Yoga Makes Your Running More Effective

Running is good for you. Whether you are an experienced marathoner, or you’ve just signed up for your first 5K, pat yourself on the back. A regular running program offers numerous and substantial benefits for your entire body – efficient heart and lungs, strong muscles, dense bones, good digestion, and so on. As a runner you can whoop it up with decreased stress, a healthy body weight, and an enhanced quality of life.

You don’t get fit while you are running. Consider this. The repetitive, forward-moving, impact-based stride of running causes the body to break down. At the end of a run your energy stores are depleted. Your muscles are fraught with microtears, and their surrounding sheaths are irritated. Your pectoral, hip flexor, hamstring, and calf muscles are short and tight, causing imbalance to the joints they cross and affecting normal range of motion and function. You don’t get fit while you are running. All the physical benefits of running come while your body is resting and rebuilding in between your runs, and here is where yoga is especially helpful.

Yoga makes everything better. A regular yoga practice is the perfect complement to a vigorous fitness regimen, including running. First, running and yoga are quite similar. Both require breath control and good postural alignment for optimum effectiveness. Also, the active meditative aspect of running is completely on par with the mindfulness found in yoga.

Now here is where running and yoga differ and thus go hand-in-hand. The fast pace of running can take your mind away from what is happening in your body with each stride. Its vigorous intensity causes energy depletion, microtears, and muscle imbalances. Ahhh, yoga. The slower pace of yoga brings your body back to baseline and ready for your next workout.

1. Yoga teaches you to breathe. Run without breathing properly and you feel like your heart is plugging your airway, making the next lamppost seem very far away. Every yoga practice begins with attention to the breath. If you simply roll out your mat and breathe for 10 minutes, this is a good yoga. You become aware of your diaphragm muscle pressing down into your abdomen as you inhale and then relaxing upward as you exhale. Over time even your pelvic floor becomes a secondary breathing muscle. Yoga teaches you to bring an abundance of oxygen into your lungs and circulate it to your working muscles, which is crucial for running.

2. Yoga helps you find good posture. When you run, you move forward. Your head and neck reach forward, and your shoulders round inward. To compensate, your mid spine hunches. Bottom line, your spine is a mess.

The foundation of every yoga posture is proper alignment of the spine, pelvis, and shoulder girdle. The principles of good alignment in yoga apply to every exercise imaginable, such as squats, planks, sitting on a spin bike, and of course running. Learn yoga, and you learn how to activate core muscles for stabilizing the spine and maintaining good posture while you run. Have good posture while you run, and you’re running injury free for miles.

Good posture doesn’t just look nice. When aligned properly intervertebral disks, hips, and knees have the least possible stress and degeneration. Your lungs, digestive tract, nerves, and every other organ and gland function better. In fact, there is a strong connection between good posture and absence of injury and disease.

3. Yoga gives you longer muscles with greater strength potential. As mentioned earlier, the repetitive motion of running can shorten the resting state of muscles. This decreases a joint’s possible range of motion. Think for a moment about the hip flexors and hamstrings. They are on opposite sides of the hip joints, and they both become short and tight from running. Essentially the pelvis and thighbones become demobilized. Muscles moving through a smaller range of motion have lessened potential for developing strength. In other words, shortened muscles lack power, which is unfortunate because muscle power is helpful for getting you through your run.

In conclusion, yoga is the best cross-training activity for runners. There are three components of physical fitness: muscular strength and endurance, cardiorespiratory efficiency, and flexibility. A few quick stretches at the end of your run may help prevent some muscle soreness and injury, but they have little impact on maintaining or increasing the range of motion around a joint. Let yoga be the flexibility training that you need, and you will enjoy the breathing, postural, and strength potential benefits as well.

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Anita Parker, B.Sc., B.Ed., is the editor of All That Is Wellness. You can contact her at

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