Running is a repetitious activity that leads to muscle tightness and possibly even muscle imbalances. As a runner, you should highly consider practicing yoga to counter those reasons alone. Developing strength, flexibility, mental focus, breathing techniques, and boosting your cardiovascular health are just some of the benefits you can reap from taking yoga as a runner.
If you haven't ever tried stretching or yoga, don't be scared because yoga is for everyone. If you are highly inflexible that is exactly why you should take yoga. Most postures require a proper alignment for maximum benefits but there are yoga props that can help with that.
Don't write this one off so quickly now. Let's talk about how being more flexible will actually help you on your runs. If you're like the rest of the population and sit a lot more than you stand then you probably have tight hamstrings, a posterior pelvic tilt, and tight hips in general. Your hips and hamstrings play a vital part in your running.
Doing yoga, particularly lunging postures, will help increase your stride length and running efficiency. Loosening up your hamstrings will decrease the risk of injury to your low-back as well as hamstring injuries.
“Runners who stretch individually, typically do it for 30 secs or less on an inconsistent basis. Most yoga classes will be at least 60 mins long, which gives an opportunity for those participating to slowly explore movement and gain flexibility through repetition.” says leading physiotherapist, Keith Hall.
2. Improved Breathing
You've probably experienced breathing fast and hard, because, well..running. Yoga can help you learn more controlled breathing when you run so you can farther and actually enjoy it. Better breathing can also give your muscles more oxygen to your muscles which leads to overall better performance.
“Holding poses in yoga and controlling your breathing will benefit and transfer over to running”, says personal trainer, Tyronne Brennand, “it will help increase lung capacity and teach deep controlled patterned breathing, especially under pressure.”
Yogi's tend to use all of their lung capacity rather than just the top portion like a typical runner. Wim Hof is famous for breathing techniques, the man has run a marathon through the desert with no water or anything. And the reason we mention him is because he emphasizes the use of your entire lung; filling up the bottom portion of your lungs first through the belly, then the middle, then the top. What this is going to do is increase your lung capacity thus increasing endurance and overall athletic ability. It's all about deep, controlled breathing techniques, inhaling and exhaling using your entire lungs.
3. Muscle Imbalance
One of the worst things a runner, or any human, could get is muscle imbalances. This leads to compensation patterns meaning your body is adapting by using other muscle groups because it needs to recruit more strength from another area to help the main muscle group you should be using on any particular movement. This is caused from overusing certain muscle groups a lot more than others. Here is an example: if you do a lot of bicep curls and never work on your triceps then your triceps are going to shorten over time, limiting the range of motion in your arm. We have to think about all of our muscles, not just the main muscle groups.
To maintain a healthy balance as a runner you should incorporate yoga because running is so specific and generally the same movements over and over again. We are always preaching that you need to diversify yourself if you want to be able to run the majority of your life. Doing both yoga and running will allow you to contract and stretch to maintain muscle balance.
Every yoga posture that you undertake is an example of balance and stability; muscle contraction and strengthening. All yoga poses will allow you as a runner to work more muscles groups leading to better running and injury prevention. In pretty much all yoga poses your going to be stretching and contracting creating a more balanced you. This is one of best benefits you can gain from yoga as a runner who practices yoga.