The wide range of benefits that yoga brings to your body can have a direct and far reaching impact on your ability to run, both long distances and sprints. It can likewise reduce the risk of injury during those runs, even if it only makes up a small percentage of the time you spend exercising. In a sense, yoga "optimizes" your breathing, posture, flexibility and strength, making it a perfect prep workout for running and jogging. The more you're able to control and correct these areas of your body during exercise, the less likely it is that you'll sustain injuries during a different or higher intensity workout. While running isn't often what we would consider high intensity, it's incredibly hard on your joints, particularly your knees. It can also be detrimental to your posture if you don't understand how to maintain it correctly, something yoga can help you with.
So you've got more than a few good reasons to work some yoga sessions in with your weekly workout regimen. Here are the main motivators:
- Stress Reduction: Yoga is as much a relaxation tool as it is a brand of exercise, and if you use it as such, that alone can help you reduce your risk for injury when running. During sessions, do as much as possible to relax your body and free up muscle tension. You could even try something like adding a vaporizer for aromatherapy--whatever it takes to stay calm and focused on your breathing. It's a simple process, in that the more relaxed you are, the less tense your muscles will be, thereby reducing your chances of having cramps, muscle spasms or even a more severe injury, like a sprain or tear.
Breathing -- Learning to breathe during a run is crucial for managing your heart rate and establishing endurance. You don’t want to be so tired that you’re heaving breaths to try and stay on your feet, and doing a little yoga that concentrates on your breathing can help you avoid this trap. Taking the same kind of deep, controlled breaths during a run that you take during yoga is going to be far better for your oxygen levels and will help you maintain your pace a little more comfortably.
- Posture: We've already mentioned that running is hard on your joints, and poor posture can compound that problem and expedite the injury process. Yoga gives you an opportunity to work specifically on your posture, and make some corrections if needed. Once you do, you can apply that to your body during a run so that you're not making it harder on your body than it needs to be.
- Flexibility: While running doesn't require you to be extremely flexible, having that flexibility is still one of the best things you can do to reduce your chances of injury during a run and in just about every other kind of physical activity. Since yoga is largely comprised of stretches and isolated poses, it's one of the best forms of exercise for increasing your overall flexibility. Again, you don't have to do a lot of it, but even one or two sessions every week will make you more flexible.
Yoga takes a well-rounded approach to injury prevention by targeting your muscles, spine and cardiovascular system. It's something that could be utilized by any athlete, but particularly in the case of runners, since so much of their training involves repetitive movements that are hard on the spine and joints.
If you're looking for a way to help your body deal with that stress, try adding a couple yoga sessions per week. You'll absolutely notice a difference in the way your body responds to your next few runs.