Outside of yoga, I have a huge passion for running. I regularly participate in Marathons and Half Marathons – in fact, I’m here in Chicago as I type for a Marathon through the Windy City tomorrow! Last June, I accomplished the goal of participating in my first 52 mile Ultra-Marathon and I have been fantasizing about my next Ultra ever since.
As much as I love running and challenging myself, I often roll into yoga class with stressed, sore and fatigued muscles from my training. Endurance running has also led to imbalances in my body – just ask my left IT Band and he will demonstrate this for you.
Running tightens and shortens the muscles and without restorative or loosening work, the body compensates and puts additional stress on the system. You want your muscles to be soft to avoid potential tears and too much repetitious training can lead to a tight body.
The practice of yoga has helped me find an equalized balance of strength and flexibility while also connecting to the breath (check out my post on moving meditation to learn how you can sync your breath with motion). With regular asana conditioning, you strengthen all of your muscle groups, while also supporting the skeletal system.
Yoga also helps to create body awareness. Athletes are taught to push through the pain, but if you are mindful about your body – you will understand that the body is interconnected. Pain in one area often is a result of imbalance in another part of the body. Yoga helps us understand this and brings awareness to how certain asanas can support different areas of the body.
The practice of yoga has helped me reduce my recovery time, channel inner strength, decrease my racing times, enhance my VO2 Max, reduce pain and fatigue and help me cross the finish line with a smile instead of gritting my teeth (gritting your teeth never makes for a nice finish photo).
For my runner and athlete friends, consider yoga as a cross-training method in which you focus on alignment. While training, concentrate on deeply stretching a few times a week to support your hard working muscles and joints. During race season, yoga can be restorative: breathing practices, calming the mind and body, and incorporating gentle stretching can go a long way. Please feel free to reach out if you are interested in possibly hosting a Yoga for Athletes Workshop or private lesson or to simply learn more. Happy and healthy bodies make for happy and healthy people!
Some of my favorite asanas for runners (thanks, Yoga Journal!):
- Utthita Trikonasana / Extended Triangle (Stretches the outer and inner hips and thighs; strengthens the core and legs)
- Parsvottanasana / Pyramid (Stretches the hips and hamstrings; strengthens the quads and core)
- Anjaneyasana / Low Lunge (Stretches the front leg’s hamstring and the back leg’s hip flexors and quadriceps)
- Eka Pada Rajakapotasana / One-Legged Pigeon (Stretches the hip muscles, including the piriformis, and the iliotibial band)
- Ananda Balasana / Happy Baby (Stretches the hamstrings and groin and helps release tension in the back)
- Janu Sirsasana / Head to Knee Forward Bend (Stretches the hamstrings and calves. Use a strap for assistance if your legs are tight)