Hatha Yoga for Runners

Hatha Yoga for runnersBy Faye Martins and Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP

Does Hatha Yoga for runners help performance and recovery? Yes, and here’s why: Running is a passion for many people, but it takes quite a toll on the human body over time. Pairing a demanding physical activity such as running with a therapeutic activity like Yoga helps to reduce the likelihood of strain and injury. Regardless, Hatha is a physical form of yoga, which attracts many different types of athletes, because of its healing benefits. So, let’s consider overall postural strength from core work, which comes with Yoga movements. Additionally, hip stability, and lower back strength are major factors when it comes to healthy running. In all of these areas, Hatha Yoga delivers benefits.

 

The Passion of Running

Nevertheless, there are many passionate runners out there. At the same time, runners often agree that injuries are a price one must pay for experiencing the freedom of running. Above all, there is the rush that a good run provides. In fact, running provides many benefits beyond cardiovascular health, such as mental stimulation and emotional health. Just like walking, there is a mental and emotional bonus for runners. Surprisingly, running is not as complete of a workout as many runners would like to believe. Yet, this is easy to resolve with the addition of Hatha Yoga to one’s exercise routine. The addition of stretching, strengthening, and breathing exercises to running is a complete whole-body fitness routine.

 

Gentle Yoga Before a Run

Gentle Hatha Yoga for runners has many benefits. One of the most notable benefits is that it boosts muscles performance. This will result in you running longer or at a constant pace once you get into your first mile. Another benefit is that Yoga assists lung capacity, and the added conditioning will lessen foot, calf, and knee fatigue. Yoga also releases tension in the body and relieves anxiety which can make for a less strenuous run. Rather than having to stretch at the end of your run you do beforehand, to cut down on time. Truly, the only disadvantage to vigorous Yoga routines before a run is practicing an exhausting workout. Therefore, take it easy and save energy for your run.

 

Injury Prevention

Certainly, runners benefit from Yoga practice for a variety of different reasons. Indeed, runners are some of the most injury-prone athletes in the world, and part of this stems from inflexible, rigid muscles. Running does indeed build strong, powerful muscles, but they are quite short and stiff. When one is out on a run they may feel like they are experiencing a large range of motion, but in reality, they are not. Running is a small, repetitive movement that varies very little, and leads to limited muscular development.

 

Flexibility and Longevity

Many individuals believe muscular flexibility is unimportant, but this is a serious mistake. Muscles provide shock absorption in the human frame, and the amount of shock they are able to absorb is determined by muscular flexibility. Inflexible muscles, therefore, are an indirect cause of the majority of running injuries. It only makes sense for flexibility and shock absorption to be crucial factors in the longevity, performance, and recovery of muscle tissue.

 

Understanding Impact

Shock absorption is an important matter when an individual is engaging in an activity that puts such tremendous weight on the body. The force of impact with each footfall during a run is 3-4 times the total bodyweight of the runner. As a result, an average mile has over a thousand footfalls. Think of what that does to the delicate cartilage of the joints. Hatha Yoga for runners is designed to strengthen the muscles, improve stability, and reduce common joint injuries resulting from running. Of course, practicing gentle poses, joint mobility exercises, breathing awareness, and conscious movement are as important as wearing quality shoes. Obviously, the impact comes with running, but we can still take care of our joints.

 

Gentle Yoga After a Run

Yoga after a run offers recovery, relaxation, and healing. The key is to do poses on the floor following your post-run cool-down. Rather than practice strenuous movements that continue to elevate your heart rate, you need to wind down. After a workout, runners sometimes find that they are sore and stiff. You don’t need to wait for those aches and pains to begin before moving into recovery mode. Gentle yoga poses can be done after your run. Your mindset and movement focuses on healing for the next running session. Hatha Yoga routines for runners can be customized and modified for your personal needs. The mind and body are not the same every day. Therefore, your sessions may vary based upon how we feel.

