Yoga for runners; the perfect complement. During any training session, the average runner strikes the ground innumerable times and over a period of time this can cause a great deal of wear and tear on the leg muscles and joints. Many ways have been tried to lessen the impact of this constant pounding including manufacturing shoes which can provide a cushioning effect. However, some recent studies have shown that striking a balance between yoga and running can help to alleviate any problems.
The worlds of yoga and running do seem to be some distance apart when it comes to physical activity. For people who concentrate entirely on running as a means of exercise, there is the persistent threat of injury due to the very nature of the activity. Yoga is primarily focussed on body movements and can be viewed as a recovery tool by teaching the mind to understand body movements and a means of responding to different signals from the brain.
Although there are many disciplines to the art of yoga, it is important to understand the benefits of practicing some of the yoga postures for runners. There are standing, prone, sitting and relaxation poses to name a few but without describing the complexity of each of these, it is the positive effects of each which need to be clarified.
For example, there is what is termed Asanas and pranayama breathing relaxation exercises. These are designed to slow the heartbeat, relax muscular tension and reduce blood pressure, while at the same time increasing the breathing capacity of the lungs, a significant factor for runners. Not only should breathing improve but it will become more rhythmical.
Yoga can also help with the flexibility and relaxation of muscles making them much less susceptible to injury. It has also been suggested that certain yoga movements allow the body to recover from injury at a much quicker rate.
It may certainly pay dividends to be trained in yoga techniques by a qualified practitioner before assessing which postures are the most suitable, and it is equally important to grasp an idea of how to approach the exercises and any useful times of the day.
As a guide there is no definite period of the day to set aside, but it is advisable to refrain from eating at least three hours before exercise. A rug on a hard floor should be used in a well-ventilated room with no planned disturbances. A recommendation of 30 minutes exercise has been suggested as a means of using yoga for fitness, and it is also hoped that each session is approached in a relaxed state of mind and free from any worries.
Obviously, in some cases these recommendations can be hard to achieve given the congested life style some of us lead. Going out for a run often has to be planned in advance or can just be a spur of the moment opportunity. Combining this with yoga can be no easy task, but it all depends on how much importance is attached to maintaining a relaxed injury free body.
Walt Thompson, a professor in exercise science at the USA University of Georgia state reckons that yoga for runners is the ideal type of cross training for improving fitness, if time allows for this. He has argued that yoga alone will not suddenly increase muscle strength or improve the heart rate, but when combined with a more physical activity, there is a much greater chance of holding the more complex and beneficial yoga postures.
There is another argument that yoga can replace stretching as means of helping runners to avoid many of the common muscle injuries. Yoga instructor Amy Annis suggests that the ‘pigeon’ pose, known by its correct title as Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, provides the ideal means in which to stretch the thighs and groins. She also insists that the forward lunge pose is a great pose for runners experiencing back pain and sciatica, while the wide-legged forward fold can be used to alleviate hamstring and lower back problems.
Amy also maintains that yoga does not need to be practised every day, but can be adopted on rest days from running. She argues that it is the ideal way to relax the body after the more strenuous running sessions, and that it helps to prevent persistent injuries and so allowing exercise to become that much more enjoyable. Both activities then become eagerly anticipated and the time factor does not seem such a problem.
Contrary to this opinion is that suggested by a number of male runners that yoga is mainly an art practised by females. It is probably true that some of the postures are more suited to females, but exercises have been designed for male runners and other male sportsmen. USA basketball star Lebron James told the Miami Herald that he uses certain yoga exercise to increase his endurance rate for the season. Former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield also used yoga as an essential part of his training, which also proves that it is not just runners who can benefit from this form of cross training.
Using yoga for fitness can reap its rewards, but actually beginning the practice might need that bit more extra time and the mental motivation to expolre the exercises. There is still the notion that yoga is for supple bodies and the belief that there are no derived benefits from many of the postures. Perhaps it is just a fact that there is a great deal of ignorance of the benefits and science of the activities, which if fully known, would increase participation levels.
There are certainly many advantages in adopting yoga for runners, but it is essential to gain expert advice from professional tutors in order to gain the maximum benefits from the exercises. An expert can offer guidance on the most appropriate to the individual needs and if yoga helps to prevent the more common running injuries then it is definitely worth attempting, and can even same considerable time and expense on those physiotherapy bills.