When 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.