Whether you are avid runner, practicing yogi or interested in a new way of fitness, running and yoga combined will open up a new world of physical, mental and overall well-being.
In recent years the popularity of both these sports increased due to the significant benefits they offer in reducing stress, cardiovascular health and mobility. The moment you combine the two, the benefits grow exponentially. Both can be practiced wherever you are and there’s no reason why your journey towards health and vitality shouldn’t be a prosperous and uplifting one.
Together, yoga and running will help you to look and feel great.
Here’s a look into this magical combination and how you can start training today.
Enjoy the Benefits of Both Worlds
Runners know that hitting the road for a jog not only helps them to relax, it also aids the strengthening of their muscles while building stronger bones and improving cardiovascular fitness. It’s the perfect fitness activity if you want to maintain a healthy weight and during a long running session you can burn kilojoules like a bomb.
Don’t underestimate yoga however, as a well-seasoned yogi will not only have the cardiovascular endurance, they will also have flexibility, mobility and the ability to quieten their mind through meditative practices.
Who wouldn’t want to add all those benefits to their life, but did you know that by combining these two sports you can create brand new benefits in itself. Known as cross-training, you'll work muscles in different ways to impacts their potential, exponentially. This means your yoga will make you a better runner and your running can improve your yoga.
Here are the benefits you can experience through combining yoga and running:
Cardiovascular Health and Fitness
Important for managing heart health and overall fitness, running is a perfect endurance sport while yoga helps with heart rate variability (the heart’s ability to adapt and calm down faster). Yoga will thus help with your recovery heart rate if you are a serious runner while some research showed how a yogic lifestyle of asanas, meditation and a plant-based diet can even reverse heart disease.
Strengthening of Muscles and Bones
While running continues to strengthen your muscles and bones, its repetitive nature places ongoing pressure on the joints and muscles. Certain parts of your body work over-time which could lead to the tightening and shortening of some muscles. Bringing yoga into the mix will help to lengthen those chronically shortened muscle fibres, loosen facia (the connective tissue on your muscles), and also balance out the overactive muscles to create a balanced muscular-skeletal system.
Creating Stability and Mobility
Yoga will stabilise your running through its positive effects on your joints, tendons and balancing muscles. The continuous forward motion of running causes imbalanced as your muscles get weaker and certain joints take on more pressure. Yoga helps you tap into the opposing muscles and minor balancing muscles as you work on different planes of movement. You’ll not only run with greater ease, you’ll also have improved mobility as you get older.
Without proper stretching your body can become more injury prone due to the repetitive strain that running can put on it. Yoga will give you improved flexibility, greater range of motion and balanced muscle functions which will mean you’ll significantly reduce the chances of injury.
Increased Focus and Mental Health
Running is a sport of the mind, overcoming the norm by pushing your body while flooding your brain with endorphins (happy hormones). Yoga includes the practice of managing the mind, where meditative practices help you create better focus while developing a stronger mind-body connection. Together you’ll develop greater body intuition, aiding you in recognising injuries before they become too problematic and differentiate those from fatigue. Meditation are also one of the most effective strategies in reducing stress, creating relaxed focus for performance and improving mental health and anxiety.
Better Control of Your Breath
There’s a prominent focus on breathwork (pranayama) during yoga, where you learn how to fuel and manage your body with various breath techniques. You’ll gain the ability to relax your intercostal muscles and with this comes increased lung capacity. This will positively impact your running endurance as you become less out of breath when running.
How to Approach your Running and Yoga Program
You might wonder how often should runners do yoga, should you do yoga before or after running, do it every other day or during the same workout session? The best answer to these questions will come from your own level of fitness and reasons for combining running and yoga.
If you’ve been a jogger for years and looking for ways to stabilise, stretch and relax your body after a run, your objectives are completely different to someone who’s only starting out a new overall and balanced fitness plan. Here’s our recommendations on how you can craft a fitness regime based on your personal objectives...
New to Running and Yoga?
If you are completely new to running or fitness, well-done for taking on something that will not only make your body healthier, it’ll also help you manage stress and make you happier (even the scientists say so…).
There are a lot of apps, online running websites and smartwatch tools with programs if you are brand new to running. These programs differ from one training app to the next and finding one that suits your budget and needs are quite easy. They gradually build your running toward completing a 5kms or 10kms race over a period of a month or two. Your level of fitness and fitness ambitions will determine how hard you want to push and how frequently you run.
Most trainers make use of interval training where you will do intervals between walking and running, slowly increasing the interval duration for running until you’ve worked your way up to the target distance. Once you reach a comfortable running space, you’ll start to focus on cardio fitness and endurance where the recommended heart rate is between a 60% and 70% of your maximum.
Don’t push your body too far as this will not only put your body in danger, it will also make it an unpleasant experience and we want you to have as much fun as possible.
