Believe it or not, yoga and running are two activities that complement each other perfectly and by combining the two, you are able to maximize the benefits of each.
It is not uncommon for runners to suffer a number of complaints such as shin splints, a bad back, knee problems or painful hamstrings, (not to mention sore feet)! The majority of these issues are caused by a lack of balance. Yoga asanas teach you how to retain excellent posture by distributing weight equally throughout the body and using the whole surface of the feet.
Improving your core balance and stability minimizes the stress that is often placed on various parts of the body due to imbalance, which in turn improves your running performance.
Stretching Before Running
We all know the importance of stretching before a run, because cold muscles are more prone to damage. When muscles are supple they work far more effectively as shock absorbers, protecting our joints from excessive wear and tear.
I always make time for a short but rigorous sequence of yoga asanas before a run to loosen the key muscles that tend to be most tight and subsequently minimize the risk of injury. Having experienced painful injuries in the past that have prevented me from running at times, these days I wouldn’t dream of skipping this vital yoga session before a run. As well as looking after my body and preventing injury, this yoga session leaves me feeling energized and I find it makes my run more enjoyable overall.
Without sufficient oxygen, your body cannot operate or perform efficiently, so perfecting your breathing technique has a significant impact on your running ability. Your muscles depend on a constant oxygen supply, to give you the strength you need to keep running.
Correct breathing techniques are a primary focus when practicing yoga and the techniques learnt and mastered whilst perfecting asanas, help you to maximise the quantity of oxygen you take in, making a substantial difference to your endurance and the distance you are able to run.
Being aware of your breathing is a key feature of yoga and helps you to relieve your body and mind of unnecessary tension.
Training Your Body and Mind
Yoga teaches you how to train not only the body but the mind too, in order to strike a balance between the two, helping you to respect your body’s limitations at any given time. As a runner it is vital to be aware of and tuned in to the signals your body gives out in order to pace yourself and avoid injury. It is all too easy to push yourself a step too far out of sheer determination, particularly when your pain is being masked by an excess of those wonderful ‘feel good’ endorphins.
Never ignore what your body is telling you! It is essential to know when it is time to give your body a break.
A yoga teacher will encourage you to be aware of your body and your breathing throughout each stage of the class. This develops your awareness of your breathing and the way each part of your body moves. Gradually this awareness of your breathing and movement naturally transfers over to your running, helping you to focus on and develop your running technique.
A restorative yoga session following a run helps your body to recover. Rather than simply stretching half-heartedly, the right combination of yoga poses are ideal for relaxing and reversing muscle tightness, helping you to really stretch out and loosen up after a run. Even when you feel completely wasted after a run, instead of collapsing in a heap and neglecting to stretch out properly, make time to relax with a little yoga – what better way to relax than with the ‘dead pose’!
Partners For Life
There are so many reasons to incorporate yoga into your running regime these two activities make wonderful, complimentary partners. When paired together they can make you feel more powerful, more flexible, more relaxed and improve your running ability significantly.
Yoga has made me a far better runner than I ever imagined I could become by making me stronger, faster and perhaps most importantly, injury free.
But don’t just take my word for it. Why not check out yoga and experience for yourself the effect the warrior pose, the hero pose or the downward facing dog can have on your running ability!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Felix is a member of the team at Utopian Retreats - a luxury eco retreat in La Finca Paradiso, Spain. You will find everything you need there for creative, corporate or spiritual courses and amazing private holidays with your family and friends in a stunning location.