Yoga goes hand in hand with running. Whether you are looking to increase your PB, reduce recovery time or prevent injury, yoga can bring huge rewards for runners.
Rich Roll, an ultra man world champion believes all athletes (and every human) should practice yoga. He believes the physical benefits are huge but nothing compared with the mental rewards.
Benefits of Yoga for Runners:
- Improves stength, flexibility and mental focus
- Can ease pains in the body the running is aggravating and relieve some of the stress running puts on your body
- Strengths your core, quads, hamstrings and hip flexors helping your run more efficiently and stay injury free
Recovery: It is so important and if you can reduce your recovery as it means more time to train, more time to get those miles in!
Endurance: Yoga teaches you to “endure” or stay pleasant in a pose. Focusing on breathing through uncomfortable asanas. This idea can be taken into your runs. Helping you to endure those long hill climbs!
Freedom: Yoga can bring freedom to your life and therefore your running. It can make you a better runner. It can bring freedom, we as beings are made up of energy and quantum physics has proven that in fact energy is more substantial than matter itself. By practicing yoga we can experience the power of prana (energy) first hand. Sometimes our pranic flow can fluctuate and can manifest as physical sensations, disease and injury. By addressing body, breathe and mind in a holistic way we can clear blockages.
Enjoy the journey: Remember running is not always about crossing that finishing line… Yoga is a practice, it is the act of practicing as well as the end result. In contrast as runners we spend a lot of the time focusing on the end result, that PB or finishing that 10K under 50 minutes. By bringing yoga into our lives it will therefore teach us to enjoy the journey and not solely focus on the end result.
Listening: To increase physical health you have to truly understand the body you are inhabiting. To increase your time, increase your endurance and stamina you have to listen to your body and be kind to that body.
Breath: By learning about the breath you will have an energy source you can tap into when you are running. Practicing yoga has transformed my ability in every sport I practice and has especially helped my running. Connecting your inner breathe with your outer movement is hugely rewarding.
If you are thinking this all sounds great but simply have no idea where to begin…
Firstly you need to choose what style of yoga practice you are going to do. There are so many types of yoga and it is so important to choose a method which is right for you.
For example if you are in your peak training period for a marathon and you are doing long hard runs then a more restorative/yin yoga practice is more suitable. On the other side if you are trying to increase your fitness and speed for a shorter race a more dynamic practice will be better suited to you.
I wanted to present five postures that any runner can practice! No need for any fancy props or even a mat, you can bring these asanas into your normal training routine however you like. Perhaps as a warm-up, a cool down or maybe including them into your rest day routine.
Breathing deeply in these postures is super important. In Yoga we breathe through our nose and aim to have long even, steady breaths. I would recommend holding these postures for five long breaths.
- Toes pose
Feet are so important and how we use our feet can affect our whole running technique. Sometimes we need reminding that everything in our body is connected “the foot bones contacted to the leg bone…”(singing) and hence problems with our feet can trigger pain in other parts of the body from the knees, hips, back, and shoulders. Giving the toes a good stretch will allow them to relax, open up and feel some relief after all that running.Then afterwards they are going to be more efficient and prevent injury/pain in the rest of leg or body. This posture can be quite intense so if you are finding it tough come out of it gently take a breath and come back into it.
2. Kapotasana – Half Pigeon
(You can take a look over your shoulder to make sure your back leg is in alignment and directly behind your hip).
The kapotasana or half pigeon is a great hip opener and buttock stretch. Allowing the hip joints to become more flexible and be able to move with greater ease! This can be hard after a long run but feels so good when you truly relax into it.
3. Utthan Pristhasana – Lizard
(Option one is to stay up with the arms straight, if you are feeling this is a little easy come all the way down on to your forearms).
When we are running our quads and psoas muscles (hip flexors) get super tight! This Lizard posture will stretch quads allowing the leg muscles to strengthen with length and not bulk up. It will lengthen the psoas muscle, help lengthen a shorter leg, lengthen out the lumber vertebrae, stretch the groin and lots of other amazing things. Having a tight psoas muscle can be detrimental. Every time you go on a run you are tightening it that bit more. A tight psoas muscle can also lead to sciatica. So remember to stretch it out!
4. Sucirandhrasana – Thread the needle
This is another great posture for stretching the hamstrings and buttocks and is an affective way of stretching the piriformis. You are also opening up the hips again in this posture which can improve your stride as a runner, as you will have greater ease of movement in the pelvis area.
5. Anjaneyasana – Cresent moon variation
(Starting with crescent moon, lift the navel up, reach the arms high. Then carefully bend the back knee and with interlocked fingers hold the back ankle).
One of my all time favourite stretches in yoga. So good for your quads and hip flexors. It is also a heart opener and a back bend. Super rejuvenating and also creating elasticity in the spine. A lovely posture to finish with.
Real athletes do yoga…
So get yourself down to a yoga class now and start reaping the benefits.