Most dedicated runners often approach their grueling sport with a one-track mind. Runners are often told that incorporating yoga into their regimens can yield extreme benefits. Muscles that profit from a yoga practice include hamstrings, hip flexors, quads, abdominals, IT band, glutes, lower back and even your feet. You could say that the benefits are innumerable.
Here are some common questions runners have when it comes to incorporating yoga into their weekly sweat sessions. And don’t miss the the videos below that teach you how to complete yoga poses that are ideal for runners.
Why should runners practice yoga?
Not only does yoga elongate your muscles, but it also aids in muscle recovery and helps prevent injuries (and helps tremendously with stiffness)—all crucial for runners. If you’re seriously into running, why not do all you can to reduce your risk of injury? It’s no secret runners are prone to injury.
What if I don’t have a lot of time for yoga?
If you already log a lot of miles during the week, finding even more time for yoga may seem impossible. This is a question Cari Merriam with CorePower Yoga gets a lot. If you’re short on time and looking to create more flexibility in your legs, hamstrings, quads, and calves, Cari suggests forward folds, half splits, standing splits with jivamukti squats, pyramid pose, extended hand to big toe pose, Lord of the Dance pose and downward dog crossing one heel over the other—holding each for 3-5 breaths. Modify as needed.
You can also make time for yoga right when you wake up with these five morning yoga hacks.
Can you practice yoga and run in the same day? Is one better to do before the other?
Short answer: It depends. “This is dependent based on what type of yoga you are practicing,” Cari says. “A good rule of thumb is to do active yoga postures to engage core and warm up large muscles groups prior to running. For example, if your routine prior to running includes active postures like crescent lunge, warrior II, chair, squats, or lunges, after you run you want to incorporate more passive stretching—think half splits, runners lunge, supine figure four, forward folds.”
Other than stretching, how can yoga improve my runs?
April Jackson, co-founder of the fitness and lifestyle consultancy Sweat Everyday, gets this question a lot. “Yoga can benefit a runner’s gait through the balance and stability they work through in the yoga practice. Balance and stability improves the runner’s posture, allowing for a smoother stride and improved gait,” she says. “Yoga also helps runners improve their breathing by using diaphragmatic breathing, which helps runners improve aerobic endurance, allowing them to runner farther.”
Cara Gilman, a Massachusetts-based running coach and yoga teacher, agrees. “Yoga brings balance to your overworked muscles and provides the strength you need to support your running so you can do it more efficiently. Yoga is also strategic in helping you learn to meditate and focus yourself in the mental game of running, allowing you to challenge and push yourself,” she says.
How can yoga improve my mental endurance and keep me motivated?
“In yoga we create an intention or mantra, something to bring the mind back to when chatter erupts in the thoughts,” says Cari. “Utilize the same mindfulness in yoga and create an intention or mantra when you are running. When the mind turns on and tells you you can’t run any longer, conquer your thoughts by repeating your mantra. Maybe your mantra is something like, ‘I am strong, I am at peace, I am committed.’ ”
Is there a rule to balancing running and yoga?
It’s different for every athlete, but balance is key. Long runs should be balanced with a more relaxing type of yoga. “There are many styles of yoga to choose from to keep your body balanced and ready for more runs. To compliment your heavy training cycles, try a restorative yoga class for less intensive moves and more relaxed breathing and stretching. During the offseason, try a power yoga to build core strength, balance and endurance,” explains Shahin Naghavi, owner of Yoga EaDo in Houston.
Overall, it’s about doing what feels good to you and treating your body with love. Try out some different poses, experiment with various run+yoga programs, and give your body time to adapt to this new practice. Yoga is all about being kind to yourself, so don’t worry if it takes a bit to settle into a new routine.
—by Jayme Lamm
Yoga Poses that Are Beneficial for Runners
This pose will help to strengthen your hips, hamstrings and core areas. You will also gain a better sense of balance, keeping you more efficient on your run.
This pose strengthens your upper back, fires up your core strength, and creates space in your hips and hamstrings—very important because running creates tightness in the hips and hamstrings.
Correctly aligned back bends are critical for runners because hunching over can create poor running biomechanics. Back bends strengthen the postural muscles that help keep us running tall and strong. They also help stretch the front of the body, such as the hip flexors and quads.
Photo by Ali Kaukas for Wanderlust.