If you’re a runner, you’ve likely been told that you should practice yoga. If you’re like most runners that I know, you’ve probably quickly dismissed the suggestion. After all, what can you achieve through “stretching” that you can’t gain from long runs, track workouts and tempo runs?
A lot actually. While there are numerous benefits to practicing yoga, here are five reasons why running and yoga are a natural fit.
- Improves the range of motion and mobility. Running injuries can be caused by a variety of factors including lack of mobility and flexibility. Whether it’s from pounding the pavement for miles or sitting at a desk all day, your muscles and joints can become stiff and rigid. Yoga moves your body through a wide range of motion, lengthening and strengthening your muscles and maintaining the suppleness in your body that allows you to keep running strong.
- Develops body awareness. Yoga develops your sense of proprioception – the sense of where you body is in space. This translates into better awareness of how your body moves when you run, from the way your foot lands on the ground to your arm swing to your posture. As you become more attuned to your body’s positioning, you can take that knowledge and apply it to your running form.
- Strengthens mental muscles. When you try to balance in tree pose or a challenging posture like Half Moon pose, yoga quickly turns from being a physical practice to a mental practice. Yoga teaches you to focus on the present moment. You learn to breathe through the experience, even if it’s uncomfortable, which is a critical skill to draw upon during tough runs.
- Improves breathing. You breathe every day but do you really breathe? Yoga teaches you to pay attention to and connect your breath to your movements, making it more efficient to move breath in and out of your body. Deep breathing can also lower your heart rate – something that you can draw on during tough workouts and races.
- Develops compassion. The real practice of yoga isn’t about the pose at all. It’s about developing compassion and learning to let go of your expectations. As you become more attuned to your body, you will begin to treat it with care and back off when necessary, rather than constantly pushing to the edge. In the same way, emotions and thoughts may arise during your practice. Yoga teaches you to notice those thoughts and then to leave them on the mat, particularly if they do not serve you. It’s a great exercise in learning to let things go rather than let it bog you down.
Do you practice yoga?