Many runners will tell you that stiff and sore muscles are an unfortunate part of being a runner. All that time on our feet can lead to tight muscles, which in turn can lead to injuries.
There are many benefits of yoga for runners. Yoga improves your flexibility, mobility, strength, posture and breathing, which are all important for better running performance and overall fitness.
Many runners will admit that they spend little time stretching before or after a run. Yoga is a great way to improve your flexibility and mobility – two things that are essential to keep those niggling running injuries at bay.
Yoga also has many benefits for the mind. It has been shown to reduce levels of stress and anxiety and can even help reduce risk factors for chronic diseases such as heart disease and high blood pressure.
In this blog, I’d like to share some benefits of yoga for runners. I have recently taken up yoga with the lovely Lucy at Yoga Strong and it has had a really positive impact on my running performance and general wellbeing.
What I’ve found since taking up yoga is that many of the exercises and stretches that I’ve been doing over the years have their roots in yoga.
Is yoga good for runners? 6 benefits of yoga for runners
Yoga requires you to hold different poses using the upper and lower body. These poses help to strengthen your core and some of the major muscles used in running, such as your quads, hamstrings, hip flexors and glutes.
Weak glutes and hip flexors are the cause of a whole host of running injuries, including runner’s knee and IT band syndrome, so it’s important to build strength in these areas. Weakness in the glutes and hip flexors can also lead to incorrect running posture.
Related: 5 essential hip flexor stretches for runners
Improves running form
Holding yoga poses also helps to improve your balance and strengthen your core as a runner. This translates into better running form and posture which help you run faster for longer. Good running form is also key to preventing common running injuries.
Related: 7 essential running drills to improve running form and performance
One of the biggest benefits for yoga for runners is that it helps to develop your flexibility and mobility. Flexibility is probably something that people least associate with running, but it is so important to keep those niggling running injuries at bay.
A stretching routine is important for any runner, but many runners neglect to do it on a regular basis. Runners typically stretch for 30 seconds or less on an inconsistent basis. Most yoga classes last at least 45 minutes, which gives you an opportunity to improve your flexibility and mobility on a regular basis.
Yoga gets you to hold poses that develop your strength and flexibility. Supple joints and loose muscles as a result of a regular yoga practice make you a more efficient runner that is less prone to injury.
Related: Morning stretches for runners: 6 moves every runner should do
Helps to control your breathing
It wasn’t until I started yoga that I realised how shallow my breath was. We runners tend to have good lung capacity from all the aerobic exercise, but we often take fast and shallow breaths as we run.
Holding poses in yoga teaches you controlled breathing when under pressure. Better breathing allows for a larger delivery of oxygen to the muscles, which can help to improve your performance as a runner. This also translates to better lung capacity.
In yoga, you are taught to take deep breaths using your diaphragm so that your belly expands as you breathe in. Often called ‘ocean’s breath’, this technique should sound like waves on the ocean as you gently constrict your throat muscles when you breathe in.
I’ve also found these breathing techniques have helped me in my personal life too whenever I feel anxious or overwhelmed. I simply adopt the breathing technique that I have learnt during yoga and I very quickly feel more at ease.
Related: How to breathe when running: 7 actionable tips
Creates balance in the muscles
In running you overuse some muscles while underusing others. This over time creates muscular imbalances which can affect athletic performance and lead to injury.
Each group of muscles in the body has an opposing muscle group. For example, when you do a bicep curl at the gym you contract the bicep, the opposing muscle here is the tricep which lengthens. If you do bicep curls repeatedly without strengthening the tricep, it gradually becomes weakened which can lead to injury.
Yoga helps to maintain muscle equilibrium as you stretch and contract muscles when holding poses. Every yoga pose is designed to improve stability – at no time is only one muscle group used.
Even the simplest yoga pose – the downward dog – taps into every part of the body.
Related: 7 essential core exercises every runner should do
Promotes balance in body and mind
This is probably one of the most appealing benefits of yoga for runners. Yoga is a relaxing, gentle practice that, when done regularly, complements your running in so many wonderful ways.
Many yoga poses strengthen your body, increase your fitness levels and bring clarity to the mind. Your body will be in a much happier place when you practice yoga regularly, and this will in turn benefit your running experience.
Related: 12 amazing benefits of running for the body and mind