Runners can benefit greatly from yoga's effects on strength, flexibility and balance. Many of the problems runners face, including sore knees, tight hamstrings and lower back pain, can be resolved by practicing yoga asanas.
How Running Affects Your Body
Running is a repetitive exercise that can create excessive tightness in the leg muscles, which makes your body unstable. If you don't stretch properly before and after a run, your muscles will become shorter and tighter, and your body more unbalanced and unstable. Your body will try to compensate for this instability by putting unnecessary pressure on the muscles, joints and bones of the legs and back.
How Yoga Increases Flexibility and Strength
Yoga can be of immense benefit for runners seeking a cross training method. Yoga helps loosen and lengthen all the muscles of the body, to reverse the muscle tightness caused by running, and to make your body more flexible and stable. Yoga helps align the muscles and bones, so that your body functions more efficiently, you experience less stiffness and you're at a lower risk for injury. Yoga's focus on alignment can help correct the postural and gait problems that often lead to knee, hip and back pain.
Yoga also offers a full body workout that can greatly increase your overall strength and stamina. Yoga's emphasis on controlled breath helps to strengthen the respiratory system. Yoga also teaches an awareness of breath and body that can relieve the tension of competitive running and make runners more aware of possible injuries. Yoga works the muscles of the whole body, and many runners have found that a regular yoga practice can take the place of other forms of cross training.
Yoga Helps Runners Recover from Workouts
Yoga can be an intense aerobic workout, or it can be a restorative practice. Practicing relaxing, restorative poses can help runners recover faster after long races and hard workouts. Try restorative poses like Supported Fish, Legs-up-the-wall Pose, Corpse Pose, Pigeon Pose and Child's Pose for deep muscle relaxation.
How Yoga and Running Are Similar
Dedicated runners will find that yoga is similar to running in some ways. Yoga offers an intense aerobic workout, especially if you choose to study a style like Ashtanga or Power Yoga.
Both running and yoga teach the practitioner to focus on the present moment. Mindfulness is a key part of running, as runners find themselves focusing on the task at hand, without worrying about the problems of their daily lives or past, present and future. Many runners find that the breath awareness they learn in yoga class helps them pace themselves and run more efficiently. Others find that quieting the mind while stretching and strengthening the body relieves the pain of muscle tension caused by long runs and daily stress.
Yoga Stretches Can Make Running Safer
Performing a few deep yoga stretches before and after runs can be a great way to make your muscles loose and flexible before a workout. If you don't stretch before a run, you risk injuring your cold muscles. Stretching after a run keeps your muscles long and loose and can prevent the soreness caused by a buildup of lactic acid.