Running can place a lot of strain on your back, legs and joints, therefore be patient while your body adapts and learn to build strength in around those areas. This is where the stretching and yoga comes in. Doing a short 15 minute warmup session before and a 5-30 minutes yoga practice after each running session will help you stretch the muscles to prevent injury and cool down the muscles after a run.
A general beginner program for runners will have running days and non-running days, with a day of rest in-between. If you feel strong and want to work towards overall cardiovascular health or weight loss, a good 60 minute yoga session during your non-running days will leave you with a glow and blissful feeling.
Explore the styles of yoga you enjoy during these days, hatha yoga, vinyasa yoga or Iyengar yoga are usually well-balanced yoga types that will get your blood flowing while also working on relaxation and breathing techniques.
Just be sure you allow a day or two every week for complete rest and recovery, and if you feel you’d want to you can focus on pranayama or meditation practices during those days.
Running Competitively or Experienced Runners
If you run frequently, are quite fit and running is nothing new to you, the core objectives of adding yoga to your practice will be increased mobility, flexibility, mindfulness and tapping into the exponential benefits of cross-functional training. Any fitness instructor or personal trainer will tell you how important a proper warm-up and stretching at the end of your practice will benefit your muscles and help with recovery.
You can include some of the major poses for runners in your warm up before you start jogging. A lot of poses can be done without a yoga mat, so maybe it’s better to focus on these before your run and end off your practice with the poses that require a mat.
A quick 15-30 minute yoga session after each run will get you to work into the tired muscle fibres and stretch them to prevent stiffness and future injury. Ensuring you do this after your run will allow you to conserve your energy for the run while yoga provides the much needed cool-down afterwards.
For fit runners we recommend going for the more nurturing yoga styles. You are after all doing this to give your body some healing relaxation and stretching. Finding a good yoga teacher online can help you establish a routine that fits into your schedule and if you choose to a yoga class on off days, be sure it’s something soothing like restoration yoga or Yoga Nidra.
For those runners with serious stiff muscles there’s also hot yoga. The heat in this practice will help you move deeper into poses and increase the focus in relaxing those shortened muscle fibres. Hot yoga can be quite intense, so be sure you keep them far away from race days or big practice sessions.
Like most other yoga types, the most important part is to listen to your body first.
The Best Yoga Poses for Runners
Most of the yoga postures will be good for any person wanting to achieve relaxation, mobility and flexibility. We have however selected basic poses that specifically focus on the muscles that are so intensely impacted by running.
Learning to put them into a short little yoga sequence will help you to quickly jump into them after your run. An experienced yoga teacher, biokineticist or personal trainer can help you connect there in a smooth and easy way.
Bound Angle Pose:
Not only does this seated pose stretch the inner thigh around the groin area, it also gives you an opportunity to stretch into your ankles.
Cat Pose and Cow Pose:
These two are great warm-ups that works into the ribcage and spinal area. You can begin and end your practice with them.
Generally this is known as a resting pose, but it’s core function is energising the body and creating a strong and lengthened spine. With practice you can also work more into the back-body and stretch your hamstrings and legs as your heels lower towards the mat.
Upward Facing Dog:
Opening up the ribcage and bending the spine in a different direction, this is ideal for creating space and mobility in the thoracic area.
Find out what to know before starting yoga.
A lovely hip opener that also works on the legs. In yoga we always try and create balance so be sure you do the left and the right side.
Side Bend (Parivrtta Janu Sirsana):
This is a seated lateral side stretch that moves your spine different to everyday movements while also targeting the hamstrings and legs. Try and relax the bent leg to soften into the adductors and quadriceps.
Forward Fold (Uttanasana):
This is a great stretch to lengthen your back body. Through slight adjustments you can either focus on the spinal area or the hamstrings, and if you aren’t flexible you’ll feel the stretch in both areas. This is also a great warm-up pose.
Child’s Pose and Shavasana:
It’s great to end your practice with either a child’s pose or Shavasana as they are both relaxation poses. They will instil a sense of calmness in you and bring your heart rate down, but remember to breathe through your nose during all yoga poses as it relaxes your nervous system and regulate oxygen levels in your blood.
All of these poses have progressions that make them slightly harder and regressions that will make them easier. Attending a yoga class or organising a yoga session with one of our Superprof expert yogi’s will help you understand these, but also ensure you set-up the poses correctly to enter and exit them safely.
Finding Your Rhythm
Some of the biggest learnings from yoga is how to listen to your body, while you learn to find the balance between working and letting go or relaxing. With yoga and running in the mix you’ll not only become a better observer of your mind, you’ll also be able to tap into the wisdom and intelligence of your own body.
Life is all about balance and the moment you combine Yoga and Running, you’re already on your way of striking a balance between two training methods that will make your fitter & happier for longer.