Yoga Makes You Sweat, Too
Runners typically like to sweat. A lot. We love a good, hard run and the feeling of intense well being we get (runner's high!). Some people may think that yoga is all "oms" and no sweat or challenges. And as runners, we love a good challenge. Which is why higher intensity yogas are great for runners. They give us the challenging atmosphere we crave while still allowing our bodies to heal and stretch from runs, not to mention add in strength gains. If you crave a good sweat, try classes with words like power, flow, vinyasa, ashtanga or hot yoga in the name. Some studios label classes by level, so try one of the higher level classes (only if you've done some lower level classes to get techniques, breathing, etc. down).
The most obvious benefit of yoga for runners is increased flexibility. Everyone knows yoga involves lots of stretching- which is a key element most runners need badly yet don't get enough of. Running is repetitive movement that uses the same muscle groups over and over, leading those muscle groups to get overworked and overstressed...which of course, leads to injury. Doing yoga regularly stretches out the muscle groups that get repetitively overused during runs. And not in a 'hold for 10 seconds' kind of cheating way most runners use- real, deep stretches that help keep ligaments and muscles supple and loose. Poses like twisting half moon get into the hard-to-stretch IT band, while pigeon gets deep into the glute area and hip flexor muscles.
Twisting Half Moon:
There are various styles of yoga that run the gamut in degree of difficulty but almost all offer a strengthening component for your muscles. Poses like warrior poses, chair, inversions (headstands), bridge and tons of others focus on legs, glutes, and upper body strength. Most yoga classes also involve some ab work, offering up the perfect total body conditioning class.
Balances Out Muscle Groups
Running injuries are typically the result of overuse and muscle imbalances, and yoga can help balance these issues by working both sides of the body, together and separately. It also happens to target some of the key muscles that runners could use some help with. For example, hip rotators are strengthened and balanced by poses like warrior 3, and through standing balance poses like tree.
Offers Mental Health and Breathing Benefits
There is such a thing as runner's high, and if that's what you are after, say helloooo to yoga. Well known for its mental health and stress reduction properties, a key element of yoga is getting into a flow. Getting into the flow is similar to the focused sensation you get from running- that point in your run where the outside world is completely tuned out and its just you and your feet. Yoga's basis is the breath- ujjayi breathing is a technique that helps to turn your focus inward during yoga, allowing you to reach that same sensation. This also can help with breathing properly on your runs, as mentioned in this post about breathing techniques.
How to Run and Do Yoga
Its easy! You can do yoga once or twice a week, or you can really get the benefits of yoga and running by simply alternating each. Run one day, do yoga the next, then run, then yoga. This allows for rest in between each workout while getting the benefits of the other. Either way, you'll notice a big difference in your runs by adding yoga to your routine.
Here are some yoga resources from some of my favorite LA area teachers:
You can also take classes at home through Yogavibes.com and through various videos on youtube.
What's your favorite yoga pose for running?