If I was to answer the question, can yoga improve your running I would have to say yes! In all honesty, without my yoga practice I would not be running at all. Yoga not only helps me run with good technique but also protects me from injury and believe me, I have had my fair share of running ‘niggles’ over the years.
So, How Can Yoga Improve Your Runs?
I often tell clients to think of their yoga practice their MOT/service for their body. We wouldn’t think twice about not having our cars checked out on a regular basis. It is the same for our bodies.
Yoga is perfect for this as it helps us to get to know ourselves on a deeper level; in a way we become our own physical and mental coach and expert.
Yoga enables us to spot potential problems which may lead us to injury or lower performance. If you are serious about your fitness interests or sport this is significant. In all honesty, yoga can give you most of what you need to stay super fit and healthy and you don’t need any special equipment.
Let’s look the two main ways yoga can help:
Yoga Can Improve Your Running On The Mat
Yoga is not just for flexibility – it has the potential to strengthen, align and balance out your entire body. In addition, because everything in yoga is linked to the breath, this will enable you to really get to know your body intimately. The connection to the breath, helps you to focus on everything you are doing, and sensations you are feeling.
As I breathe and flow through my asanas for the day, I learn, where I feel strong and flexible and where I feel tighter and weaker; I sense where my imbalances are and where I may have pushed my body too much. A sensible flow of asanas will address all these areas helping to strengthen the weaker areas and release the tighter ones.
Going back to flexibility, yoga is indeed a superior stretch session. Let’s face it for many of us, stretches after a run are an afterthought – a quick hamstring and quadricep stretch. Life is busy after all and we may not have time – sound familiar at all? Take a moment as ask yourself in all honesty, how long do you take time to stretch out after a run?
When I practice yoga, I undo the ‘damage’ of not taking enough time to stretch out. As I move through my chosen poses I can work on flexbility, strength, mobility and balance all at the same time. Indeed, I must admit that I often do some yoga before and after a run now rather than traditional warmups and cool downs. If you hate traditional stretch routines then this may be the answer for you as well?
Yoga can Improve Your Running Off The Mat
Yoga also helps my runs off the mat and during a run itself. The internal body awareness that you learn will filter into your run. For instance, you may find yourself more aware of how your feet are striking the ground. Are you striking with your heel or forefoot. Which is working for you better? Most seasoned runners understand that the way you strike the ground can affect your likelihood of developing an injury. We are all made differently so what works for one person may not work for another. You can read more about this here. Yoga helps you to easily tune into this because like I said earlier, it helps you to become an expert in your own body.
Yoga is the ultimate ‘ego’ basher. It helps you to accept and respect your limitations on any given day. You start to develop real body respect which will stop you from pushing too far or too fast. Yoga helps you to mentally take time to pause, take stock, listen, and practice self-love.
So, there you have it. Yoga has helped me improve my runs because it has permanently changed my relationship with my body for the better. It is the perfect exercise system for holistic health because it trains both the body and the mind.
Many of us push and push hoping that will make us fitter and better; our bodies are often seen as the enemy or traitor, especially when the results we want don’t seem to come our way. With yoga I have learnt that there is a better way and it is certainly working for me.
Treat your body right and your body will thank you for it by rewarding you with the ability to continue to enjoy what you love. So, what are you waiting for, take a breath, practice some yoga, and see it change your life for the better. Make yoga your best friend, body nurturer and healer.
Next time I will be sharing my favourite yoga moves which help me keep my body happy between runs and keep me injury free.
In the meantime if you are curious to see how I use yoga as my post run cooldown watch the video below (BTW I filmed this directly after a run so not my best look but I wanted to show you exactly how I do it).