Runners can be prone to joint problems, especially those in the big toes, hips, ankles, and spine. These issues hurt their form and can make their joint problems even worse. However, the long-term solution for many is not necessarily pills, repeated doctor visits or a cutback in running. Rather, they’ve been turning to yoga and finding that its benefits go way past improving form to also help with balance, sleep and stress, among other issues.
As with most anything, though, the solution in using yoga to help with your running lies in your needs and running style. For example, if you already have dynamic movement, yoga may be of less use to you (this article makes for a great read). On the other hand, if you spend most of your work hours sitting, dynamic yoga moves could greatly benefit you.
The Benefits of Yoga for Runners
In the past, some runners shied away from yoga because they thought they weren’t flexible enough for the poses. Of course, once you start taking up yoga, you find that your flexibility improves. A host of other things improve too. The most noticeable may be that your form is better than ever.
Yoga can especially help with your form if you are already struggling with injuries. There is no doubt that running can take a toll on your musculoskeletal system, and one slight imbalance can throw off your entire form. Say that you’ve developed shin splints. They, in turn, have exerted pressure on parts of your body not made for that pressure, and now your legs, feet, shin bones and other parts are keeping you from running well.
If you’ve been doing yoga stretches such as half splits and pyramid poses, they can help prevent injuries such as shin splints, or once you have them, help you heal more quickly and more comprehensively.
Yoga makes your entire body more flexible and, for some people, more capable of handling the repeated pounding that your body takes from running. And, of course, there are additional benefits such as improved endurance and breathing. Take breathing; yoga can teach you how to use rhythmic breathing to help with stress and to even prevent injuries. As for endurance, yoga helps you last longer by making your pace steadier and lengthening your strides. Similarly, concentration principles help you build positive techniques to help meet your running goals and finish races.
Bottom line: Not only does yoga restore symmetry and balance to your running form, it can help in many ways you never really thought about.
Some Basic Exercises
Yoga is getting to be a major component for many runners’ regimens, and they even use yoga for warm up and cool down. Here’s a look at some of the basics.
Warm up poses: The focus when you warm up should be dynamic poses that avoid deep, squatting motions. So, you could try single-leg balances, standing cat-cows and one-legged bridge lifts, among others.
Cooldown poses: You can go with somewhat more static moves as you cool down after a run. Your focus here is likely more on flexibility and areas such as the lower back and hips. Poses such as the sugarcane, downward-facing dog and legs up the wall can help you make the transition from your run to your everyday life.
General yoga poses: There are no “wrong” or “bad” yoga poses for runners. Any yoga poses you enjoy doing should serve you well. That said, some simple and easy-to-learn exercises may bring you more benefit than others. One to learn is downward-facing dog, which helps lengthen your spine and stretches your hamstrings and calves. Another is the triangle pose, which enhances your lateral flexibility and stretches your thighs and hamstrings.
As a runner, you are likely looking for ways to reduce your risk of injury and to run more effectively. Improving your form helps in both areas, and yoga can get you there while serving up a wide assortment of other benefits. That said, you likely won’t notice any changes overnight. It might not be too long, though, before you see your run times improve right along with your form.
Did you know that RunSmart Online has an rigorous 6 week yoga program specifically designed to improve balance and relieve tightness? Try it here.