It’s the first Monday of the month and that means it’s time to Ask a Yogini. Each month, I’ll answer a question about yoga – anything that you’re curious about. Chances are, if you have the question, someone else does too!
Disclaimer: While I am a certified yoga instructor, I am not your yoga instructor. Please exercise caution and honor your own body. These views are mine alone, based on my own experiences. Always consult a certified yoga instructor for additional guidance and assistance.
If you run, you’ve probably been told that, “Runners should do yoga.” If you’re like most runners that I know, you’ve probably dismissed the suggestion. After all, what can you achieve through “stretching” that you can’t gain from long runs, track workouts and tempo runs?
I’m a runner and I’m a yoga instructor. I believe that the two disciplines complement each other well. I’ve even created a Yoga for Runner Series, which highlights yoga postures that target the key muscles used for running – hamstrings, calves, hip flexors, ankles, abductors and adductors.
There are numerous reasons why runners should do yoga. Here are five reasons why running and yoga are a natural fit.
- Improves range of motion and mobility. At any given time, 60% of runners are injured. That’s a lot of runners. Running injuries can be caused by a variety of factors including lack of mobility and flexibility. Whether it’s from pounding the pavement for miles or sitting at a desk all day, your muscles and joints can become stiff and rigid. Yoga moves your body through a wide range of motion, lengthening and strengthening your muscles and maintaining the suppleness in your body that allows you to keep running strong.
- Develops body awareness. Yoga develops your sense of proprioception – the sense of where you body is in space. This translates into better awareness of how your body moves when you run, from the way your foot lands on the ground to your arm swing to your posture. As you become more attuned to your body’s position, you can take that knowledge and apply it to your running form.
- Strengthens mental muscles. When you try to balance in tree pose or a challenging posture like crow pose, yoga quickly turns from being just a physical practice to being more of a mental practice. Yoga teaches you to focus on the present moment. You learn to breathe through the experience, even if it’s uncomfortable, which is a critical skill to draw upon during tough runs and one of the key reasons why runners should do yoga.
- Improves breathing. You breathe every day but do you really breathe? Yoga teaches you to pay attention to and connect your breath to your movements, making it more efficient to move breath in and out of your body. Deep breathing can also lower your heart rate – something that you can draw on during tough workouts and races.
- Develops compassion. The real practice of yoga isn’t about the pose at all. It’s about developing compassion and learning to let go of your expectations. As you become more attuned to your body, you will begin to treat it with care, back off when necessary, and rest rather than constantly pushing to your edge. In the same way, difficult emotions and thoughts may arise during your practice. Through yoga, you learn to notice these thoughts and learn how to to leave them on the mat. It’s a great exercise in learning how to let things go that do not serve you rather than letting those thoughts and emotions bog you down.
There are so many reasons why runners should do yoga. There are numerous lessons that you can take from your yoga practice and apply to running and training.
In the end, I think that yoga can help you become a stronger runner by addressing many of the weak links, whether they are physical or mental.
Do think runners should do yoga?
This post was originally written for RunHaven.com and is used with permission of MOKO.Mobi, Inc. Copyright 2014 MOKO Mobi, Inc.
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