Yoga for Runners
I have been teaching yoga to athletes of all sports for many years and have seen how it can benefit them in a multitude of ways. As I have always loved to run, naturally I love to share the benefits of yoga with fellow runners.
Here are my main reasons for a runner to incorporate yoga into his or her training programme:
1. Release tension through stretching with full body awareness – yoga is not merely stretching. By moving mindfully, that’s with complete awareness of what you are doing, you become more in tune with what your body needs and can then move deeper into a stretch or back off when your body needs to.
2. Reduce risk of injury by safely strengthening muscles – yoga is not only about stretching and increasing flexibility. It is an excellent way to safely increase muscle strength and effectively build up joint stability – protecting knees, hips and ankles from running injuries. Runners can also benefit hugely from developing more core strength to improve posture and gait.
3. Increase lung capacity with breathing techniques – conscious breathing is a big part of yoga. Time movements with the breath to learn how to breath ‘properly’ and practise breathing exercises to increase your lung capacity. Become more mindful of how you breath so that you can breath deeply and bring in that extra required oxygen at the end of a race!
4. Optimise recovery – stretching and re-lengthening your muscles after a race or training run combined with allowing them to relax, will prompt much quicker recovery, so that you will be ready for that next run refreshed.
5. Improve performance – essentially, if you optimise your recovery in between sessions you can train harder. In addition, you are lessening the risk of injury and improving your strength, posture, gait and breathing.
6. Develop mental focus – through challenging postures and learning to time movements with the breath to calm and focus the mind. Many top sports clubs (including the All Blacks) do yoga primarily for the mental focus it gives.
7. Increase flexibility and balance – almost all runners have tight muscles due to the repetitive contractions of the movements involved, but re-lengthening these muscles with conscious stretches not only releases tension and reduces risk of injury but will help to improve your stride. This is particularly beneficial for trail runners who have to vary the length of their stride depending on the terrain. Balance is key here also when running over and around natural obstacles!