Running is a popular form of physical activity that everyone can benefit from. It helps you stay active and improve your cardiovascular capacity and also boosts your endorphin levels thereby making you feel de-stressed.
However, before you get your ‘runner’s high’ on, it is important to know the long-term side effects running can have on your body. To prevent a number of these and enhance your overall performance, another supplementary physical activity, namely yoga, can be beneficial.
Here are some ways in which yoga can aid running.
Strength and flexibility are two aspects that are of primary importance in running. Pushing your entire weight forward puts tremendous stress on your lower body. If your muscles are weak or tight, it can lead to long-term negative effects on your body.
With its various asanas, yoga can help you aim for specific muscle groups that you may not be able to directly target as a runner. While running puts a lot of stress on the big muscle groups like the quadriceps, glutes and calves, it can create muscular imbalances in the long run.
For a runner, injury is the worst enemy and muscular imbalances stemming from training over a long period of time are the primary cause of injuries. Yoga can help you target smaller muscle groups and bring them up to speed so that you are completely prepared for the physical exertion of running.
Yoga also teaches you to listen to your body. It helps you connect with specific muscles in each asana. Thus, you will know what your body needs and when to give it a break; both of which are important factors in your running routine.
Yoga is as much about gaining control over your breathing and letting your breath guide your movement as it is about physical conditioning. Gaining this sort of control over your breathing keeps your cardiovascular system healthy and efficient while running.
While slow, controlled breathing helps you pace yourself, fast breathing gives you more energy for a short burst. Both of these are important when it comes to running, and yoga is a good way of mastering both.
Having control over your breathing can also help in preventing ‘gassing out’ during running, which is when your cardiovascular system is unable to send enough oxygen to your muscles. This is particularly beneficial for professional runners who have to ensure that their body is running at an optimal capacity for a long duration of time. Once you have control over your breathing, running can become an almost meditative experience, just like yoga.
The mental benefits of yoga for runners include the ability to calm your mind and let stressful thoughts pass by without affecting you. Running at a competitive level or even to beat your personal records can be daunting. You have to battle and conquer negative thoughts in your head to stay focused.
Running is also a fight against your body telling you it has had enough and that you need to stop. You will often need to push through physical discomfort to better yourself, and practising yoga can give you an edge in this regard.
Yoga is an excellent tool that brings together mind and body to work in tandem. You can know the difference between severe discomfort, which can lead to an injury, and just mental exhaustion, which is trying to hold you back.
Running regularly can take a heavy toll on the body, but cross-training with yoga is a good way of combating its negative effects on your body. Whether you aspire to be a professional runner or whether you are just running for sport, a guided yoga practice equips you with the tools you need to excel at every level.