Runners are pretty notorious for not being flexible. Repeatedly doing the same motions makes our muscles tight and often we skimp or skip on cross training all together, which contributes to injuries.
There are many different options of cross training and like me, you have probably already tried a number of them. For this post, I want to focus on yoga and three beginner style classes that I found helpful: hot Vinyasa, Yin, and Slow Burn.
There are many benefits of incorporating a yoga practice and can aid aide in your running performance by learning better breathing techniques, increasing your flexibility and mobility and also teaches us to quite the mind. It is an excellent low impact total body strengthening and conditioning supplement.
Today, there are more options available than ever before: YouTube, on-line memberships, yoga studios and even Runner’s World has developed a DVD which is Yoga for Runners.
Between my perception that yoga was “too slow and boring”, and being slightly intimidated to try something new by finding a class that fit my interests, my first few introductions to yoga wasn’t very satisfying and I didn’t stick with it.
A couple of years ago, when I started running consistently, I decided to explore yoga again but this time I looked for a class that was targeted for athletes – a beginner class with little or no yoga experience that was fast paced, with upbeat music. I fumbled, lost my balance, but I was SOLD. The class was as promised and was a great workout.
Unfortunately, this particular class wasn’t extremely popular so when it was announced that it was going to be cancelled, I was bummed. Instead of quitting, I spoke with the studio about my disappointment that it was ending and what I had loved about the class and my running habits. She recommended I try hot Vinyasa. I was a bit worried about the “hot” portion of the class. I had heard of Bikram (sweaty yoga)– and didn’t have much interest in practicing in 100-degree Fahrenheit room. While hot Vinyasa is taught in a heated room, it wasn’t as “hot”.
By definition Vinyasa yoga is movement with breath to flow from one pose to the next. But, hot is hot, and when the room hovers around 98 degrees Fahrenheit and you are moving through various poses – you can’t help but sweat – and sweat a LOT! But, it is an incredible workout.
If you have trouble in traditional yoga staying focused, Vinyasa may be for you. The movements are smooth and continuous which helps you stay present. As you become more familiar with the various flows and postures, you can begin to challenge your strength, balance and flexibility with various inversions and other challenging poses for fun. With a change of jobs, longer commute, and amped up weekly running miles, it was difficult to get to my Vinyasa class with enough energy and fuel to make it through the class, so I decided to try a few other beginner type classes: Yin and Slow burn.
Yin is considered a restorative yoga practice. It is generally taught later in the evening, slower paced and often your body doesn’t leave your mat. I found myself really appreciating the deep stretching, relaxing practice after a long day. The postures are generally held for 2-5 minutes, which allows the release of tension and tightness in your hips, back, hamstrings, etc.
Slow Burn yoga is a bit in the middle. Slow burn encourages movement through the postures with your eyes closed and focusing on holding the postures a bit longer than you would in Vinyasa. It is challenging to move through the poses based on primarily on feel and less emphasis on sight, but it works to strengthen your entire body, opens hips and shoulder and tests balance.
I have found yoga to be a good counter balance to running. I enjoy moving through various flows that I learned in class, and add other poses when needed to do after running or on off days when I can’t make it to class. I have attached a short clip of a flow that I do after running or can be done as part of a daily practice. Have fun with exploring new postures and new classes and test your edge. There is a vast array of options out there, I am sure you will find one that works for you. Namaste.
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