Benefits of Yoga for Runners
We are familiar with the many benefits of yoga for the mind and body. Here we look at how this can help with running, particularly how incorporating yoga practice with a training plan for a challenging run such as a marathon can be incredibly effective.
Top 6 benefits of yoga for runners:
1. Intention, focus, concentration, practice and patience
If you are planning on running a long run such as a marathon, it is important to stay focused on the goal. This will help you keep motivated through training and when things get tough in the race itself. This is similar to setting the intention at the start of a yoga practice. Holding the postures improves our concentration and focus.
We are also taught patience in yoga. You need to build up to some of the more challenging poses and some days are not as easy as others. We have to accept this. This is the same as when we start training for a run. We cannot expect to run a marathon straight away and on some days our performance will not be a strong as it is on other days. Understanding this helps us let the bad days go, keeps us dedicated to the long-term plan and we don’t give up and keep practicing even when things feel difficult.
2. Warm up and recovery
Some of the yoga poses can be used as warm up stretches before starting a run. Those that warm up the hamstrings are particularly effective such as the forward fold, downward dog or lunges.
Stretching is also important for recovery; it reduces muscle soreness and improves flexibility. The legs up the wall pose can ease weary legs and encourages effective blood circulation
3. Physical benefits
There are many physical benefits from yoga asana that compliment running:
- Flexibility, strength, balance & posture – yoga postures work on improving the body in all these areas. Not only will this train the body to be more powerful on the track but it will also limit aches, pains and injuries which can seriously hinder a training plan
- Hamstrings – The Hamstrings are one of the most important muscles used in running. Poses which strengthen and lengthen these muscles such as standing or seated forward folds and lunges can help.
- Hips – running can cause the hips to tighten up so hip openers such as the warrior poses, lunges and pigeon pose can counter this.
- Core strengthening – the limbs are powered from the core so a strong core makes these movements more productive.
4. Understanding your body
Our body awareness improves with yoga. We accept our limitations and identify days when we are not feeling as strong as other days. Understanding this in a training program helps us to be more successful in knowing when to push ourselves and when we need to hold back to avoid the risk of injury or burn out.
Yoga teaches us to breathe properly. Increasing lung capacity and regulating breath improves the effectiveness of oxygen and CO2 transfer in the body which is incredibly important for fueling the body during a run.
It is important that the body physically relaxes between training. Yoga trains us how to relax the muscles of the body, avoiding tension being held in the muscles so that we allow them to recover properly. Completing a feat such as a marathon can also be mentally stressful, particularly if you place high expectations on yourself or are running for a charitable cause and are worried about letting people down. Yoga helps us de-stress.
When preparing for a challenging run such as a marathon, you may have to consider reducing some other forms of exercise in order to fit in the hours of running practice that your training plan requires. Given the many benefits yoga can provide to runners, this is something that you will perhaps want to incorporate. You can also change the type of yoga you do as the training progresses. More intense power yoga practice may help in the beginning when you are strengthening the body and the runs are shorter. As the distance increases however, a more relaxed practice will then compliment the training well.
Written by Sarah Williams. Sarah is a Qualified Yoga Teacher based in London with an online presence on Instagram and Facebook. She also blogs about yoga and health & well being topics on her website. Sarah’s focus is Vinyasa Flow, Hatha and Ashtanga styles of yoga and she completed part of her yoga teacher training in India. https://sarahlucyyoga.wixsite.com/yoga, @sarahlucyyoga