When we think of running, we don’t typically make an association to practicing yoga. Lacing up for a speed workout may seem inherently different to unrolling your yoga mat and taking a Savanasa in the middle of your living room floor. While yoga and running may seem mutually exclusive, there are many ways in which the former complements the latter.
Why do Yoga and Running work well together?
It’s no wonder why more and more folks are taking the time to practice yoga alongside running their miles in their weekly routine workouts. Yoga for runners is becoming increasingly popular in the running community and here’s why:
Practicing yoga can aid in promoting strength, flexibility, and posture – all of which can serve to reduce the risk of injury. It can also help to improve your mental health by improving mindfulness and minimize the effects of everyday stress and anxiety.
In today’s post, my goal is to outline some of the benefits of yoga and how they can improve our performance as runners.
What are some of the Physical Benefits of Practicing Yoga?
Practicing yoga can offer a myriad of physical advantages that runners can benefit from. Regularly practicing yoga can promote the strengthening of key muscle groups used in running – including the core, quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip flexors.
Flexibility is another key advantage runners can benefit from. Your typical yoga class will require you to hold poses for extended periods of time, allowing you to loosen up and promote elasticity of your muscles, joints, and tissues which will enable you to run more freely.
The regular practice of yoga will also serve to improve posture. Runners prioritize moving efficiently through our our weekly miles. We understand the important role that good posture can play when it comes to improving our performance. Yoga allows us to practice reducing tension while extending our spines and limbs – allowing us to cultivate a stronger, straighter stance.
Improving your strength, flexibility, and posture by cross-training with yoga can contribute to reducing your risk of developing run-related injuries.
What are some of the Mental Benefits of Practicing Yoga?
Much like there are mental benefits that come with regularly running, practicing yoga can also offer a number of mental benefits.
Yoga teaches you to harness your breath, which is something it has in common with running. Getting good at breathing might seem like the most basic thing in the world to master… to people who don’t run or practice yoga. But knowing how to properly breathe on your runs and when you practice yoga can make all the difference. A key benefit of simply developing an awareness of your breath and using it in tandem with self-soothing techniques used in yoga like meditation, relaxation, and in movement through the poses can help to reduce feelings of anxiety or stress.
One of the goals of practicing yoga is to develop a greater sense of concentration and focus.
This can help train the mind when it comes to dealing with feelings of anxiety and stress. For runners, those feelings can sometimes manifest as that tiny voice in your head that tells you to slow down or give up in your first kilometer. Focusing on putting one foot in front of the other and ignoring that tiny annoying voice is what will often get you through.
Your time for yoga should be when you focus on improving the connection between your mind and body. While it’s undoubtedly difficult to let go of the list of things we need to do and stress we experience on a regular basis – yoga allows us to practice counteracting those thoughts by simply focusing on the movement between postures. This can help train the mind when it comes to dealing with feelings of anxiety and stress.
The Origins of Yoga and Why It’s Important
I think it’s important to also understand where modern-day, Westernized yoga came from and how it’s transformed over time to what we know it to be today.
Yoga originated from Northern India over 5,000 years ago – it stems from a number of religions including Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. The word yoga was first mentioned in an ancient and sacred text known as the Rig Veda. The Vedas are a large series of religious texts written in Sanskrit that inform the religion of Hinduism.
Here’s the thing: when I took my very first yoga class more than 10 years ago, no one explained the origins of yoga or why the names of postures in yoga were in Sanskrit. There was more emphasis on the physical performance rather than understanding and paying homage to the beginnings of yoga and its original philosophy.
Looking back, I’ve come to realize that the disconnect between the cultural origins of yoga and what it is today is problematic to say the least. Yoga is a practice based in part on cultivating a greater sense of self-awareness and promoting the connection between mind and body. But much of the marketing of Western yoga tends to focus our attention on the material rather than the spiritual. Your prime motivation for attending your Saturday morning power yoga class shouldn’t be to flex your latest Lulu gear.
If you’re a newcomer looking to practice for the first time, or someone who loves to practice regularly – be sure to take the time or spend the money on classes where the instructor can offer more than just a workout. That way you’ll be able to develop a fuller appreciation for where yoga comes from and the physical and mental benefits it has to offer.
Feature Photo by Anupam Mahapatra on Unsplash