Any athlete, including runners, knows that a strong, healthy body is necessary for success. We can achieve this in countless ways and it is usually dependent on our sport of choice. It only makes sense that if you’re a runner, you need to run to stay in tip top shape. It is also important, however, to focus on every part of our body– including our mind– to achieve optimal conditioning.
Yoga is a practice that originated thousands of years ago in India. Breathing techniques and postures, or poses, are used to increase flexibility, strength, and mental wellness. These benefits have led many people of differing ages, physical abilities, and backgrounds to make yoga a part of their daily lives.
Today, yoga practices have evolved to fit the needs and interests of anyone who has a mat. It has become more accessible due to social media and the many in-person studios and gyms that are open to anyone who is interested. In itself, yoga can be practiced anywhere and at any time. All you need is a mat, a place to put it and the desire to
“Considering the many health benefits of stepping on the mat, everyone—and we mean everyone—should be jumping on the yoga train.”-Karen Asp (Yogajournal)
3 Benefits of Yoga for Runners
Yoga is a beneficial practice for anyone, whether it is done alone or in conjunction with another sport. Here, I will explain how yoga can benefit runners specifically.
- Enhances Balance and Strength
It is important for runners to be in tune with their body and any imbalance or pain. Yoga integrates mind, body, and breath as a whole in every action you take. This can prevent injury and enhance muscle growth. Certain yoga poses will bring balance to your body through supporting your skeletal system and strengthening the deep structure within your muscles.
According to an article on healthline.com, “Engaging in regular practice allows you to work on balance, strength, and range of motion throughout your entire body. You can tune in and really feel where one muscle doesn’t match another or where you may have weaknesses.”
For runners, as we strengthen our muscles through our yoga practice, we will provide our bodies with stability and this, in turn, will strengthen our running practice.
2. Prevents Injury
As mentioned above, yoga can prevent injury and enhance muscle growth. Yoga flows that focus on stretching increase blood flow to your muscles and improve the range of motion to your joints. According to the Mayo Clinic,
Better flexibility may:
- Improve your performance in physical activities.
- Decrease your risk of injuries
- Help your joints move through their full range of motion.
- Enable your muscles to work more effectively.
When not addressed, muscle imbalances, tightness, and weakness can lead to injury. Another thing to avoid is overuse, which can lead to aches and pains, or take you off the trail altogether. Practicing yoga regularly will allow you to focus on balance and symmetry from head to toe.
3. Improves Breathing
Central to any physical activity, especially running, is effective breathing.
Breathing in yoga is synonymous with breathing while running. Breathwork is essential to effective yoga practice. Similarly, while running, breathing in rhythm with your strides improves your endurance. A yoga practice that focuses on breathing techniques, such as Pranayama, will have a positive effect on breathing while running.
According to a study conducted by the International Journal of Science, “regular practice of yogic breathing techniques can improve breathing awareness/patterns during rest or exercise”.
If you want to up your game during training and racing, a yoga flow focusing on breathwork is definitely worth trying.
Where do I start?
With the wide range of yoga practices available online, you can start right in your living room! If you prefer to start your yoga practice in person, there are countless yoga classes available in any city or town. Most gyms offer free yoga classes with membership.
Personally, I prefer practicing yoga in the comfort of my own home. I have found that the YouTube channel, psychetruth offers a great variety of yoga flows and breathwork. One of my favorite yogis is Adriene and I would suggest her Yoga for Runners practice.
I hope that this article was helpful. I truly enjoy yoga and the benefits just make it a great fit for me. Have fun trying this practice as you continue your journey along the trail!