A lot of times when people start running they begin to develop small injuries: problems with their knees, shins, hips, lower back. Running does not necessarily cause all these problems, but the imbalance that running brings to the body can lead to them.
Think about the pounding, the one singular movement that you repeat for the length of your run. Really it’s a repetitive strain. Doing some yoga to warm up before running helps prepare the muscles, making the body warm and balanced before you start. Your run will no doubt be more pleasant, and also you will be less likely to injure yourself.
Cooling down with yoga after a run balances the actions you took during the run.
You stretch out what is tight, such as your calves, strengthen what might be weak, such as your core, and soften what has tensed up, such as the hips, hamstrings, upper back, etc. You will feel so much better afterwards, more relaxed and loose.
When you perform your normal stretches, pre- and post-run, you’re just focused on one particular area. With yoga, however, you are focused on the whole body, the breath brings you into the pose while the mind is relaxed and alert. When breath and movement are synchronized, magic happens. The “feel good feeling” that yoga is famous for has to do with this simple thing: synchronizing movement and breath.
Beyond the physical aspects yoga also balances and calms the mind. The parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated, which means that the body moves into relaxation mode. This in turn has a positive effect on how you feel.
Try it! It won't hurt and you can decide for yourself whether it's worth it.
How yoga is beneficial for runners?
Studies have shown that yoga:
- relieves stress
- improves flexibility and posture
- eases aches and pains
- increases all-around fitness levels
- tones body and core
- increases happiness
- improves immunity
- increases energy
- and much more!
Basically, yoga promotes balance in body and mind.
Running has some of the same benefits, but lacks some as well. Because running is repetitive, runners can miss out on the balanced action that yoga provides.
Ideally, you warm up with yoga before your run, and you cool down with yoga after your run.
And around 1 to 3 times a week you might do a full yoga practice as cross-training. Yoga should complement your running, which means if your training schedule is intense, with lots of strengthening workouts, you should stick with the relaxing side of yoga — doing mostly postures that are opening, softening, and stretching the body. When the training schedule eases, you can get more into the workout part of yoga to balance it. This includes poses that will strengthen the body, increase your fitness levels, and work the core.
Another good option can be to run one day and do yoga the next day. Your body will be in a much happier place and your running experience will improve. Incorporating yoga in your running routine can also increase your running endurance, because your body will be more open, and more able.
Some of the injuries that runners deal with are injuries to the knees, Achilles tendon, hamstrings, IT band, hips, and low back. If you take knees as an example, calves that are too tight or quadriceps that are too tight pull on the knees, compromising your alignment and potentially starting trouble. Loosening these muscles through yoga can help to combat knee problems - and even better, keeping them sufficienly loose can avert injury.
If, for example, your regular posture is a rounded upper back and straight lower back (without arch), it’s likely you run in the same way, which excerbates the problem. Your body will protest, creating pain in your back, neck, or other areas. Yoga, however, will make you aware of your posture and improve it, and you will run with more awareness of your posture as a result.
A general yoga class focuses on all areas of the body; it has twists, forward bends, backbends, side bends, hip openers, core strengthening, and more. Yoga gives you an overall balanced workout for mind and body, increasing your awareness of what is tight, what to watch, how to improve the posture, whether you need to soften in certain areas, and where you need more stability and strength.
So, get on your mat and try it out for yourself!