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What are the health benefits of Yoga For Runners?
Yoga For Runners can improve Flexibility, increase strength, improve range of motion of joints, improve breath and stride synchronisation and generally increase a runners fitness so that they will see great improvement in the physical and mental ability.
Yoga can be practised by almost everyone. Runners often ignore Yoga as it doesn’t fit in with their vision of “true exercise”. Some runners see the flexible poses being performed and don’t see the need to join in the fun, thinking to their-selves “I can’t bend my body in half like that!” It’s a great shame as Yoga can indeed help runners of all kinds, its suitable for all body types, can be performed at any age, regardless of physical condition, and those stiff runners who feel they aren’t flexible are the exact people who could benefit most from Yoga’s controlled improvement of flexibility and strength that it brings to those sometimes ignored muscles and joints. In fact runners have a tremendous amount to gain from practicing Yoga, not only physically, but mentally also.
One of the problems runners face, is the repetitive nature and resulting musculoskeletal injuries, that running can lead to.
During an average one mile run, a runners foot will strike the ground over 1,000 times, creating a force of three to four times your body weight each time,
so it’s no great surprise when we hear runners complaining of troublesome, knees, ankles, hips and feet. The force of each strike of the ground can also lead to problems further around the body such as the back and neck. Also, if runners aren’t used to warming up before their run, then hamstring injuries can become a real possibility. These aches and pains are due to imbalances that running causes and exacerbates.
These imbalances can be greatly improved by yoga. Sometimes runners are attracted to yoga because of injury or because they want extra flexibility. Once there, they are literally amazed at the world yoga opens up for them. Many stay with yoga for the rest of their lives, some combining running with their new found life within yoga.
What are the main physical health benefits of Yoga For Runners?
Lots of runners start their yoga journey because they want extra flexibility, usually because they pull certain muscles whilst running or warming up for their morning jog. Yoga stretches the muscles that are tight, this increases the range of motion in related joints. Increased stiffness is reduced resulting in greater ease of movement, reducing many nagging aches and pains.
2. Corrects the imbalances that running creates
Many runners experience much pounding during their run. Their muscles tightening then lengthening as they run. They don’t usually do enough restorative, elongating or loosening work. This is where yoga can be of great help. Runners are often sidelined by injury with chronic or acute pain. If a runner if off balance, their muscles and joints will be affected and weakened by this pounding the streets. Yoga teaches the runners to focus their attention on their bodies own movements rather than the external outcome. Yoga helps the body and mind connect through breathing techniques as well as strengthening the same joints and muscles that take such a beating from the running. If yoga is executed correctly a simple yoga pose requires the balanced activity of opposing muscle groups. Holding a pose, stretches some muscles but contracts others, creating a natural balance between strength and flexibility.
3. Reduces the risk of Injury
Balance, symmetry and alignment are all very important to the runners ability to avoid damage and injuries. A bad back can affect their hips and ankles. See our upper back pain article here. The pounding that joints and muscles take from regular running need to be complimented with Yoga’s more restrained, controlled elongating combined with slow deep breathing, warming up the muscles , then cooling down afterwards.
4. Improved Breathing
Lung capacity if of great importance to runners. It allows them to maintain an even breathing pattern throughout their run. The greater the lung capacity, the more oxygen is circulated throughout the system, which allows a runner to complete their run without stopping gasping for breath. It follows that improved lung capacity will lead to better running. Yoga breathing involves slow, deep inhalations and long exhalations. Exactly the breathing technique that a runner can utilise to their best advantage. A runner needs slow controlled breathing, rather than the rapid shallow breathing you sometimes see in perhaps newer runners. So Yoga is the ideal channel for the runner to be undertaking for improved breathing.
5. Increased Strength
Runners have strong legs for running, but are sometimes amazed that those same strong legs turn to jelly once the try to hold a standing yoga pose. This is because runners legs are not especially designed to use the persons body weight to create resistance. Yoga uses this technique to build muscle and bone strength. A balanced yoga practice contracts and stretches the muscles of the entire body. Runners practicing yoga will experience much increased strength in their muscles and joints leading to a much improved run.
What are the main mental health benefits of Yoga For Runners?
1. Increased Confidence and awareness
In addition to the physical benefits of yoga for runners, yoga also cultivates body wisdom and confidence. You will develop a greater understanding of your body and how it works. The calmness gained from yoga compliments the aggressive nature of running, to leave you with a structured balanced combination, that allows the runner to manage and economize their energy, leading to greater fitness, more awareness and confidence as they run.
2. Restorative Yoga helps Reduce Stress & Anxiety
Helps the runner recharge between workouts. Yoga also helps reduce fatigue, improves sleep,clears the mind of worry and reduces mental tension and anxiety. These proven yoga benefits can improve the mental and physical health of all runners.
3. Meditation Helps Concentrate The Mind
This is very useful for the runner. One of the problems I have always had with running, is that I get distracted or bored. By using meditation techniques learned at yoga, I am able to use these techniques to concentrate my mind on the job at hand. This is not confined to running, but to all forms of life, such as insomnia problems, anxiety & stress.