Running Better Through Yoga

It took me a long time to realise that running more doesn’t mean running better.  And when I say a long time, I mean an embarrassingly long time. The first thing I want to talk about is yoga, something I only started to embrace and fall in love with this year. It’s as if instead of this year being the Year of the Monkey it’s actually the Year of the Standing Giraffe and Yellow Buttercup.

The names of the poses still stump me every now and again.

I wanted to write more about how yoga benefits me as a runner because once again I find myself injured and once again running any sort of distance seems beyond me. I will be writing more about that later because I don’t want this post to be some sad tale full, of woe is me (you all have that to look forward to later!) Yoga has given my body more strength and flexibility making me less like a breakable tree and more like a bendable blade of grass.

I am very proud of that simile.

Over the weekend I went to a Fat Buddha Yoga class. The wonderful thing about this class was that Jessica Skye created it specifically for runners. So hamstrings, quads, and calves – basically everything to do with the legs. I forget how important it is to make sure the muscles in my legs continue to work and stay injury free.

Yoga improves strength – I was one of those people who thought yoga was easy because it’s slow and controlled. Obviously it’s not high impact enough. But because of the slow and controlled pace of yoga, weak hamstrings are strengthened along with the core, glutes, quads, and hip flexors. Weak hamstrings make runners more prone to injury.

Having a stronger core is also so vital to running. I remember when I started running I would lean so forward and basically have a terrible running posture. I wouldn’t run tall and didn’t even know I needed to. That was a very visual effect of having a weaker core and with yoga and core specific exercises I don’t lean so far forward when I run and have a much better posture.

Yoga improves flexibility and loosens tights muscles – this was the benefit I had heard about most before I started practicing yoga. Yoga involves a lot of folding (bending) and flexing and loosening of some of the most injury prone areas. The more these muscles flex and loosen the less injury prone they become. What I didn’t learn until much later is that looser leg muscles also helps to increase stride length and that’s never a bad thing.

Yoga helps to balance the body out – it isn’t a secret that no one’s body is perfectly symmetrical. This also applies to flexibility. When I started practicing yoga one side of my body was a lot less flexible than the other. One side found it a lot easier to do a move in comparison to the other. The more yoga I do the less obvious these differences have become and this means that the increase in strength is spread more evenly.

My injuries have never been on both sides of my body at the same time which means I have spent a lot of time favouring one side over the other. One thigh is markedly bigger and stronger than the other and yoga helps me to address this.

Yoga improves my state of mind – runs and races are long. Not only does my body have to survive them but so does my mind. My mind needs exercising and training just like my body and having it hold a pose and be fully in the moment has benefitted my running so much.

These are only a handful of the benefits yoga has for runners but they are the ones which have really benefited me. If you do practice yoga, let me know what some of the benefits have been for you.

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