Back in the day, I was a pretty consistent yogi. What started as a way to ease stress while planning my wedding 16 years ago turned into a solid love for all things yoga. I even became a Level I Vinyasa Instructor, though I don't teach classes. But as the years moved along and my running miles ramped up and my interest in other forms of cross training increased, yoga took a back seat. Sure, I still practiced every now and then. I've even combined forces with local yoga studios to coach Running + Yoga programs. But, sadly, that initial love affair had fizzled.
As a mom of 3 kids, running coach, personal trainer and nutritionist, my daily life can be fairly stressful. If I’m not literally running all over town to meet with and train clients, I’m running from one child’s activity, field trip or other obligation to the next. In fact, I’m not immune to bouts of anxiety, insomnia and depression from time to time when I don’t get a chance to reset the stress level. It’s times like these where I’m thankful I can always turn to yoga as a way to reset. So while I may not practice as often as I'd like, I know it 's something I can always turn to for comfort and stress relief. Sometimes just a couple of Sun Salutations in the back yard are enough to wipe the slate clean, so to speak. It’s enough to help me relax and regroup.
Stress relief aside, yoga can benefit runners and non-runners alike in so many ways. You may think that the laid-back, peaceful aspects of yoga wouldn't necessarily mesh well with running..but, yoga has a place in any runner's training plan. Here's why:
What is the best way to incorporate yoga into your running? Yoga can be a great cross-training activity on non-running days. Just be careful not to do an especially vigorous yoga routine the day before a hard workout such as a speed workout or long run. And, if you plan to do yoga on the same day as a run, try to do your run first, especially if your yoga routine exceeds 30 minutes. Long yoga sessions will tire the muscles, potentially changing your running form, which may lead to injury. If you have to do yoga on the same day as a run, or the day before a hard workout (if there is a yoga class you really love taking, for example), try to give yourself some time to recover between the two activities. Make sure you hydrate and eat well so you can be at your best for both activities.
Well, that depends on what you’re looking for. If you want a vigorous, sweaty workout, aim for a Vinyasa Yoga class. Vinyasa yoga is the practice where you focus on coordinating your breath and movement and flow from one pose to the next. There are also sequences of poses that are combined together into a “vinyasa” and you move from one pose to the next in a flow (such as Sun Salutations). Vinyasa classes are often taught in a warmer classroom to help keep the muscles warm and prevent injury. Classes follow the pattern set out by the instructor and most likely change from class to class. If you have heard of Flow Yoga or Baptist Yoga, they are types of Vinyasa Yoga. Vinyasa is also similar to Ashtanga Yoga (also known as Power Yoga) though Ashtanga follows a set series of poses. Though typically done in a warm studio, Vinyasa is different from “Hot Yoga.” Hot yoga is a blanket term to describe yoga classes done in a hot and humid studio. Technically speaking, the real hot yoga is Bikram yoga. This is a specific sequences of 26 poses developed by Bikram Choudhury. The classes are conducted in hot (around 100 degrees) and humid studios and consist of the 26 original poses sequenced together by Choudhury. These classes are not for the faint of heart but once you get used to the heat and humidity, they are a great way to build strength, endurance and flexibility (not to mention heat acclimation if you’re living in a cold climate and training for a hot race).
If you’re looking for something a little less intense, you can try Iyengar or general Hatha yoga class. Iyengar yoga focuses on alignment of the body in each pose and uses accessories such as straps, blocks, chairs and other tools to help you get into each posture correctly. Poses are held for longer periods of time than in vinyasa yoga which can be quite challenging. Hatha yoga actually covers most types of yoga and it’s often used to describe classes without a specific style. You can see a combination of vinyasa, Iyengar and other forms in a Hatha yoga class.
If you’re looking for something completely relaxing, look for restorative yoga classes. You may sit in a pose for 20 minutes to really focus on deeper relaxation. These classes are designed to not only restore the body physically, but to calm the mind as well. This is also a great way to build in flexibility into your training.
Do you practice yoga? If so, how often? Do you think your running can benefit from yoga?
About the Author: Jennifer Gill is a Lily Trotters Ambassador, a Running Coach, Personal Trainer and Sports Nutritionist in San Diego, CA. Jenn plays mom to 3 kids and contributes to the following blogs: www.solehealthandwellness.com & www.runswithsole.com
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