Yoga and running are often viewed as two separate entities, the yin and yang of the exercise world. While traditional yoga often centers on more of a passive, mind-body workout, running typically represents a more intense and aerobic form of exercise.
However, both activities share more in common than one might think, in particular the components of endurance, strength, flexibility and a need for mental attention. Because of its complimentary nature, an increasing number of runners are welcoming a yoga practice into their training.
What is Yoga?
Yoga, meaning “to unite” in the Sanskrit language of India, refers to union of the mind-body-spirit, and focuses on various physical postures, or asanas. Most runners think yoga is only about stretching and breathing, however various poses help to develop balance, strength and flexibility.
These are all important factors in reducing the risk of injury, developing the core (abdominals, back, hip flexors, gluteal muscles), as well as stretching tight muscles from the repetitive pounding runners typically experience.
There Are Different Types Of Yoga – Which Ones Are Best For Runners?
With the increasing popularity of yoga in the Western world, yoga has taken on a life of its own. There are various classes of yoga with each involving a more concentrated focus in an area such as meditation, strength or cardiovascular conditioning.
Although it is highly individual, runners new to yoga may want to consider a Hatha, Ashtanga (or Vinyasa Flow) class initially. Power yoga is also a more advanced option that would serve as a great strength or core workout for strength training days. A brief description of these classes follows:
This slower form of yoga focuses on both physical and mental balance and requires control. Its aspects of breathing and meditation make it a well-rounded introduction to the foundation of yoga.
Builds strength and flexibility through a faster-paced workout involving a series of dynamic postures. It provides a more aerobic-type workout and is often practiced in a Hot (also referred to as Hot Yoga) room to assist in keeping muscles limber.
A practice that focuses on aerobic conditioning and building strength and core stability through a series of poses.
Where And How Should You Begin?
Including a yoga practice into your current schedule can take as little or as much time as you both desire and have available to you. Most yoga studios offer a varied array of classes from beginner to intermediate to advanced. Typical classes are 90 minutes in length, however, there may be several 60-minute or 75-minute classes available as well.
Check out a few local studios online or in person to see what they have offered and what you can expect. If you already belong to a gym or recreation center, you may be lucky to already have some basic classes available to you to partake in that are included in your gym fees already. Take advantage!
Alternatively, you may want to look into purchasing a few yoga dvds or watch some YouTube videos to practice at home. Start with a beginner’s or basic program if you are brand new or one that allows modifications to allow you to progress. Some recommended and personal favorites include Rodney Yee’s Yoga Conditioning For Athletes, Crunch Fitness Yoga Body Sculpt and Christine Felstad’s Yoga For Runners. But everyone is different – so read some reviews on-line to determine what may or may not work for you!
How Often Should One Practice Yoga?
Most serious yogis have a daily practice. However, many runners don’t have a lot of time to devote to a lengthy practice. To be consistent and reap the benefits of yoga though, it would be beneficial to aim to do some form of stretching and breathing techniques daily.
This can be easily achieved both pre-amp; post- workout with a 10-15 minute warm-up and cool-down. For a more structured practice with yoga as a cross-training activity, 2-3 times per week for 30-90 minutes will enable the additional benefits of toning muscles, getting your heart rate up (vinyasa flow or power yoga) and mental clarity through focus and meditation.
Remember, the beauty of yoga it that it’s not about being structured or perfect – it’s about you setting an intention or a focus for your mind and body – even if it’s only for 10 minutes a day!