Is Yoga for Runners?

You can get more from your running regime with yoga, as you improve strength, flexibility, mobility and lengthen and stretch those tight muscles. Remember that you do noy have to be flexible to start Yoga. Its like waiting till you get fit to start running!

Are some asana (postures) better suited than others?

Yoga is for everyone. It can certainly benefit runners, some poses more so than others.  It can aid everybody to increase both strength and flexibility. Now there are different approaches to yoga, different types. (Review our recent blog Post on Basic Yoga styles).

Yoga Benefits for Runners

Our lifestyle, our jobs as well  as our chosen hobby, can all exacerbate poor posture. This usually manifests itself as short and tight muscles, as well as longer and weaker muscles.

Yoga is well known for increasing flexibility. Yoga lengthens those short overly tight muscles (not to mention fascia). The abdominal area will tone and strengthen as a result of yoga. Yoga results in better control both the mind and our body. With better posture will come more efficient use of our bodies.

Most of our hobbies result in over tight muscles and muscle groups. Running more so than most, running is very repetitive. Hamstrings, calves, hip flexors and shoulders invariably tighten too much.

Yoga will lengthen any part of your body which has over tightened. Again it is not just about muscles, yoga works on the fascia, the connective tissue; which has far more relevance for mobility and fluidity of the whole body.

From an evolutionary point of view we spend a disproportionately amount of time sat down. The chair is performing the job of the abdominals, the core muscles. Whilst sat down the core is being sent signals to switch off!

Yoga can strengthen these weak abdominals. Helping with posture, thus making each stride you make more efficient, less pounding and wear and tear on the hips etc.

Running & Yoga Breath

Runners tend to turn to yoga as a source of flexibility training. They rarely start yoga for the breathing exercise. Many are very surprised with the extra benefits pranayama (breath control exercises) can have on their performance.

Breath exercise, involves the holding of breath (it is a lot more in depth than that brief description) for extended periods. Added to the breath control techniques, is the mindfulness of yoga. The mind has been referred to as a chattering drunken monkey that has been stung by a scorpion. Yoga aims to calm that monkey mind, much like calming a stormy lake, so it is flat, clear and clam.

Running is a great sport for mindfulness – assuming the mind is focused on something positive!

Hatha Yoga Moves for Stiff legs

Whilst most people needlessly stretch off their hamstrings, some actually need stretching off. After a run lying on your back with yoga strap around the foot. Then stretch that hamstring off, ensuring that the other leg is also kept straight and not overly bent.

Want more variety? Place the strap over the front arch and add in a calf stretch. Now whilst you don’t use your facial muscles to stretch the calf and hamstring, for some strange reason, the pulling of a strange facial expression always seems to help!

To help with runners knee – tight IT band and good glute stretch take the strap in the left hand and slowly draw the leg across the body.

Adductor (inner thigh) stretch: Take the strap in the right hand and open the leg out to the right.

Great results can be obtained by holding the stretch for 20-30 seconds. However if you are ding Yin style yoga you may be asked to hold the posture for a lot longer.

One can greatly increase the benefit of any stretch by adding certain pranayama techniques into it, namely the holding on the inhale for a long while before slowly letting the breath ‘go’.

Purely from a stretching point of view, the muscles and tissues of the body respond much better the warmer they are. That is, real physical heat. Muscles etc are warmest immediately following exercise.

Try not to get into the bad habit of running, cooling down (warm down) then only performing the stretches that you just happen to like and enjoy. There is a Jospeh Pilates quote which is applicable –‘what you don’t like – do twice’. As a general rule if there is a stretch that you do not like doing there is invariably a reason why – and that reason is because you ‘need’ that stretch!

Sun salutations are a great mobility drill for runners, mixing low lunges with downward dog and gentle spine extension.

When choosing a style/type of yoga take into consideration, your personality type and where in your training you are. Ideally one would perhaps consider different styles of yoga throughout the year.

If your schedule is hard then ashtanga may prove too much; conversely if your training schedule is relatively light hatha or yin may not be of much use at enhancing your running. This style of yoga is one where postures are held for extended periods, enhancing tissues release. Plus people tend to chose one style, one teacher and stick with them!

Yoga for Runners – Bad idea ?

I do not agree with going for Yoga for Runners classes, that’s just marketing. The reason being some tend to just focus on the legs only. The body is a whole unit and must be stretched and mobilized as a whole unit.

Remember that fascia I was talking about, e.g. it is possible to free up an area of your shoulder and for this to have a freeing up of the opposite hip joint. The body is internally wrapped with fascia, much like a ‘mummy’.  Free up one part and it has an affect on the rest of the body. Avoid going down the road of isolating body parts – the body works as a whole!

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Above all have fun!

Much Love from Newton Abbot Devon

Tanja x

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