Why Every Runner Should Do Yoga

Ashley Lauretta
by Ashley Lauretta
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Why Every Runner Should Do Yoga

As runners we know that, to get the most out of our body, we have to do more than the bare minimum. Rest, stretching and cross-training are all an important complement to your training. If you are looking to get all three of those boxes checked in one workout, yoga may be just what you are looking for.

“Even if you don’t run, yoga is for everyone,” says Estevan Valdes, a Los Angeles-based yoga instructor and reiki master. “There is a posture, sequence, breathwork and regimen that will work for anyone. A lot of metropolitan areas offer an array of yoga from rigorous styles like Ashtanga to just super silly and fun like goat yoga. I recommend to just get out there and play; mat not required!”

WHAT RUNNERS GET FROM YOGA

Often when we think of yoga, we don’t think of a high-intensity workout that builds strength. Though some types of yoga do focus on relaxation and breathing, others absolutely push your body. Ann Mazur, the founder of Runners Love Yoga, specifically notes that runners can expect to strengthen their core and gain flexibility, all while becoming more aware of their body and movements.

“Yoga keeps you balanced from one side of your body to the other and sometimes reveals small little imbalances that you didn’t know you had,” she notes. “In this way, your yoga practice helps prevent injuries. Yoga also greatly strengthens your mental game, which I think is often an overlooked component of adding yoga to your training.”

Besides these benefits that are specifically appealing to runners, yoga actually can help your overall health. In fact, Susana Jones, founder of Urban Yogi specifically reveals that a regular yoga practice can benefit individuals dealing with a range of ailments, from insomnia to cancer. While, of course, this doesn’t mean it will cure every ailment, people can find relief from physical, mental and emotional pain and conditions they may be facing.

TYPES OF YOGA FOR RUNNERS

If you are worried about adding yet another workout as a supplement to your training, there are some forms of yoga that complement running better than others. Valdes specifically recommends a vinyasa yoga practice — to help increase breath support, cardiovascular strength and balance, while supporting muscle recovery — and yin/restorative yoga practice — to relax and stretch muscles and relieve the effects of vigorous exercise — to supplement between high-intensity interval training sessions.

“Also, sprinkling in some light yoga before or after a training session can create long-term benefits,” he adds. “For example, a few sun salutations before a training session helps to improve circulation, breath support, flexibility and proprioception (the awareness of body parts in movement/relationship to space). Another tip would be adding a few restorative compression poses after a training session to release lactic acid.”

You can definitely do yoga at home and don’t need to practice in a studio; however, being guided by a teacher is a great way to make sure you are doing poses correctly and getting the most out of every workout. Being intentional about your yoga practice is important.

“Everyone’s goals will be different, so it is best to practice yoga taught by an experienced, smart teacher who can work with you,” mentions Mazur. “Also, it is important that they understand running and how to communicate well.”

MOVES FOR RUNNERS

If you are looking to try yoga at home as a supplement to running, Jones has put together five moves you can do either together or separately to relieve your body from the stressors of training. “While everyone’s body is unique and can benefit from yoga in different ways, I highly suggest these five yogic practices for runners to thrive in their sport and lives at large,” she urges.

LEGS UP THE WALL (Viparita Karani)

The Benefits: “This move has a similar effect to icing sore knees by boosting circulation while also stretching the musculature of the legs,” Jones reveals.

The Move: This move can be done with or without support underneath your back and can be done with ankle rotation, flexion and extension. For this move, you’ll lay in an ‘L’ shape on your right side, with your legs closest to the wall. Rotate your body and slowly raise your legs up so your body is flat against the floor and legs are straight up against the wall. Open your arms to the side, palms up and stay there for a few minutes.

RECLINED HALF PIGEON/RECLINED FIGURE 4 STRETCH

The Benefits: “This will release tightness in the piriformis,” notes Jones. “Therefore, it contributes to healthy range of motion in the knees, hips and lower back.”

The Move: Laying on your back, bring your right knee up with foot flat on the floor. Take your left leg and cross the foot over your right knee, keeping your left foot flexed. For added stretch, gently pull your right knee into your body. Release and repeat on the other side.

HYDRATION SEAL OF THE HANDS (Jala Mudra)

The Benefits: “This move is ideal for maintaining hydration throughout the body,” shares Jones.

The Move: Sit upright with a straight spine and connect the pads of your little finger and thumb on both hands with palms facing up and other fingers extended. Hold for at least 2 minutes.

ALTERNATE NOSTRIL BREATHING (Nadi Sodhana)

The Benefits: “This provides stress relief for the nervous system to recharge after a long run,” explains Jones. “It also promotes mental health and focused relaxation.”

The Move: Sit upright on a cushion with a straight spine. With your hand of choice, raise your hand to your nose and push on the side of your right nostril with your thumb or ring finger (depending on hand of choice), plugging it. Take a deep breath in through your left nostril, plug your left nostril with your thumb or ring finger as you hold the breath. Then unseal the right nostril and let your breath out. Repeat by breathing in your right nostril, alternating sides for roughly 10 breaths.

AYURVEDIC OIL SELF-MASSAGE

The Benefits: “You’ll receive nourishing hydration for joints, muscles and nerves for healthy range of motion and faster recovery time,” comments Jones.

The Move: It is best to do this near a shower and make sure you are in an area where you won’t slip as you enter the water. Take some warmed massage oil and either massage your whole body in long, circular motions or focus specifically on sore muscles. After you’ve rubbed in the oil and boosted circulation, take a warm shower to rinse the oil that wasn’t fully absorbed.

About the Author

Ashley Lauretta
Ashley Lauretta

Ashley is a journalist based in Austin, Texas. She is the assistant editor at LAVA and her work appears in The Atlantic, ELLE, GOOD Sports, espnW, VICE Sports, Health, Men’s Journal, Women’s Running and more. Find her on Twitter at @ashley_lauretta.

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