In a recent article, Runner’s World magazine acknowledged that the strength and flexibility developed on the yoga mat in the core, quads, hamstrings and hip flexors can help you run more efficiently.
And a recent Guardian article praised yoga’s impact on the runner’s body.
How does yoga affect the runner’s body?
Primarily, practicing yoga will lengthen tight muscles in the legs, hips and lower back. It will also strengthen the core, feet and ankles; improve running posture; breathe better and even train the mind. The benefits are literally top to toe.
Running is a repetitive movement so particular, specific muscle groups are overused, especially in the legs. These include the hamstrings, hip flexors and calves but also the stabilising muscles of the outer hip and thigh, including the often troublesome ilio-tibial band (ITB). Yoga helps to stretch and lengthen these tight spots, speeding up recovery and restoring a natural range of motion. It might therefore help runners to avoid common overuse injuries like IT band syndrome or plantar fasciitis.
On the strength side, yoga helps boost potential weak spots such as the core, and muscles of the feet and ankles which absorb two to three times the body weight on every stride. This is particularly crucial for road runners pounding the pavements.
Does yoga have an impact on the runner’s mind?
Of course, yoga is a breath-centred and mindful practice. Honing the breathing and training the mind are not prime reasons runners turn to yoga – but they are useful additional benefits for all endurance athletes. Yogic breathing helps to maintain focus and to properly oxygenate the running body. Alongside, the yogic philosophies help to build confidence, concentration, patience and persistence – all skills that are invaluable when running longer distances or in race or in competitive situations.
How to find a suitable yoga practice for runners
Selecting the right yoga poses are crucial to ensure that balance is maintained in the runner’s body. Runners don’t need to turn their bodies into pretzels through the more flexible or back-bending poses. In fact, these more extreme postures can be detrimental.
A well-rounded yoga practice for a runner will include long slow stretches that relieve tension in the commonly overused muscles of the legs and side body. There will also be a sequence to build strength in the core of the body, including the illio-psoas and QL. Standing balances and warrior poses are great for building strength and focus, whilst seated or supine twists and wide-legged poses ensure that all the leg muscles are worked evenly. There should also be a good amount of attention given to the feet, knees and Achilles tendons.
Sports yoga for injury prevention and recovery is a specialist field where yoga teachers specialise in particular sports. Before selecting a yoga teacher to help with your running practice, make sure they have a good level of anatomical knowledge together with an understanding of the common conditions that particularly affect the runner’s body.
For more information on yoga for runners, please email Cathy Richardson at Diversity Yoga.
Diversity Yoga is proud to support Frimley Flyers running club with a weekly yoga class specifically designed for runners.