Last May I signed up for a “Yoga for Runners” class in the hopes of finally building a consistent yoga practice, and I can truly say I think it has made a big difference in my running. Originally, my sole motivation for attempting yoga was to get “a good stretch.” And while my hamstrings are challenged to open up, there are other great benefits yoga offers runners.
Strength-Building — Yoga is a full-body workout. Many of the poses challenge you to engage upper and lower body, as well as your core. As runners, we often repeatedly work the same muscle groups – yoga gives you a more balanced workout, and improving muscle imbalances can go a long way to preventing injuries.
Body Awareness — The balance and alignment required to move into the various poses, has made me much more aware of my posture and form while running.
Improved Flexibility — Without a doubt, yoga helps to open up tight muscles, especially the hamstrings, hips, glutes and quads — all critical for runners! Again, tight muscles can cause imbalances in the body, stressing key joints like hips and knees.
Improved Mindset — It may sound cliché, but the practice of yoga is a journey. The poses are challenging and take a while to learn, much less master. My yoga instructor is constantly reminding our class to “honor your body;” to accept what you can do now and not push your body beyond its limits. She often reminds us that yoga is a “practice” - it requires patience. You don’t simply achieve the perfect downward dog and are done! All great reminders for us goal-oriented, time-obsessed runners! I also love that yoga helps me to stay in the moment – my mind doesn’t wander, I’m very much centered on what my body is doing (or trying to do). A worthwhile benefit to carry over into my training.
If you have not tried yoga yet, I highly encourage you to give it a try. Yoga can improve your balance, flexibility, coordination, and concentration, while eliminating both physical and mental stresses. What’s not to love?