Many people think of yoga as only a relaxing, meditation type of exercise session. Yoga has many physical and mental benefits that can be a great resource to add to your training as a runner, and to use as a very efficient cross-training activity. Yoga has many physical benefits that can help strengthen and balance all our muscles, also add flexibility and loosen some tight muscles.
What is Yoga?
Modern yoga is a series of postures derived from hatha/vinyasa-based practices, but it includes a large spectrum of movements that can help rebalance and strengthen our muscles and relax our brain.
Use Yoga as a Training Tool
We all know that yoga has great mental benefits, but it also has many physical benefits for runners. It can improve the range of motion, mobility and functional flexibility, improve strength, stability, which will make our body healthier and more resilient. Runners can benefit from the usual stretching, strength or stabilization training to deal with chronic tightness and weaknesses that are caused by distance running, intense training or long seating workdays. These issues will get worse if ignored, and yoga is a great easy option to resolve these common issues.
The type of yoga that is most useful for runners is more of the basic movements, stretching, and some core strengthening movements. Yoga poses for runners don’t have to include the toughest or fanciest poses, but some of the basic flexibility and stretching movements can be useful to increase flexibility of runner’s important muscles. Yoga is very efficient to release all the hip muscles, back muscles, chest, hamstrings and quads. Releasing tightness, strengthening and activating these muscles will look after a runner’s running form, posture and injury prevention.
Why Runners Should Include Yoga Sessions
1. For warm ups and cool downs
To include some yoga exercises to warm up before a run will increase the flexibility, activate the important running muscles. After a run, yoga poses are a good recovery tool that we can perform anywhere post-run, outside or at home. Even on recovery or rest days, adding a yoga session with deep stretches, dynamic range of motion exercises to restorative postures, these will look after the movements we do while running or even in our daily lives. Yoga will balance our body.
2. For performance
Yoga exercises are movements used to enhance our running performance. They include both dynamic range of motion and strength-based movements that are similar to movements we do while running. Yoga exercises for runners are focused on balance, strength, stability and flexibility, to balance the bodies for higher performance.
3. For cross-training
Yoga can be a great cross-training session. It can help form a deeper body awareness, postural awareness of alignment and mind-body connection which is crucial for runners and especially long-distance runners. For ultrarunners, it is best to perform a yoga session for the things you need to work on, the muscles you have some issues with, in order to be able to enjoy all those long-distance runs. It is not complicated, even a few specific yoga poses can be very efficient and you will see some nice progress and results.
Yoga Sessions for Runners
To start doing yoga exercises you don’t have to be very flexible, after a few sessions you will see some improvement already in the flexibility and mobility. Running does not make us inflexible, it is caused by our body type and lack of stretching. Runners don’t need super flexible hamstrings or hypermobility in the hip joints to run, we only need healthy flexibility in the muscles and healthy range of motion in the joints. For runners, extreme flexibility and hypermobility can even cause lack of stability and increase the risk of injuries. When performing yoga, runners should not perform extreme stretching poses, just focus on comfortable poses and exercises where you feel the nice release of muscles tightness, and the increase of mobility in the joints. As a runner, you can modify traditional poses to focus more on the body part you are working on, and every yoga pose can be modified to adjust to your body type. One of the great benefits of yoga sessions, is that they can be performed in a yoga studio, or according to a busy schedule, it can be done at home, or even in a hotel when travelling. You can find good yoga sessions for runners on many websites.