Why runners love yoga

Running and yogaMost people have heard that yoga is good for you. Even if all you do is take an hour to stretch and relax, the benefits are almost immediate. But did you know that yoga can make you a better runner?

A few weeks ago, I attended a yoga retreat on Sandy Lake near Buckhorn organized by my future mother-in-law and lead by two amazing yoga instructors: Jamie, who owns and operates Sanga Retreats in Vancouver and Costa Rica, and a lovely woman named Catherine who teaches Kundalini yoga.

We started with some breathing exercises designed to slowly wake up the body. We followed that with a Kundalini class which proved a little more challenging and then did a class that was more active with plenty of stretches and different postures. After three classes on Saturday, I was feeling fantastic. I had planned to go for a long run that day thinking I’d be feeling great after all the yoga. I was right. I felt full of energy, relaxed and I couldn’t wait to get my running gear on.

Unfortunately, it was pouring rain. While I do enjoy a good rain run, this was far beyond the level of rain I consider acceptable to run in. It was a torrential downpour. Dark, windy and wet.  My run would have to wait.

Thankfully, the weather cleared up just before dinner and I literally couldn’t get my shoes on fast enough. One of the women on the retreat described me as “a little puppy that couldn’t wait to get outside for a walk.” I think it was an accurate description of the way I felt that day!

Even though I only went on a short 6km run, I felt fantastic. My breathing was consistent and relaxed. I felt light, easy and fast. I actually almost achieved a new personal best for 5km! On Sunday, I had an equally great run. I just felt relaxed and happy and think I ran a good portion of that route with a smile on my face. Was it the yoga? I’d like to think so.

Here’s a few reasons why yoga can be beneficial to runners:

  • Yoga helps build lung capacity. All that deep breathing helps stretch your lungs beyond their normal capacity. This improves your energy level by increasing the amount of oxygen and nutrients to the body. More air = better running.
  • Yoga can help heal old injuries. Injuries can remain dormant in your body for a lifetime and old injuries affect your running performance. Yoga can help alleviate those injuries through stretching, increased flexibility and strength.
  • Yoga can also help with pain prevention. If you spend your day sitting at a computer like I do, you probably have some stiffness and pain in your shoulders and back. Yoga can improve muscle alignment which can help alleviate this pain. It also uses opposing movements to running to help restore, elongate and loosen those tight muscles.
  • The theme of the yoga retreat was all about “mindfulness” and I’ve never noticed yoga’s ability to enhance mind and body awareness more than this past weekend. The endorphins released while running can make it really easy to ignore pain. Yoga teaches you to quiet your mind and bring a new awareness to your body which can help you recognize where you’re holding tension and stress.
  • I doubt that most people connect yoga and endurance, but yoga can be beneficial here too. Think about it. All those challenging poses can be demanding. Remaining still and calm and continuing to focus on your breath while holding poses requires will power and positive thinking – two things important for any runner.

So head to a yoga class this week or go to one before you head out for a run. I’d love to hear about your experience with yoga and running.

Soon I’ll be doing a Q&A with Jamie on the best stretches for runners. Stay tuned!

3 Comments

  1. Graham September 27, 2012 / 3:18 pm

    I knew yoga was good for you in general, but never connected the dots to realize it would improve running too… thanks for the tips!

Leave a Reply