Running is, without a doubt, one of the best, most affordable, and most accessible cardiovascular exercises you can do for your body. You can do fast sprints, long distances, or something in between; you can run through your community’s flat roads, up through the mountains, or perhaps even take a jaunt on a treadmill; really, the options and opportunities are endless. Provided you have an interest in running, a safe place to do it, and ideally, a good pair of running shoes, you’re all set. Anything over and beyond these essentials are basically just details.
However, the fact of the matter is that a lot of runners are beset by injuries at least once in their running careers, and for many runners, they get injured much more frequently than they’d like. Some injuries are pretty straightforward overuse injuries, like iliotibial band syndrome, while others can be much more complicated, like a femoral stress reaction. Many runners swear by cross-training regularly to help them stay injury-free, or to keep little niggles at bay, and more and more, it seems that runners are beginning to take an especially keen liking to yoga — and for good reason.
Yoga has been around for thousands of years, and over time, numerous different forms of yoga have arisen. It’s kind of like running; once you figure out which “type” of yoga you want to do, or rather, which purpose you’d like yoga to serve, you can adapt a routine accordingly. There is no shortage of yoga studios out there, of course, but even if you’re interested in developing a practice at home, perhaps by following along with a DVD or from an app, you will be able to take your pick from an abundance of options.
If you’ve been a runner for a long time and haven’t yet included some sort of yoga practice in your fitness routine, it’s not too late to begin. Similarly, if you’ve been running for a long time and already have a yoga practice as part of your game, wonderful; you may even want to consider changing up your routine if you feel like what you’re doing is becoming old or cumbersome. Yoga confers a ton of benefits to its users, particularly runners, and they include the following I describe below.
Yoga helps you take the time to slow down. Daily life can be pretty stressful for a lot of people, and while runners typically feel some sort of “release” or “relief” from the daily stressors by running, yoga can offer the cherry on the top. Yoga often teaches its practitioners how to meditate, how to be more fully present in each moment, and how to focus on the here and now and worry less about the far-off-future. As runners, we often get ahead of ourselves in our training and begin to worry about things that we don’t need to worry about, and yoga can help teach us to take a proverbial chill pill for once. Plus, many of us are guilty of thinking that we can effectively multitask (even though there is loads of research out there to the contrary), and yoga can help drill it into our brains that taking time daily (or near daily) to do one thing at a time is better than any half-asses attempt to do many things not very well or effectively.
Yoga teaches you to meditate. For many runners, they find that running miles nearly every day becomes like an exercise in meditation. However, for many runners, they also might begin to feel that running becomes one more stressor in life, one more to-do item to check off their list. Not only does this transactional relationship with running rob you of the joy that running can bring you, it also takes away any sort of meditative quality that running can bring you. Yoga, on the other hand, often teaches its practitioners effective ways to meditate and relax. Practitioners can use the tools they learn from yoga and apply them not only during their time on the mat but even also during their time on the run or in many other life situations when they are able to take 5 for themselves.
Yoga helps to balance-out runners. Runners are often athletes who “only” run for exercise; many runners often don’t include any sort of strength work or flexibility work, or even any type of cross-training exercises, until they’re injured. Fortunately, yoga can do wonders for a runner’s flexibility and strength, and in particular, yoga can help runners work on any muscular imbalances they have developed from constantly travelling in one plane of motion (from running). Runners might have very strong quadriceps, for example, but incredibly weak hamstrings, and yoga can help to rectify that. Similarly, runners might be beset with tight piriformises, shriveled hip flexors, or weak iliotibial bands, and yoga can help mitigate all of these maladies. There are even running-specific yoga practices out there online that cater to this particular population.
These, of course, are just a handful of the many benefits that yoga confers on its runner participants. The longer you do it, the more you may also find that yoga gives you other non-quantifiable benefits, like making you feel like a “more balanced person” or even just lifting your mood every time you do it. Much like running, yoga doesn’t inherently necessitate much gear, much beyond a simple willingness to learn it and try it, and again, just like running, there’s a type of yoga out there for everyone. Once you find your match, you’ll be good to go.