The yogi-runner is alive and well, with more people are harnessing the benefits this yin and yang combination in the lead up to the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival. Active yogi and co-founder of Flow Athletic Kate Kendall shares how yoga can help your running.
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Where running can be considered “yang” — fast, aggressive, and high-energy, yoga is “yin” — slower, softer and lower-impact. Running helps to get your heart rate up and is a good cardiovascular workout, while yoga complements lengthening and strengthening and actually helps the runner move with more ease and grace.
However, both yoga and running are very meditative practices which are inward-facing exercise as opposed to collaborative team sports. Both running and yoga can help bring us into the present moment by guiding our thoughts and attention into our bodies. Which is probable why runners make such good yogis, and vice versa.
The benefits of running are widely documented, such as increased cardiovascular fitness and energy levels. It can also be an exhilarating and freeing activity, a mood enhancer, and the perfect antidote to a sedentary work life!
It can also can be stressful on the body since it increases cortisol levels (stress hormones) and muscle and fascia tightness. Overtraining can also lead to injury and illness.
So while running is a great stress reliever, if you’re feeling ‘maxed out’, sometimes a yoga class might be the perfect ‘yin’ to your regular run training.
Just like the exhale needs the inhale, our bodies need relaxation after exertion. Yoga can support the racing body and mind — it can force you to do proper stretches, keep you limber, and help you fully relax. If you find yourself injured and unable to run, yoga can also help you heal.
Yoga teaches grace under pressure and putting bodies in to challenging shapes in yoga whilst training ourselves to remain calm, helps to translate and train to the mind for running long and challenging distances.
It has also been proven to decrease and activate the parasympathetic nervous system – which slows the heart rate, increases intestinal and gland activity, and relaxes the gastrointestinal tract.
Here are 5 yoga poses every runner should be doing:
1. Lizard lunge
Really anything that stretches and releases your quadriceps are great. Running can lead to tight and restricted quadriceps so poses that help to release these major muscles will be beneficial for runners.
2. Downward facing dog
This pose is often overlooked but it’s one of the best for runners as it helps to release the shoulders, back and legs. If any of these are tight, your running stride will be affected. Lengthening these muscles can actually help with your running performance.
3. Marichi’s Pose
Twisting poses can help to release the lower back and assist with spinal health
4. Reclined ITB stretch
Short for iliotibial band, this can cause discomfort and pain on the outside of the thigh, hip, and knee for many runners. Stretching
5. Reclined pigeon pose
A great hip opener and easier on the knees than regular/upright pigeon.
An easy stretch sequence for yogi-runners is: Lizard Lunge – into Lizard Quad Stretch – into pigeon pose. Hold each pose for about 5minutes, or about 3minutes for each leg.