Running is a great natural healthy exercise. It keeps you fit, releases endorphins, burns calories and strengthens your heart.
Trail running in particular connects you with nature, allows you to unplug and focus on the moment. It is an adventure as you often run along unknown beautiful places. Thereby trail running is exercise, stress relief and excitement at the same time.
Yoga means "union" of body, mind and spirit and indeed it works on a physical, mental and spiritual level.
On a physical level yoga covers stretching, strengthening, balancing postures (asanas) and deep breathing.
On a mental level practising yoga is calming down your mind, allowing you to focus inwards and on the present moment.
On a spiritual level yoga teaches you how to be a peaceful, thankful and a happy person regardless of the circumstances you are facing.
HOW RUNNING & YOGA COMPLEMENT EACH OTHER:
Running is a repetitive motion that can put lots of stress on your joints and muscles. It tightens and contracts muscles and can cause muscle break down in long distance runners, making you prone to injury.
You probably already know that you should't spend 100% of your dedicated training time running and instead be doing more cross training, stretching & strengthening which can be covered by yoga. To get you motivated, here an overview of the benefits:)
While running tends to shorten muscles yoga helps to lengthen and relax tight muscles. Deep, long holding yoga stretches result in muscle relaxation and boost blood circulation, literally greasing your joints and muscles which supports healing and recovery.
Strengthening yoga postures build up and rebuild relevant muscle groups such as legs and the so called "Runners core" (= glute, hip, lower back & abdominal muscles).
Strengthening yoga poses also build up and strengthen muscles in often neglected, yet important areas such as foot and ankle. If core and leg muscles are strong enough, they work in harmony, promoting running efficiency, avoiding overuse and preventing injury.
As runners we often get lost in our miles and forget to listen carefully to our bodies. During Yoga you can take time to focus inwards bringing back your awareness to your body's needs, any fatigue or muscle soreness before turning into an injury.
HOW YOGA CAN BE APPLIED TO RUNNING:
Running is a one legged exercise, so you can't spend enough time on single leg balance postures. Single leg yoga postures strengthen the stabilising muscles of feet and lower leg that make your feet and ankles more resilient to the demands of running and prevent injury.
Strengthens Body & Mind:
Yoga helps to strengthen your body & mind. By holding yoga postures for a long time you do not only have to proof physical strength, but also willpower and mental strength. This can be beneficial in moments of physical and mental weakness during a race.
While practising yoga we apply deep abdominal breathing. Also called "diaphragmatic breathing" means deep breathing through your belly rather than flat breathing through your chest. Belly breathing is the most efficient breathing during running. It gives your brain and muscles the best supply of oxygen and improves stamina. It releases physical and mental tension, providing you with more energy and helping with endurance on your long runs.
Experience the benefits yourself and start your Yoga practise today :)
6 TIPS FOR YOUR OWN YOGA PRACTISE:
1. Hold each yoga posture for at least 45 seconds which equates 4-5 breaths.
2. Make it a routine. Practising 2 - 3 times a week for about 15 minutes will do it.
3. Practise yoga when your body is warm - after a warm shower or after an EASY run.
4. Listen carefully to your body and do not overstretch. You should feel good pain, no bad pain.
5. Do not compare yourself to others, it is about your own practise and progress. No one was born as a yogi but your progress will come with practise.
6. Yoga is not about being better than somebody else. It is about becoming better than you used to be :)