 

Lifestyle of Balance

Adding Hatha yoga for runners becomes a lifestyle that brings the body back into balance and stretches those rigid muscles, increasing the shock absorption of the body. This makes each footfall feel lighter and easier. This is important because if the footfalls feel wrong the body will automatically compensate by shifting the center of gravity in order to reduce the strain. This may work for the short term, but in the long term, it leads to injury. Runners practice Hatha Yoga to help with the three main problems from running – the hips, knees, and lower back. Yoga can strengthen the muscles most used during running so that there is less chance for injury. Progressive yoga postures can be added in to a runner’s training routine to help with pain reduction, injury prevention, and inflammation reduction.

 

Research and Education

According to Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research: “Hence, it can be said that pranayama improves respiratory breathing capacity by increasing chest wall expansion and forced expiratory lung volumes.” Therefore, another added benefit that Hatha yoga for runners offers is an increase in lung capacity. Albeit, this is especially attractive for marathon runners, who need all of the endurance they can get. In other words, Yoga poses are done in conjunction with the flow of the breath. At the same time, this automatically increases the aerobic capacity of an individual.

 

Joint Care

Yoga poses are great for runners with injuries or pains. Lower back pain can result from weak abdominal muscles, tight hip flexors, stiff iliotibial bands (aka ITB), and tight or injured hamstring muscles. Hip pain can come from misaligned or chronically tight iliopsoas or psoas major muscles. Runner’s Knee is an overuse injury in the knee area often caused by increasing distance too quickly, a strenuous change in training surfaces, or using poor biomechanics when running. Yoga helps release tension from these areas as well as significantly increase flexibility and strength to protect the runner’s knees from injury. Hatha Yoga also alleviates symptoms of the runner’s knee like inflammation, pain, and inflammation.

 

Recovery Time

Preventing injuries, such as runner’s knee, shin splints, IT Band Syndrome, Plantar Fasciitis, and many more ailments, should be a priority. Sometimes, runners will complain about the extra time a yoga workout would consume. Yet, educated runners often have warm-up and cool-down routines for injury prevention and recovery. Hatha Yoga for runners is as simple as adding a 20-minute session daily and is all that’s needed to see a great benefit in healing and recovery time, though sessions could certainly go longer if desired. By pairing yoga with running, runners may enjoy the rush and thrill of a good run for the rest of their lives.

 

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Studies

Ruprai Reena Kaur, et al. Effect of yoga training on breathing rate and lung functions in patients of bronchial asthma. International Journal of Recent Trends in Science and Technology. 2013;5(3):127–29. ISSN 2277-2812 E-ISSN 2249-8109.

Leg compartment pressures in collegiate runners: a comparison of symptomatic and asymptomatic athletes
Timothy Miller et al., British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2020

A controlled trial of the effects of neuromuscular training on biomechanical efficiency in adolescent student-athletes Joseph Janosky et al., British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2020

Youth running consensus statement: minimizing the risk of injury and illness in youth runners
Brian J Krabak et al., British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2021

‘Take a Mental Break!’ study: Role of mental aspects in running-related injuries using a randomized controlled trial Jan de Jonge et al., BMJ SEM, 2018

Additional Research

Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in sports injury research: authors—please report the compliance with the intervention Rasmus Oestergaard Nielsen et al., British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2020

Combining group psychotherapy and yoga exercises improves the quality of life in mental health professionals: a controlled randomized clinical trial Marilena Maglia et al., Mental Illness, 2019

LN Joshi, VD Joshi, LV Gokhale. Effect of short-term Pranayama on Ventilatory functions of lung. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 1992;36:105–08.

LN Joshi, VD Joshi, LV Gokhale. Effect of short-term Pranayama practice on breathing rate and ventilatory functions of the lung. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 1992;32:105–08.

NK Subbalakshmi, SK Saxena, Urmimala, JA Urban. The immediate effect of Nadi-Shodhana pranayama on some selected parameters of cardiovascular, pulmonary, and higher functions of the brain. Thai Journal of Physiological Sciences. 2005;18(2):10–16.

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3 thoughts on “Hatha Yoga for Runners”

  1. I am so grateful for this article about yoga for runners, keeping our muscles and joints healthy and preventing tightness. So many poses for that feel-good stretch!

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