As the evenings get longer and brighter the runners are out in force. As a runner, the idea of attending a yoga class may be enough to make you shriek or at the very least roll your eyes. But you should seriously consider incorporating yoga into your training regime. Contrary to what you may think developing flexibility is not a best reason for runners to get into yoga. If your shoulders, hips and hamstrings are tight it will not really inhibit your running career. However if you are excessively tight and in turn prone to injury or suffer from nagging aches and pains then yoga stretches will help to release tension in the body to improve posture and prevent injury. In fact being excessively flexible may act as a destabiliser especially when the joints are subjected to repetitive impact every time you run. Finding a healthy balance between strength and flexibility is important but flexibility in itself is not crucial.
So here are 6 reasons that yoga is the perfect complement to running:
A safe yoga practice starts with a strong foundation. The way your feet make contact with the floor ensures that your joints are safe in each yoga posture. You will start to notice whether you have a tendency to carry your weight disproportionately on the inside or outside of your foot. An imbalance may have a knock effect on your gait while you stride out. Learning to carry your weight evenly can prevent injury, particularly to the knees.
2. Core Strength
A strong core is the key to running efficiently. In yoga all movement is initiated from the deep core line of the body. A good teacher will ensure that you are effectively using your core and pelvic floor muscles rather than simply making shapes with your body. A strong and supple core will help you to maintain proper form, reduce the risk of injury and increase longevity while running.
3. Breath Awareness
On a very basic level the physical practice of yoga is movement initiated by deep diaphragmatic breathing. Shallow breathing is an energy zapper in both yoga and running. Regular yoga practice, particularly vinyasa flow yoga, will train you to connect to your breath fully and will improve lung capacity. A steady cadence of breath helps to cultivate ease while running which can improve overall athletic performance.
4. Mind Body Connection
Yoga helps you to attune to the energy of the body. For many people running is a meditative practice and this is one of the key facets of yoga. Yoga heightens your awareness of your body and encourages you to pay attention to how you are feeling. Every time you come to your mat, your level of physical and mental energy is different. The same applies every time you throw on your running gear. A strong mind body connection helps to identify strengths and weaknesses in the body and encourages you to train at a level that feels appropriate on any given day.
A well-rounded yoga practice will engage your body from a three dimensional perspective. Runners rely heavily on the muscles of the lower body. Yoga poses require a balance between muscular strength and joint mobility to engage the body as a whole. Full body engagement improves biomechanical balance over time.
Every athlete needs time to recover. Excessive training can lead to injury. Yoga, especially yin and restorative yoga, are forms of constructive rest and can be more effective than sleep to heal connective tissue and re-energise the body. Yoga is the perfect complementary discipline to use your down time more effectively.
So the next time you take out your running shoes it might be a good time to dust off your yoga mat too.
After a stressful day it is tempting to jump straight into a vigorous vinyasa yoga practice to sweat and breathe away the day. But before you do take a moment no matter how short to observe yourself - mind, body and breath - before you start to move. If you have a very yang lifestyle you might need a few yin moments of calm and silence before you get stuck into your asana practice. You might find that by embracing the stillness you are less inclined to over exert yourself to the point of depletion and more likely to go with the flow and find yourself in a more energised, calm and balanced place.
Take a comfortable seat. Start to notice your breath. Breathe deeply through the nose. With each cycle of breath repeat the internal mantra 'I am breathing in' on each inhalation; 'I am breathing out' on each exhalation. Repeat for a couple of minutes. This is an incredibly simple and effective calming technique. When you are ready, transition into your more physical practice. Return to this breath throughout your practice if you find yourself getting distracted.
This simple meditation practice can be used before, during and after any form of exercise and can applied in any situation when you need a mental timeout.
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