Yoga for Runners


I don’t think I qualify as a runner (yet!)  I have participated in two Spartan races but those were more about the obstacles and some tenacity than the running. And last summer I ran my first 5k. But I haven’t kept it up. So I have decided to sign up for a 10k in the fall. My brother will be visiting from Japan and plans to do it with me (he is the real runner in the family!) I think this will give me motivation to train consistently.  I have just started so I have a long way to go yet.

Jogging and yoga complement each other. Granted, I would probably say that about yoga and anything … But it’s true. Yoga is a great tool to help out with your running. Yoga develops flexibility, improves your breathing and helps with mental focus.

Stretching prevents injury and relieves sore muscles

First off, you don’t have to be flexible to do yoga. Yoga works with every body type and capability. However if you want to improve flexibility, yoga can help.

The right combination of yoga poses stretches and loosens the muscles that get lots of use when running. Releasing the tension in tight muscles means greater range of motion. Increased flexibility decreases stiffness, and adds ease and grace to your movement. It relieves nagging aches and pains.

Stretching also helps to lubricate the joints making them less prone to injury.

Yoga improves your breathing

Lung capacity is something that is important to you if you’re a runner. The greater your lung capacity is, the more oxygen available to your system. This allows you to run longer and stronger. Most of us tend to breath in a shallow way, not making full use of our lungs.

Yoga focuses on breath. It can teach you how to breath more deeply and efficiently. Yogic breath involves long, slow inhalations and exhalations. It makes use of the upper, middle and lower portions of your lungs. This type of breathing increases lung capacity and that makes for a better athletic performance.

Deep breathing allows you to move through a certain level of discomfort. Breath practice can help you breath more steadily while running, even when things get intense. Your body is both calmed and energized as a result of increased oxygen in your circulation system.

A yoga practice helps you focus even when off the mat

Running can be meditative, especially if you are outdoors. There is a certain peace that accompanies the repetitive motion. This allows your mind to clear. Runners call this “getting into the zone.”

Yoga has a strong mental component. It teaches you to breath through challenges and focus on the present moment. Holding yoga poses for a long time can be hard.

But doing so teaches you to be both tenacious and accepting. Each time you go into a pose, you go to your edge. And the more you practice the more that edge expands.

Yoga also teaches you to accept things. You are encouraged to accept your body and mind where they are today. Self-transformation doesn’t happen overnight. It will take some time to work up to that 10 k. Take it.  Accept your setbacks. Be compassionate and kind to yourself. But also be tenacious. Don’t give up but continually fuel the fire through practice.

7 Yoga Poses for Runners

Here are a few poses to help the runner in you. These postures focus on the groin, hips, quads, glutes and hamstrings. These are the muscle groups that  tend to get overworked and tight in runners.

(Download a visual, printable copy of the Yoga for Runners sequence here)

1. Butterfly (Baddha Konasana)

Sit on the floor and bring the soles of your feet together. Gently pull your heels in toward your pelvis and let drop your knees out to the sides. Stay here or fold forward on an exhale bringing your hands to the floor in front of you. Option: Support your forehead with a block.

2. Cow Face Legs (Ghomukasana)

Begin by kneeling on all fours (table top position). Place one knee behind the other and sit back between your heels. Sit on a bolster or block if your hips are tight. Remain upright or fold forward for a little more intensity. Repeat on the other side.

3. Squat (Malasana)

Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip width apart. Bend your knees and lower your hips towards the floor into a squat. Bring your arms to the inside of your legs pressing out on the elbows against the insides of the knees. Bring your hands into prayer position. Relax your shoulders and lengthen your spine up. If this is quite intense, you can rest your heels on a rolled up towel.

Slowly straighten your legs coming into standing forward bend to release your hips.

4. Sleeping Pigeon (Eka Pada Raja Kapatonasana)

From Downward Dog, lift your right leg to the ceiling. Bend your right knee and bring it to your right wrist while releasing your left leg to the floor behind your. Square your hips to the front of the mat. Use your hands to bring your torso upright while expanding your chest. Fold forward over your right leg on an exhale. Repeat on the other side – left knee to left wrist

5. Head to Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana)

Sit on your mat with both legs extended in front of you. Bend one leg at the knee and rest your foot on your inner thigh. Allow the knee to fall open. Inhale and lengthen the crown of your head towards the ceiling. Turn your torso towards the extended leg and on an exhale begin to fold forward. Repeat on the other side.

6. Low Lunge

From Downward Facing Dog, exhale and step one foot forward between your hands. Lower your back knee to the floor. Slide it back until you feel a comfortable stretch. Inhale and lift your torso. Stretch your arms up to the ceiling. Relax your shoulders. Option: Add a slight backbend. Repeat on the other side.

7. Legs up the Wall (Vipariti Karani)

Sit next to a wall so that the side of your hip touches it. Bend your knees to your chest. Gently lower yourself to the floor rolling onto your back so your legs are going up the wall. Relax your shoulders and let your arms rest at your sides, palms up. Soften your belly and breath deeply. Close your eyes. Hold for a blissfully long time.

If you are a runner, let me know what you think. Do you have any favourite poses that help you out?

And before you go, Jill has a new article this week on practicing detached awareness. Do you ever overshare in your yoga class (or elsewhere in your life?) I love Jill’s candor. Be sure to give this a read!

Photo courtesy of Elvert Barnes

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