Lately, more and more runners are turning to yoga. Many know they ‘should’ do yoga but don’t know why, don’t want to schedule one more workout or don’t know where to start. Don’t be that runner! Here are five reasons why every runner needs yoga and a few specific poses that will complement your running program.
Any runner can lose his or her balance, regardless of training surface, but balance is vital if you’re a trail-runner. Good balance will stabilize ankles, improve posture, help you avoid tripping and, when you do trip, help you avoid falling.
Try Dancer’s Pose: Start standing, bend right knee and reach back to grab foot or ankle with palm and inner elbow facing out. Repeat on the other side. This will improve balance and posture, strengthen muscles of standing leg and open shoulders and chest.
2. Mind-body connection
Whether you’ve never signed up for a race, or you have a dozen marathons under your belt, you know that running is a physical and mental exercise. Having breath control and mental concentration can get you through a running slump or through that last mile to the finish line of any race.
Try Counted Breathing: Sit comfortably with closed eyes and count up to three as you inhale through the nose then count down from three as you exhale through the nose or mouth. Without force, begin to count higher. Continue for up to 5 minutes. This will help decrease stress, relax the mind and improve mental concentration.
If you’re looking to increase your distance without increasing the wear and tear on your body, have a little fun on your mat. Yoga can teach you to become ‘lighter on your feet’ and, therefore, make running a longer distance feel easier and require less energy.
Try a Hop: From Down Dog, practice jumping forward on your mat. Begin by jumping a few inches forward until you can do so very quietly and gradually increase the distance until you can reach the top of the mat without much sound.
Every runner needs to cross-train, and yoga is a great way to multi-task since many poses are both great for flexibility and strength. In addition, while running is obviously a forward-moving exercise, a yoga practice will move the body in all planes of motion including lateral movement and rotation.
Try Warrior II: Take a wide stance with feet parallel and about 3.5-4 feet apart. Turn right foot to face forward and line up your right heel with the instep of your left foot. Keep shoulders relaxed as you extend your arms so that your right arm reaches forward and left arm reaches back. This pose will stretch arms, open hips and strengthen the muscles of the legs and glutes.
5. Injury Prevention
All of the above will contribute to injury prevention, but increasing flexibility is one of the best ways to avoid overuse injury and to ward off strains, especially if you’re an infrequent runner or a weekend warrior.
Try Downward-Facing Dog: Start on hands and knees, tuck toes, lift knees and press hips up and back, away from hands. Legs do not need to be straight and heels do not need to touch the mat, but you should feel a stretch in the backs of the legs. This will stretch the calves and hamstrings and strengthen the arms, shoulders and back to improve posture.
If you’re looking for a little more than yoga, try these natural ways to help you recover after exercise.