The blog post below is about running and yoga, but applies to all forms of exercise that include an element of endurance and repetitive monotonous movement patterns, such as football, handball, tennis, basketball, swimming, and volleyball, to name a few.
If you have repeatedly heard other runners recommend yoga as a form of exercise and have considered whether it might be something for you, then stay seated and read on.
Yoga and running are in many ways two very similar forms of exercise.
Even though it might seem at first glance that anyone wanting to, could put on a pair of running shoes and go for a run, or roll out an exercise mat and do a forward bend. Runners and yoga practitioners know that it requires far more than what can be seen with the naked eye to keep running and practicing yoga.
What they have in common
Both forms of training can be trained alone or in a team, be a meditative experience, and require not only a dedicated commitment, in the form of continuous training but also an understanding of techniques and training processes, without which you as an exerciser quickly open yourself up to injuries and not least lack of development. But even though yoga and running have many points of similarity, they are also two direct opposites, and precisely therefore two forms of training that complement each other perfectly.
Where running primarily focuses on muscle strength and power as well as endurance via circuit training, yoga's focus is on balance, stability, calmness, flexibility, and deep breathing exercises. Running activates the sympathetic nervous system, while yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system. Running is monotonous repetitive movements, yoga is a diverse and varied training of the whole body, running gets the heart rate up, yoga lowers the heart rate…. and I could go on.
Roughly speaking, one can argue that what running lacks is supplemented in yoga, and what yoga lacks is supplemented in running.
Prevention of injury
Yoga is the perfect tool for injury prevention and a supplement to running, and this applies not only to running but to all forms of exercise that include endurance training and repetitive movement patterns. The goal of yoga as a supplement to training is to achieve balance in the body. Injuries that occur in connection with training are often rooted in some form of imbalance in the body, our body is the sum of all our parts, and imbalance in one part affects all the other parts.
You can sprain your ankle because you lose your balance in a step, experience pain in your knee because there is an imbalance in your hip, imbalances in your back can create a misalignment that shows up as pain in your ankles, pain in your shins can occur due to a slight imbalance in weight distribution when the foot hits the ground, the constant forward movement in running can result in shorter hip muscles that can cause pain in the lower back, even mental damage such as stress and burn out occurs when there is an imbalance between exercise(activity) and rest.
It's all about balance
Yoga helps you create balance, not only in the body but also mentally. All the exercises contain sub-elements of; strength, flexibility, balance, breath focus, and focused concentration. In yoga, you work with the whole body, physically as well as mentally, and the genius of yoga is that through the exercises you get to work with exactly what you find challenging (need to improve, to create balance).
A yoga position therefore feels very different from person to person, precisely because of this fact. If you lack balance, this will be what you find challenging in the position, if you lack strength, this is where you experience a challenge, and is it e.g. concentration, the breath, or the flexibility you want to improve, this is where you really feel your body in the pose.
However, yoga has much more to offer than just injury prevention and can stand alone as a complete form of exercise that can ensure your physical and mental health at all our different stages throughout life. I will not go into the many aspects of yoga here, but please see other blog posts on the blog.
Instead, I'll leave you, with a quick little overview of some of what yoga can offer in connection to injuries associated with running.
Running injuries can be due to:
Overloading of muscles and joints. - Yoga ensures the correction of imbalances in muscles and joints.
Lack of flexibility and mobility. - Yoga increases muscle strength and flexibility.
Monotonous movement patterns. - Yoga is a varied form of training that complements running.
Imbalances in the body (muscles and joints). - Yoga improves posture, balance, and stability.
The running surface and load. - Yoga increases flexibility + strength in the knees and legs.
Previous injuries. - Yoga is injury prevention and helps to heal quickly after injuries.
Muscle stiffness, and poor oxygen absorption. - Yoga improves breathing/lung capacity and increases oxygen uptake.
Inattention and concentration. - Yoga improves body awareness and increases the ability to concentrate and focus.
Even long-term and chronic injuries can be remedied through Yoga.
Thinking of taking up yoga?
READ MORE: 3 yoga poses that supplement running