The benefits of Yoga for Runners
Updated: Oct 11, 2020
Running is a great natural healthy exercise. It keeps you fit, burns calories, releases endorphins, provides stress relief and allows you to unplug and focus on the moment.
However, running is a repetitive motion that can put a lot of stress on your joints and muscles. It tightens and contracts muscles and can cause muscle breakdown in long-distance runners, making you prone to injury.
You might have heard that you shouldn't spend 100% of your dedicated training time just running and instead be doing more cross-training, stretching, and strengthening which can be covered by yoga.
Being a certified yoga instructor and a runner myself, let me share with you some of the benefits of yoga for runners:
Benefits of Yoga for Runners
While running tends to shorten muscles yoga helps to lengthen and relax tight muscles. Deep, long holding yoga postures result in muscle relaxation and boost blood circulation, literally greasing your joints and muscles which supports healing and recovery.
Strengthening yoga postures build up and rebuild relevant muscle groups such as legs and the so-called "Runners core" (= glutes, hips, lower back & abdominal muscles).
Strengthening yoga poses also strengthen muscles in often neglected, yet important areas such as feet and ankles. If core and leg muscles are strong enough, they work in harmony, promoting running efficiency, avoiding overuse, and preventing injury.
As runners, we often get lost in our miles and forget to listen carefully to our bodies. During Yoga, you can take time to focus inwards bringing back your awareness to your body's needs. Do you experience fatigue or intense muscle soreness? If yes, it might be time to pause and give your body a break before those niggles turn into an injury.
Running is a one-legged exercise, so you can't spend enough time on single leg balance postures. Single leg yoga postures strengthen the stabilizing muscles of the lower leg making your feet and ankles more resilient to the demands of running.
Strengthens Body & Mind:
Yoga helps to strengthen the body and the mind. By holding yoga postures for a longer period of time you do not only have to prove physical strength, but also willpower and mental strength. This can be beneficial in moments of physical and mental weakness, for instance during a race or a hard training session.
While practicing yoga we apply deep abdominal breathing, also called "diaphragmatic breathing". This means deep breathing through your belly rather than flat breathing through your chest. Belly breathing is the most efficient breathing during running. It gives your brain and muscles the best supply of oxygen and improves stamina. It releases physical and mental tension, providing you with more energy and helping with endurance on your long runs. Learn more about How to breathe while running.
Tips for your own yoga practice
1. Practise yoga when your body is warm - after a warm shower or after an EASY run.
2. Make it a short and sweet routine. Practicing 2 - 3 times a week for about 15 minutes will do it.
3. Hold each yoga posture for around 30- 45 seconds which equates to 3-4 breaths.
4. Listen carefully to your body and do not overstretch. You should feel good pain, no bad pain.
5. Do not compare yourself to others, it is about your own practice and becoming better than you used to be. Your progress will surely come with practice.
Here is a 15 minutes Yoga for Runners routine: