Yoga for Runners

Editor’s Note: Today is Emily Whitehead’s seventh birthday! Head on over to Emily’s Facebook page to learn more about her battle with Leukemia and wish her a happy birthday!

IT’S ALMOST HERE! This Sunday, I will be running in the Pittsburgh Half Marathon—my first one EVER! (I’m a little excited about it, in case you couldn’t tell.) To prep for the big race, I’m trying to get some extra sleep, drink more water and take it easy with my workouts this week. As luck would have it, a local gym was offering a “yoga for runners” clinic, and I immediately signed up for it. I learned some great poses and breathing techniques, and now I get to share them with you!

Yoga is a great exercise in its own right, but it’s awesome for runners for a ton of reasons. Integrating yoga into your training routine can help to:

  • counter overuse injuries like shin splints and ITBS,
  • expand lung capacity,
  • keep connective tissue healthy, and
  • facilitate muscular and mental relaxation before or after a workout.
    Though some of the benefits of yoga come from its physical (albeit gentle) movements, many are also connected to its focus on breathing. The breath is central to yoga, and there are several different types that pair with different types of practices. One of the breathing styles the clinic focused on was the Relaxation Response—a calming technique.

The breath is smooth during Relaxation Response, but there is a slight pause after each inhale. The soothing effect of this style comes from the fact that the exhale is longer than the inhale. For example, a three-second inhale should be followed by a five- or six-second exhale. Using this technique can really help to calm your nerves… Especially in the moment before your first half marathon is about to start!

Keep Calm & Run

I want this shirt! (Source)

Traditional yoga poses vary in type, ranging from strengthening arm balances to energizing back bends (my favorite!). The clinic went through a handful of poses beneficial for runners, including:

  • crescent lunge,
  • pigeon,
  • warrior one and two, and
  • cow face.

Of those, pigeon is by far my favorite—it’s an awesome hip-opener that I use all the time. The combination of stretching, yoga and foam rolling has definitely helped me recover more quickly after my runs, and I highly recommend that you give all three a try!

Do you regularly practice yoga? What are some of your favorite poses?