The path to being a better runner goes far beyond doing your typical running drills. Healthy habits, the right equipment, and other exercises can also play a part. However, if picking up another equally-intense activity to improve your running may not be your cup of tea — perhaps you can consider yoga.
Yoga is a mind and body practice that combines physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation. As runners suffer easily from muscle tightness and soreness, this may just give you the perfect balance. After all, as we discussed in our article ‘10 Ways to Shaking Up Your Exercise Routine with Life Style Sports’, switching things up is a great way to keep your muscles from getting bored. That said, take a look at all the benefits that yoga can bring:
1. Yoga strengthens your muscles and keeps you stable
Longtime yoga instructor Stephanie Creaturo explains how yoga moves your body through different planes — front to back, top to bottom, side to side, etc. This wide range of movement strengthens all the muscles you need for an efficient and effective gait, like the core and hamstrings. It also improves your stability, which you’ll enhance in poses like the lunge. With this improved strength and stability, you’ll stay upright longer and maintain good form throughout your run.
2. Yoga decreases injury risk
All that posing and bending loosens up your muscles, keeping them from getting tight, rigid, and prone to injury. In particular, yoga improves the flexibility of your hamstrings, hips, and lower back — oft-injured areas for runners. Physiotherapist Keith Hall details how yoga lengthens the posterior chain, which then ‘opens up’ the hips to relieve tension in your hip flexors, back, and hamstrings. Without this tightness, you’ll be able to run with peace of mind, knowing that you’ve prepared your body well.
3. Yoga teaches you proper breathing
Engaging in physical activities like running makes your body produce more carbon dioxide, which means you’ll need to take in more oxygen. Yoga helps you learn how to best do that, with yoga instructor Anshu Verma noting how breathing exercises such as the Pranayama teaches you to increase oxygen intake in the body by up to five times. By learning these techniques, you’ll be able to breathe more efficiently and avoid gasping for air. As an added benefit, they will even reduce your anxiety and stress.
4. Yoga gets you mentally ‘in the zone’
The benefits of practising your downward dog aren’t just physical and physiological. It also has mental benefits, with marathoner Jessica Skye pointing out how visualisation is a key component of yoga. Visualisation, in turn, can prepare runners mentally for their runs. This is particularly true for marathoners, who often need that extra push to conquer long distances. Visualising success, in this case, helps, as it can centre your focus on the tasks at hand — be it finishing your run, or just training to get better.
5. Yoga helps you pace yourself better
While for some, running is about speed — it still involves some form of control. With yoga, not only will you learn how to be patient and calm, but you’ll also learn self-restraint. By cultivating all these, you won’t be consumed only with being the best, or on beating others. Instead, you’ll find an inner peace that’ll allow you to focus on pacing yourself and enjoying every second of your run.
Article by Sandy Coulson:
Sandy Colson is a fitness blogger who started running at the age of 16, loving the
feel of the breeze and the burn in her legs. These days, however, she has also
taken up various activities such as CrossFit and yoga to take up her time.