It is common knowledge that yoga can increase flexibility, but it can also improve athletic performance and help prevent injuries. So why don’t more runners use yoga as a tool for cross training?
As a runner, I know firsthand how daunting it can be to start doing yoga. You might think, “I’m not flexible enough,” or “It won’t be a workout like running.” Both of these statements are false!
One of the first things you learn in yoga is how to use breath to help to maintain poses. Learning to use your breath to deepen into poses can be one of the most beneficial aspects of yoga for runners. Think about the end of those long runs as you push yourself to a new distance and your legs are heavy and tired. Now think of being able to push through that fatigue with the help of your breath. The concept of deepening your breath can also help with hill work and speed.
Another key part of yoga is using your core to move through and within poses. Two of the most common core contractions used in yoga are the Mula Bandha, which targets the pelvic floor, and the Uddiyana Bandha, which targets the abdominal muscles creating an “abdominal lock.” When running, a strong core provides more stability through the torso and pelvis, allowing us to generate more force and speed while moving more efficiently so that we fatigue slower.
Then comes “flexibility,” one of the scariest parts of yoga. While seasoned yogis are flexible, most of them did not start that way! Flexibility improves mechanics and decreases stress on joints and connective tissue, thus decreasing risk for injury. So, if you can’t quite manage a pose or position, listen to your body and do the version of the pose that best suits your body.
Downward Facing Dog
Begin on all fours. Prop your feet up on your toes, then push your body up into an inverted V position with your elbows and knees straight. Hold this position, feeling a stretch through your back and legs. Make sure to keep your shoulders down, with knees as straight as comfortable and feet as close to ground as comfortable.
Hold for 30 seconds to a minute. Complete 3 times per session, 3 times a week.
Start in downward dog. On an Exhale step your right foot forward between your hands, keeping your knee over the heel. Keep your left leg strong and firm. As you Inhale raise your torso to upright. At the same time, sweep your arms wide to the sides and raise them overhead. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor and reach back through your left heel.
Hold for 30 seconds to a minute. Complete 3 times on each leg, 3 times a week.
I challenge you to strike a pose. Find a yoga session near you, improve your running, and help reduce your risk of injury! If you do experience pain with exercise or activity, please visit us at one of your local Therapeutic Associates locations found Here. Happy running!