Good morning!! I have a special guest post for you today. 🙂 Jennifer from Mindfulness Mama is imparting some of her fitness wisdom to you lucky Gettin’ My Healthy On readers. I’m really pumped about this post because it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time: yoga for runners.
If that strikes your fancy, make sure to read through her informative post below!
Practicing yoga provides the perfect balance for runners. It offers a slower, more precise exercise that will protect the body from injury by strengthening and stretching the muscles that may be overused during running.
Yoga gives many benefits to runners through a variation of poses. Here are 12 of the basic benefits and some key poses to get those benefits:
Stretches Hamstrings and Calves
While running, the legs are heavily used — obviously. Even if you stretch before and after your workout, your leg muscles may be feeling the effects of your exercise long after you take off your sneakers. Stretching your leg muscles regularly through yoga will help strengthen them and keep them loose.
Try downward facing dog to open the thighs and hamstrings. Downward dog is also a great stretch to do before you begin your run, too.
Opens Upper Body
Much of the focus while running is on the lower body, so working on the upper body during yoga will bring a nice balance to your workout routine. Poses that open the chest — and the heart — will make your upper body stronger.
Use bridge pose for opening and stretching the chest. Don’t worry if you can’t do the full bridge right away — there are many variations.
Opening the chest also encourages better breathing by expanding the lungs. This type of pose combined with the breathing practices you will encounter during yoga will help your breathing while running.
Upward dog is a good way to open your chest and breathe easier and better. It also strengthens muscles in your arms, which may get overlooked while you’re focused on running.
Eases Stiff Neck/Shoulders
Your neck and shoulders might become stiff after a long time running. Yoga provides movements that loosens those muscles up and relieves tension so you can be free of back and neck pain.
Incorporate spinal twists into your practice to stretch out your back and shoulder muscles, relieving pain and improving flexibility.
Different Form of Movement
As a runner, you are constantly moving on a vertical plane, and you are only exposing your body to one type of movement. Yoga moves your body in a wide variety of ways and is constantly pushing you to your limit.
Poses like triangle will force you to put your body in a position that may not seem natural, but give it time! These types of poses help ensure you are working your whole body rather than just a few muscle groups.
Loosens Tight Muscles
Your muscles may get tight if you are running regularly, and it can lead to injury or leg cramps without proper stretching. Movement in yoga is meant to gently loosen those muscles and build flexibility to save your muscles from those nasty cramps.
Positions such as forward folds will stretch your leg muscles to protect them as they face the constant impact of hitting the pavement.
Balance is important to a runner because it could mean the difference between falling on hard pavement or catching yourself and staying upright. Practicing balance during yoga will help you learn how to stay steady if you trip.
Tree is a classic balancing pose that will let you work on your balance. For an extra challenge, try it with your eyes closed.
Many of the benefits on the list have hinted at strengthening muscles, but it’s so important that it needs its own section. Yoga is constantly working on strengthening all of the muscles in your body, from your spine to your legs to your neck. This is important to keep your muscles from getting too tight or causing injury.
Lunges will help strengthen your leg muscles specifically, which is super important as a runner.
A large focus of yoga practice is keeping the head in line with the spine and always keeping the spine straight. This type of movement will keep your head from drooping forward — which creates unnecessary neck strain — and will also elongate your spine, making you physically more in shape.
Try using mountain pose to work on adjusting your spine, neck and head to keep them all in line.
Stretches Feet and Ankles
If the tops of your feet are hurting or your ankles are sore, yoga can fix that. Certain poses are meant to stretch out those muscles to relieve pain and discomfort.
Hero Pose stretches out the tops of the feet and ankles, which will feel great after running.
Helps Avoid Injury
Many of yoga’s benefits involve strengthening and stretching the muscles in your body. This is extremely important — it helps you avoid injuries by keeping your muscles as healthy as they can be.
Try Warrior I to work many different areas of the body and keep your muscles in shape to fend off injuries.
Offers a New Experience
Running is often about competition. Yoga is exactly the opposite. It doesn’t matter what the person next to you is doing, and it’s not a place where you should be judging yourself or your abilities. Yoga offers an exercise where you can completely let go, which is often a very different experience from running.
You can also just sit in Child’s Pose for a few minutes and practice relaxing your mind — don’t focus on who’s around you or the voice inside your head telling you to go faster and longer. Save that for the track.
For my fellow runners: do you practice yoga? Have you noticed the benefits?