How Yoga Can Help Runners
Posted by Tia Patel | JUN-25-2020
When you think of yoga, what image does your imagination conjure up?
Young, flexible, skinny individuals who can bend and flex with ease? Older, silver haired women, lay on the floor surrounded by cushions and crystals? Hippies in tie dye trousers?
Typically when we imagine ourselves tied up in knots, or practicing deep breathing to the sounds of the waves, you may be thinking………..this ain’t for me!
Yoga incorporates physical poses, breathing techniques and mediation. There are different variations all presenting a range of benefits for both your physical and mental health.
From Bikram yoga which takes place in a heated room, leaving you in a sweaty mess with your heart pumping, to Hatha yoga, a static form which works your physical posture to align and calm your mind, body and spirit. You can even go for “Doga” if you fancy partnering up with your dog to build a deeper bond. Finally, Vinyasa, a quicker form of yoga which works through the flows between the poses more readily.
We can all be Yogis!
But what if we told you that yoga IS for everyone, including us runners. In fact yoga has some amazing benefits for a runner's body and mind, whilst aiding performance and preventing injury.
Read on to find out how yoga can transform your running and we’ll have you in a handstand scorpion in no time!
The Benefits of Yoga Running
The strength and conditioning poses in yoga can be used to train the lower body and core, helping you to gain power as you run. So if you’re looking for a 5k personal best the next time you’re pounding the pavement, yoga might just be the answer!
The primary goal of yoga is to establish a mental focus which is achieved by learning to control your breathing and take deeper breaths, utilising the deepest parts of your lungs. Research in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2004) found that yoga practices including 30 minutes of breathing (two sets of 15 minutes a day) significantly improved cardio-respiratory performance. The breathing exercises in yoga help to improve elasticity of the lungs whilst improving lung function which will make it easier to run faster and further.
A 2019 American Heart Association’s Hypertension Scientific Sessions Study researched the effect of yoga on the heart and found that partaking in both hot-yoga and room-temperature yoga can have huge benefits including the strengthening the heart muscle.
Yoga for Running Recovery
Yoga is the perfect recovery activity post run or, on a rest day, to relieve soreness and tension in the muscles.
The poses used in yoga encourage stretching which increases blood flow to the muscles, releasing tension and tightness to increase the range of motion. Runners will benefit from increased hip extension as this is the origin of our power!
Poses and positions which elevate your legs up against the wall will allow the muscles in your legs, feet and back to relax whilst stretching your hamstrings and glutes. All of these areas of your body are being pushed when you run so incorporating these yoga poses into your routine will help the muscles to recover.
The downward dog and low lunge are great for strengthening muscles and tendons which increase flexibility in ligaments, decreasing the risk of muscle strains and tears, reducing the chances of injury and allowing your body to recover better and faster in time for your next run.
It was a bit of a stretch...
But we’ve bent over backwards to find the best poses and positions to help you improve your running technique!
We invited yoga teacher @carlaturner_leoga to share some tips with us!
1. Lizard pose targets hamstrings, hip flexors and quads. Target Area = Hips + Thighs
2. Lunge section is great for back leg hip flexor, the hinge back motion stretches front leg hamstring. Target Area = Hips + Hamstrings
3. Pigeon or the alternative Thread the Needle stretches and eases tension in the glutes. Target Area = Glutes
So there really is no excuse! Stay injury free on the road and give yoga a go!