Top Tips and Best Benefits • Yoga Basics

Most people consider yoga and running to be completely opposite sides of the exercise spectrum, but more and more athletes are discovering how these two activities complement each other and are a great combination for cross training. It is no longer uncommon for top fitness trainers to incorporate yoga into bespoke strength training programs for runners or to witness events across the country that combine a 3-mile run with yoga and meditation. Yogis start running to get more cardio for their weekly workouts, while runners flock to yoga classes to reduce the risk of running-related injuries, improve their mental game, and develop overall strength and endurance to improve their running speed. Why is yoga a great addition to running?

7 ways yoga will make you a better runner

1. Yoga activates all joints and muscle groups

Running is a repetitive activity that involves using the same set of muscles and joints over a long period of time. This creates an imbalanced muscle system that is prone to injury or chronic pain.

The strength and flexibility you develop when you add yoga to your repertoire promotes overall body balance and increases the overall stability of your core strength. A well-conditioned core helps muscle groups work in sync with one another and prevents extraneous movement of the core. This allows you to run more efficiently and stay injury-free. Many yoga poses help stretch and strengthen the hamstrings, hips, hip flexors, thighs, quads, and calves – all areas that can be exhausted from running.

2. Yoga increases focus and confidence

Yoga isn't just a physical exercise – there is mental and emotional work on the mat that can increase your focus, focus, and determination. A typical yoga class includes an asana yoga sequence, mindful breathing, meditation, and active body awareness. These techniques calm the mind and clear away emotional and mental clutter. They are key for runners who need to focus on performance rather than the stressors of the day. With practice, runner yogis can learn to efficiently transpose negative thoughts and ignore distractions that arise during competitive running.

3. Yoga breathing improves lung capacity

Yoga training involves a form of controlled breathing known as pranayama, which helps runners conserve energy and strengthen the lungs. By improving your lung capacity, you can maintain a consistent breathing pattern in all types of runs, from tempo runs to distance runs. Many modern runners have also discovered that practicing calming pranayama like Nadi Sodhana before a competitive run reduces the fear of jitter before the race.

4. Yoga increases flexibility

Another benefit of combining yoga and running is that it improves the general flexibility of muscle tissue and increases the range of motion in your joints. One of the main advantages of having flexible muscles and joints is that they lead to a longer stride and thus increase speed. Flexibility and greater freedom of movement also help reduce the chances of pulling a muscle or spraining an ankle during exercise or a race.

5. Yoga promotes relaxation

Because yoga is not a competitive sport, it provides runners with the mental and emotional balance needed to undress before or after a competition. An indirect benefit of yoga is that it calms the nervous system and promotes better sleep. Every runner knows that if he spends the night before a competition throwing and spinning, he will not be ahead!

6. Yoga develops body awareness

Developing the body awareness that results from following a yoga regimen will help runners more easily identify the signals of pain or discomfort sent by the body. Paying attention to these signals by focusing on physical sensations can help runners avoid injury and know when it is time to make cuts or when they are ready to add a little more time to each session. This cultivation of body wisdom and awareness also brings with it a better general understanding of the body and how it works, which could further enhance performance.

7. Yoga relieves tension and pain

Increasingly, runners who are injured during training or a race seek relief by practicing yoga during the healing process. Gentle and relaxing yoga poses support the healing process by activating the body's lymphatic system and improving local blood circulation. The slow, gentle movements of yoga also strengthen tissue as it heals, and it is possible for even chronic injuries to self-correct through a mindful practice of yoga.

Yoga for running tips

Find the right style for you

There are many different types of yoga and each has a different intensity and involves different breathing exercises and yoga poses. This diversity enables runners to develop a highly customized yoga cross-training program that suits their specific needs and preferences. Try different classes, yoga teachers, and styles to see what works best for your personality, running style, and training level. As you train hard and collect more kilometers, stick with relaxing and gentle sessions like hatha, yin, and restorative yoga. If, on the other hand, you discharge, you can also take more demanding Vinyasa, Ashtanga or Power Yoga classes.

Is Yoga Best Before or After Running?

Doing a few yoga poses to warm up before you run will help warm and prep your muscles before you begin. Running before yoga warms the body, which allows muscles to stretch deeper into various yoga poses. On non-running days, yoga can be a great cross-training activity to help balance the body. It is recommended that runners practice a full 60-90 minute yoga session two to three times a week.

The best yoga poses for runners

The best series of poses to complement running would be asanas that strengthen the upper body and core, and postures that extend the legs deeply. Try incorporating the following asanas into your yoga routine:

Our beginner's guide to yoga

Are you new to yoga but ready to experience the benefits and performance gains of combining yoga and running? Check out our Yoga for Beginners section! It contains helpful articles to help you get started in your new yoga practice.

Yoga for Beginners →

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