga practice. Whether you’re engaging in a powerfully moving yoga session or a mellow meditative class, breath is the key. It helps the practitioner focus, oxygenate the body, bring clarity to the mind, and much more. If you’re a runner, this is optimal for you to improve your running skills. In yoga, you learn how to effectively breathe to improve blood and oxygen flow. Intentional breathing conditions your heart. Mindful breathing also affects your sympathetic nervous system.
2. How does yoga improve Flexibility?
Many turn to yoga to improve their flexibility. This is certainly true if you’re athletic and want to have more mobility and greater range of motion. Yoga classes are designed to open up the body in areas that may hold tension, muscle soreness, or joint tightness. There is a wide range of yoga poses, particularly hip openers and hamstring stretches that will help the runner achieve that goal. If you’re a long distance runner, for example, having flexible legs will assist your performance when you’re aiming for long-range running. Further, having more mobility in your hips will positively impact your stride, especially if you’re a racer and need to get ahead of the pack. Yoga can assist you in these areas.
3. Leg Strengthening is possible with constant yoga practise
As a runner, you generally want to have strong legs. Although you may regard yoga as a practice that only focuses on flexibility, it also helps with strength. There are a number of yoga postures, like Warrior 2 or Goddess Pose, that focus a lot on the large muscles of the legs to build more endurance strength. When you hold yoga postures, small muscle fibres are triggered and overtime grow to enhance the strength in that particular body part.
4. Joint Conditioning
There can be quite a bit of wear and tear on your joints if you’re an avid runner. It would be important to find ways to keep your joints, especially in your hips, knees, and ankles, well-conditioned to endure your active sport. There are several ways you can do this in yoga. There is a style of yoga practice called Yin Yoga in which you hold certain poses for a long period of time to release connective tissue. Areas of focus may be shoulders, hips, back, knees, and hips. When a runner’s joints get tight from overuse, this type of practice is ideal. And because you can build strength in other styles of yoga, you can anticipate strengthening the muscles around these sensitive joints to help support their function over time.
5. Core Strengthening with Yoga
There’s no question that having a strong core is essential for runners. This is the stabilizer for the entire body. When your back muscles and abdominal muscles remain strong, you can become a more effective runner. These stabilizers keep you upright, and manage the movement of your arms and legs. To further condition and strengthen your core, yoga is a go-to remedy for that. One of the physical components of yoga is to intentionally stabilize your core. The idea is so that you’re able to sit upright comfortably while meditating. If your core muscles are weak, there is a tendency to collapse along the spine which may create pain or discomfort; this would certainly be a distraction in a meditative practice. Yoga that involves asana, or postures, help to relieve and strengthen the areas of the body that would cause distraction: tight hips, shallow breath, and a weak core. This can go for your running practice, too. Having a stronger mid-section will keep you upright while running; you may even feel lighter on your feet.
6. How does Yoga Prevent Injuries?
Being an avid runner, you also run the risk of injuries. You can practice yoga to help prevent those injuries. When you’re more limber and strong, your body will have the stamina and overall capacity to take on the impact of running. Taking alignment-based yoga classes, like Anusara Yoga, will help you with proper alignment of your upper and lower body. These tips can translate to your running practice very well. If you have good body alignment while you run, you’re less likely to harm your muscles and joints.
7. Improves Endurance
If you’re a long distance or marathon runner, one thing you’ll need to learn is endurance. It takes a lot of mental and physical endurance to progress in a sport like this. Consider taking yoga classes that also teach this skill. Hot Yoga or Power Yoga classes can test your endurance strength. These styles of practice are quite active and require motivation and stamina to get through. Hot Yoga, as per the name, is taught in a heated studio that can be up to 110 degrees F. Being able to move and hold postures in this type of climate takes quite a bit of endurance. It also teaches you patience and determination. In a Power Yoga class, there may be a significant amount of yoga sequences and poses to practice. This, too, requires dedication and determination to push through to the very end. These are the skills you’ll want to have as a runner, too.
8. Works on Mental Focus
As mentioned, running can be quite demanding on the mind and body. With all the training that you do for your body to be a good runner, conditioning your mind is also important. Running, whether it is marathon running, sprinting, or casual jogging, it all takes a level of mental focus to do. Yoga will certainly help in this department. You can develop this skill in moving practices, but to really enhance your mental focus is to practice Mindfulness Meditation. This is the act of focusing on one thing at a time, in most cases, it is your breath. It is like putting on blinders so that the outside noise and distractions can disappear while you maintain a full dedicated connection to your breath. Cadence, rhythm, and breath are elements of a running practice. To stay in tuned with these attributes consistently, practicing Mindfulness Meditative Yoga will enhance those skills.
9. Relax with Yoga
It is important to rest between bouts of strong running. Give your body opportunities to relax so it can recover completely. Restorative Yoga Practices are ideal for this. It allows your body and mind to fully release and relax. If you experience tension, tightness, or soreness anywhere in your body, a supported restorative experience is what you need. Typically, in a Restorative Yoga class, you use yoga props, like Blankets, Blocks, and Bolsters, to support your body in relaxed reposing positions, to completely relax your muscular system. As an athlete, your body can get quite overloaded with training. A relaxing yoga class can be integrated into your training routine for a balanced experience.
10. Recovery post Running
Continuing on the theme of relaxing your body to ease tension, having a yoga practice along with your running can help you recover faster. That is, using yoga as a tool and resource to recover safely and in a healthy fashion is recommended. Yoga offers a lot of balance for an athlete, especially a runner. When you’re needing mental focus, physical strength, and full recovery from your workouts, yoga is the perfect complimentary agent. As you fully integrate the yoga practice, and use many of its benefits, you will see an improvement in your sport of running.