Yoga benefits runners in many ways and I can vouch for this from personal experience.
Running is a high intensity workout which can cause soreness on the calve muscle and tightness in the hamstring, joint pain in knees and ankles and cause breathlessness. Despite all of its benefits it is a fact that there is a greater likelihood of a heart attack due to an increased demand on the heart for blood supply and the causing of joint damage due to the increased impact on the joints which whilst running is 4 times the body weight!
The regular practice of yoga can help counteract the downside of running so that you can continue to enjoy the running highs without injury.
A daily yoga routine is guaranteed to achieve for you; greater flexibility, greater strength, greater mental focus and last but not least the most desired prize … a faster pace !
Your yoga practice will allow you to achieve your goals and aspirations without injury.
Studies have shown that yoga squashes stress, aides weight loss, eases pain, helps people to stick to exercise routines.
So there’s no time to waste, roll out that mat to become fitter and stronger . But, Remember to focus on yourself and not what the person next to you can do . Realise there’s a lot to gain from a less than perfect practise.
The most important 5 exercises for runners to the hit those tight spots, develop deeper core strength and keep you safe from injury while you run are :-
1. Low Lunge – Anjaney Asana – this is a runner’s godsend, this will allow you to open up the whole of the front of leg ( the quadriceps ) as well as your front hip muscles. All of these muscles tend to become tight after hours of running. Hold this stretch while warm up for at least 20-30 seconds on each side.
2. Pigeon – Kapot Asana – this pose is going to work to open the outer portion of your hips , as well as gluteus and lower back muscles. These are the areas that can be tight in runners and over tightness can lead to injury. This pose can be quite intense even for the most mobile so approach with care and compassion.
3. Plank – Santolan Asana – this is a great one, because good core strength is a must to prevent injury. Having good core strength and awareness is also going to help ensure you have proper form when you are running and not getting lazy in the upper body. Practise planks mindfully for 30-60 seconds a day.
4. Boat – Nauk Asana – this second core pose is really great for lower abdominals, as well as for muscles that work to support the spine. Again achieving great abdominal strength and awareness is going to help you run injury for a lot longer than if you have lazy core muscles practise at least 5 rounds of 5 breaths a day.
5. Cow face – Gomukasana – Another amazing pose for the outer hips as well as for the upper body. Many people get into the habit of hunching their shoulders or really tightening their upper body while running, this will help counter that . It is recommended to sit in this position for at least 20-30 seconds on each side a day or at least each day you run.
Additionally, holding challenging poses builds that tenacity that will pay off in your running.
Here are some pre and post running stretches to include in your practice as well
Elite Athletes not only have a physical side to their greatness but also have built up their mental stamina and will have techniques to deal with pressure and set backs. Having a plan in place is what is required. Managing stress can be done through techniques like meditation, relaxation and visualisations. Such techniques are routinely practised in yoga.
Runners who practise yoga will see an improvement in focus, balance, strength, a shortened recovery time, a lowered risk of injury, a better posture and most importantly whilst out pounding the pavements or treadmill there is a gateway for practise of breath control that can lead to a mediative experience!
Slavica Gokul is a certified Vinyasa, Hatha and Power yoga teacher through Total Yoga in Bangalore, India. She has been an aspiring yogi for more than 20 years. She dedicated herself to consistent practice 9 years ago and while residing in India from 2012-14 underwent teacher training.