During my senior year of college at The University of Iowa I had to take different exercise classes for my degree in Exercise Science. I took classes ranging from road biking, cross country skiing (yes, we traveled to the far north of Wisconsin, and I LOVED it!), rock climbing, boxing, stretching (yes that was a class, and it was challenging!), running (learned a lot!), step aerobics, strength training, and yoga. I loved each class and learned a lot about each type of exercise, and maybe I’ll share that information in a later post.
However, I really enjoyed yoga and what it did for my running. I took yoga because I knew nothing about it and honestly thought it would give me an hour each day to relax and nap. Well, I was wrong! I really enjoyed the class but I did the opposite of nap. While it was relaxing, it was also physically demanding. I went into the class with my new yoga mat, yoga pants, and zero knowledge. At the end of the semester I became hooked on yoga and had improved my running form and overall posture. Score!
So what are the benefits of yoga?
Lowers stress levels– Like most exercises, yoga helps to reduce stress. It may not make your stress go away completely will it will significantly help. The release of endorphins is a natural mood enhancer, and when combined with the relaxation from yoga, your mood is surely going to improve 🙂
Helps with weight loss- Yoga can be a challenging workout if you want it to be. Power yoga is often underestimated for its intensity and ability to burn calories. Just like any other exercise, calories are burned!
Increases flexibility– One of the major components of yoga is flexibility. The various poses help to stretch your muscles, ligaments, and tendons to increase your flexibility and range of motion.
Increases strength- Many yoga poses are held for a good length of time and thus require a certain amount of strength. Also, depending on what yoga you practice you will use more strength (power yoga for example requires a lot of strength!) Your hip flexors, core, quads and hamstrings take a lot of stress during long runs and can fatigue easily. Practicing yoga can help ease the stress and combat fatigue due to the long poses that are held during different poses. Holding yoga poses for lengths of time is a great way to “train” your muscles to be able to work longer and prevent them from fatiguing.
Helps with sore muscles- While running, your muscles are constantly contracting. Yoga helps to elongate and stretch our your muscles. Not only does this feel good, it also helping to reduce injury by relaxing your tired muscles.
Helps your posture– Through a lot of core work and different poses, your body becomes stronger and is better at holding up without fatiguing. I have terrible posture and slouch way too much. Practicing yoga has helped me because I have strengthened my core and have learned to walk, sit, and stand while not slouching. Plus, you just look better when you aren’t hunching over!
Improves running time & efficiency– The combination of poses, strength, breathing techniques and flexibility all work in your favor to improve your running efficiency, which directly improves your speed.
With that all being said- choosing the right yoga is a personal decision. It also takes practice and patience to be able to practice yoga effectively. When I first tried “power yoga” I remember thinking ” I wanted to die!” and it had only been 10 minutes into the 60 minute class. I am by no means an expert at yoga, but I do feel much more confident than when I first began. Also, during easy training it is better to practice more intense yoga and vice versa for harder training.
I practice yoga 2 times per week at my house. I simply go to The Yoga Journal and watch their videos.
Happy yoga + running 🙂