fitness · running · yoga

Yoga for Runners?

yoga011 runnersWhen I first took up yoga sixteen years ago running was not a part of my world. In my view then, runners were always nursing injuries. We had a few runners in our yoga class, and I remember clearly when one of them asked a senior Iyengar instructor who had come to do an intensive workshop with us about running. The student was having some hamstring issues and wondered what she could do to address them. The senior teacher said, “Stop running.”

But now I love running, and I’ve reconnected with yoga. So when a promotion from my hot yoga studio showed up in my inbox advertising a “Yoga for Runners” workshop, I was on it faster than you can say, “warrior series, anyone?” I recruited Anita to attend the Saturday afternoon workshop with me.

It was one of those cold days in early spring, so a couple of hours in the hot room felt welcome.  We got there a bit early, with time to do my favourite thing–some minutes of quiet savasana (corpse pose, often spilling over into a nap) on the mat before class.

The session started with the instructor giving us an overview of his running history. For a young guy, he had quite a few marathons behind him already. He told a credible story about how yoga had helped him with his running, much of it having to do with mental focus.

My real curiosity was: what does yoga for runners actually look like? Is it any different from yoga for non-runners? We did some familiar poses: “runner’s lunge,” the warrior series, downward dog, pigeon. But in the end, and I’m not sure why I thought it would be otherwise, I didn’t learn anything new about yoga and its specific application to running.

That’s not to fault the workshop. If a runner who had never done yoga before attended the workshop, then it might have opened them up to a new way of conditioning the body, opening the hips, being present through discomfort, paying attention to your body, and so on.

There are all sorts of good reasons for runners to do yoga. It’s a popular topic on running blogs. For example: “Why Runners Should Do Yoga”; “25 yoga poses that will make you a better runner”; “How yoga can help your running”; and “The benefits and effects of yoga for runners.”

So it’s not as if yoga for runners is a new idea (despite what my senior Iyengar teacher had to say). The articles just cited list all sorts of benefits runners can gain through yoga:

  • reduce stress
  • ease pain
  • build strength and flexibility in the core, quads, and hip flexors
  • build tenacity and learn to manage uncomfortable emotions
  • reducing risk of repetitive strain by lengthening muscles that running tends to shorten over time
  • injury prevention
  • total body conditioning
  • boost mental acuity and body awareness
  • increase range of motion
  • improve balance and stablity
  • learn to practice conscious breathing

I don’t deny those benefits. And I felt great after the workshop.

But the idea of yoga specifically for runners is misleading. Yes, runners can get a lot out of yoga. Just about anyone can gain something from yoga. So if you’re a runner and you haven’t tried yoga, go for it. No need to wait for a special workshop.



6 thoughts on “Yoga for Runners?

  1. Interesting. I’ve been to yoga for cyclists before and really liked it. Lots of poses are hard to do for cyclists and we talked about modifications. Also about which yoga poses helped address body problems cyclists develop. But I’ve always been a casual yoga person so they had lots of teach me!

  2. It’s a way for a yoga studio to get new people in the door and there is nothing wrong with that. They need to be able to keep their doors open and marketing to people who are already disciplined in their exercise routines, like a runner or cyclist, can be helpful to keeping a studio going.

    1. Agreed. I do think everyone can benefit from yoga and you’re right, it’s a way to get new people interested in something that could do them some good.

  3. Thanks for sharing Tracy! Your story struck a chord b/c I’ve had the opposite experience: always loved running, but wasn’t always interested in yoga. For some reason I had an aversion to it for the longest time; it felt too slow. I started a new job this past year and they offer free lunch-time yoga twice a week, and I’ve been going regularly–and now I love it. Its increased my body awareness and supports the gentler, more loving mental attitude I’ve been practicing toward my body as I get older. And it just feels so good.

  4. I have a friend who surfs and found an article on yoga for surfers. I helped her with the particular pose sequence and asked her about how surfing works (as I’ve never attempted it). The series made sense for her activity….poses that helped with her stance and pop up and the strength needed to paddle and maneuver. There were also poses that addressed certain areas of tightness for surfers. I wish there were something we could provide that is so dynamically aligned with running!

  5. I am doing Yoga regularly and I got lots of health benefits. There are lots of yoga benefits for runners as well as for people in various field. It is necessary to do Yoga regularly and earn various health benefits.
    I agree with all yoga benefits you shared here.
    Also your one of the article – “25 Yoga posses ” shared with this site is really helpful for runners.

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