There is something dynamically paradoxical to yoga and running. One seems so relaxed, mindful, gentle, and flowing; and the other, fast-paced, pounding, and rhythmic. The core principles of both, however, make them great partners in exercise and surprisingly supportive of one another. Check out these 5 ways yoga can help make you a better runner:
Offers Low-Impact Cross Training
Every good runner knows that going five days a week, an hour or more a day can take its toll on your feet and knees, and quickly lead to runners burnout. Cross-training activities become an important component of a running schedule in that they offer a lower-impact exercise that eases up on the stress placed on critical joints and adds variety to your physical activity. In addition to swimming, cycling, dancing, and hiking, yoga practice can routinely be an effective cross-training activity that benefits heart, lung, bone, and muscle health.
Fortifies Mental Strength
The endurance and energy long distance running requires is just as much a mental game as it is a physical one. Mental strength in the form of mindfulness, self-awareness, and concentration are integral parts of routine yoga practice. The deep breathing and meditation of yoga help runners hone those mental faculties which can power stronger running performance. Progressive training which adds mileage to a running circuit week by week will require ever intensifying focus and determination. Yoga can help energize your mental defenses to meet those needs.
Helps Prevent Injury
So many running injuries result from general overuse or imbalance. As a cross-training activity, yoga practice can prevent overuse and help runners strengthen less-engaged muscle groups. And as a practice in flexibility and coordination, the stretches and body postures of yoga practice can prevent imbalances like you might find with tight hip flexors or tense low back muscles that can lead to common injuries. Becoming more flexible and aligned with routine yoga practice can both optimize your running form and keep joints loose and limber for regular practice. On the flipside, practicing yoga and wearing a back support when running can also help you maintain your running routine even when you have a slight injury.
What runners do in the unique recovery period following a high-intensity or long distance run plays an important role in helping the body rebuild muscle and bone density. Restorative yoga styles specifically aid recovery by helping the muscles stretch and relax, boosting lymphatic flow and pumping up the body’s natural detox system which filters out waste byproducts and toxins. Legs on the wall pose, for example, is a great restorative pose which requires runners to simply lie with their backs flat on the ground and their legs extended up above them against a wall. This pose partnered with deep breathing can induce relaxation, blood flow, and recovery.
While yoga might seem largely like a practiced sequence of different poses and stretches, one of the most significant features which makes yoga, well, yoga is the deep breathing. Often synced to the different postures and foundational to the meditation, the deep breathing techniques of yoga train your body in how to breathe efficiently and with the movement of your muscles and limbs. This, in turn, strengthens your diaphragm and gears you up to potentially increase your oxygen uptake, helping boost your mileage and extend your time to exhaustion.
So how do you get started with yoga practice? In the digital age, there is a handful of ways. You can live stream free online yoga tutorials recorded by knowledgeable instructors on Youtube or sites like DoYogaWithMe.com. You can find a yoga class at a studio near you on YogaFinder.com or with ClassPass. Or you can book a spot at a yoga and running retreat, the options are seemingly endless. Happy running!