How yoga benefits runners

Over the past month or so I have made a yoga comeback. There was another Living Social coupon to my favorite yoga studio, Arrichion, a long time ago. I bought it and intentionally held off using it until I was at this stage in my marathon training. I have been going once a week and will continue doing that until my race.

I used to be less than enthusiastic about yoga because it just wasn’t something that I had the focus or flexibility for and I have always preferred more high impact workouts that leave me sweaty and sore. That changed over a year ago when I went to Arrichion for the first time, a studio that exclusively offers hot yoga classes. I found that the heat warmed up my muscles, helping me with the flexibility element, and left me feeling super sweaty and accomplished after a session.

I especially love the balance that yoga provides to running when I incorporate it into my race training. While I understand that yoga isn’t everyone’s thing, I think that runners can really benefit from it as a counterpoint to some of the stress that running puts on our bodies.

My favorite classes at Arrichion are their foundational series and their tough but amazing core strengthening series. I did the foundational series yesterday evening while my body was still recovering from a very long run and a very busy wedding weekend. The instructor for the evening was one of my favorites. She makes you focus closely on your form in every pose and inserts short explanations of the importance of some of them as she instructs, somehow without breaking up the flow of the class.

Of course, there are so many poses that I love that stretch out my legs that are always in such desperate need of a stretch during training (Pigeon is probably my favorite). But a few more poses stood out to me yesterday as particularly helpful.

Warrior III and Tree Pose both require balancing on one foot which is great for working your core. But the aspect of these poses that is a challenge for me is properly aligning my hips so that they are square and I am doing the poses correctly. In Tree, the hip of my standing foot has a tendency to want to fall back but when I am conscious of this and tuck my tailbone in I can really feel it in my hips. Core strength and hip alignment are a runner’s best friend. Both of them are critical to maintaining proper running form and, in the long run, preventing injury.

Pyramid Pose stretches the legs – particularly the hamstrings which, for me, can always use the extra attention. But again, one of the keys to Pyramid (something we focused on in class last night and that I really struggle with in this pose) is proper alignment. Your feet have to be in line with one another and your hips have to be square and you have to maintain those angles as you bend over and feel the stretch in your legs. A good leg stretch and more body alignment practice makes this pose another win for runners.

Savasana is the way that we start and end a class and it is simply a neutral, laying down position where you relax and focus on controlling your breathing. I have never thought much of this pose because, to be honest, I am not a very relaxed person and am kind of awful at focusing on my breathing. But our instructor made sure to leave time for an extended Savasana at the end of last night’s class and insisted we give it our best effort. She made an interesting connection that I hadn’t thought of before, saying that the ability to bring your heart rate back down after exercise is important for competitive athletes and laying in Savasana after a hard yoga session and concentrating on relaxing your body and controlling your breath is a way of training your body to do exactly that.

If you are interested in more information, here is a great article on the benefits of yoga for runners. And here is a helpful site with a database of poses that includes photos and instructions.

Are you a yoga fan? If so, what are your favorite poses?

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5 thoughts on “How yoga benefits runners

  1. Love this post! I so want to try yoga but am clueless and don’t want to go to a class. Thanks for the great info…my dogs are going to be highly entertained watching me try it out, I’m sure!

    • It can be tough to go to a class when you’re new to it but everyone at my studio is at such different skill levels and it felt much more comfortable than I would have expected. Home yoga is a good place to start getting a feel for the poses and gaining confidence though :). Good luck!

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