Article In Runners World by Annie Rice | 29 January 2018
Practising regular yoga will help your running more than you might think.
Yoga practice strengthens both the key supporting muscles used in running and the underused muscles. The movement on the mat develops strength in the core, quads, hamstrings and hip flexors which will help runners to stay injury free.
We need strength to perform exercise but also the flexibility to move with freedom and ease. Yoga poses held for periods of time create elasticity and loosen up the muscles, joints, ligaments and connective tissues that will ultimately help to run with more freedom.
Breathing is one of the most important parts of Hatha yoga, the breath nourishes and guides the asana (posture) practice. Through conscious breathing we are more aware of sensations in the body, we learn that slower breathing is more relaxing, faster breathing is more energising. When running either in sprinting or long distance we can use the breath to bring about a more relaxed mental state or feel more alert and focused. Breath work will increase oxygen intake and can help reduce performance anxiety.
Yoga will not only balance out the body but the mind too. Yoga teaches us to look after our bodies and having that balance of training hard and taking time to rest, recover and heal.
The foundation for efficient movement in running is posture. Yoga teaches us to elongate the spine without adding any tension. Alignment is key in yoga and as we learn to stand taller, stronger without tension we can practice this in our running technique.
For many runners back pain is a common concern. From constant impact through the legs to the back it causes strain. Yoga twists and gentle cat/cow stretches mobilise the back to help prevent any problems, for instance in the spinal discs.
Yoga helps to control emotions, which is useful for moments of discomfort. Learning to work through intense poses on the mat is a lot like enduring a long run. Relaxation and meditation techniques in yoga help to clear the mind of worry, encouraging a better nights sleep to allow for a clear mindset prior to a big event.
Through yoga you cultivate improved concentration and the ability to overcome the ego, learning to accept the body and mind you have on the day and only push it as far as it will go.