Yoga for Runners

Runners, whether they are sprinters or ultra marathoners, look for ways to improve their stride, breathing rate and muscular fitness. One of the techniques that is least invasive and less likely to have dangerous side effects is yoga. The use of yoga for runners is beneficial in a holistic approach. While yoga is a form of exercise, it is gentle enough to provide sustainable energy without requiring the use of equipment. Additionally, yoga is a solid way to reduce stress levels, which helps to keep hormone levels in check [3]. This is useful for reducing stress placed on the body through extreme forms of running, such as ultra marathon running or sprinting. Some studies are also looking at the use of yoga for motivation for runners.

A study published in 2006 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, titled “Effects of brief yoga exercises and motivational preparatory interventions in distance runners: results of a controlled trial” looked into yoga for runners [1]. This study focused on high school long distance runners who used yoga postures as a form of exercise pre-run. The other methods used were motivational shouting and zero intervention. Results found that yoga proved some benefit in motivation for runners, while not as much as the motivational shouting. Issues of the study include the long term use of yoga, in addition to the personal beliefs of using complementary and alternative medicine among the participants. At any rate, the use of yoga exercises have been used by runners for various reasons ranging from motivation to stress reduction.

In order to use yoga as a runner, you can focus on what aspect of yoga most interests you. For instance, some runners are looking for ways to reduce the impact of running on their joints, bones and muscles, which can often be an issue as we age, are pregnant or are recovering from surgery. Yoga Journal notes that yoga practice can provide mental training, as well as physical strength [3]. Asanas, when practiced consistently over the long term, can help a runner increase their range of motion and improve their physical stamina, which is essential in overcoming physical limitations. Additionally, the use of yoga postures puts all of your muscle groups into action, while providing strength to your core muscles. This overall exercise, in addition to the mental benefits, is substantial for anyone interested in moving beyond the wear and tear associated with solely running as an exercise routine [3].

Some of the most popular forms of yoga for runners include bends, twists and stretches. The Downward Dog pose is ideal for opening up your hip joints and for strengthening leg muscles. Give your body a great stretch pre or post run using the Downward Dog pose [4]. Another excellent pose for stretching your leg muscles is the Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, or the Pigeon. From Downward Dog, pull one leg forward and fold it underneath your body. Stretch out that folded leg by pressing forward on it. The stretch is wonderful for opening up your hips. To open up your hamstring muscles, opt for the Parsvottanasana, also known as the Intense Side Stretch or Pyramid. From the Mountain pose, stretch your legs and extend one forward. Bend forward over the extended leg without using your arms for leverage, and feel the stretch as you hold this pose [4].

Another of the most popular yoga poses that is often used for runners is the Revolved Crescent Lunge pose [4]. Use this pose to give your hips the deepest stretch. Start by standing in the Mountain pose. Tightening your core muscles to create a strong support system with your body. This will give you the greatest benefit. Move your right foot forward in a lunge position. Keep your bending knee in a 90 degree angle without overexerting your leg. Place your hands in Prayer pose in front of your chest. Twist your upper body from your waist, so that your left triceps is positioned over your right thigh. Continue the twisting motion until your eyes are focused over your right shoulder. Hold your pose while keeping your spine straight and your chest open. Press your palms together for support. Maintain the pose for 30 seconds. Switch to the other side and repeat.

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2491926/
[2] http://www.runnersworld.com/tag/yoga
[3] http://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/192
[4] http://beta.active.com/yoga/articles/yoga-for-runners-3-poses-you-should-practice
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