With its dedicated International Yoga Day on June 21st, this holistic practice is no longer ‘that ancient lifestyle from India’ – it is now resoundingly ‘mainstream’. Growing numbers of people from different walks of life are attracted to the strength, flexibility and mental focus that Yoga unveils. I am seeing that too. At my studio Dhyana, participants talk about yoga for stress alleviation, weight loss, easing pain and even spiritual upliftment.
Yoga And Running
Nowadays I’m seeing that at Dhyana, clients pair yoga with their running discipline. This is because the strength and flexibility developed with regular yoga allows for more efficiency while running, and less injuries. Take Lathika Nambiar, she started practicing yoga after breaking her foot. She soon realised that the poses were doing a lot more for her than just healing the bone. “Yoga helps me control my emotions while I’m in discomfort on the road,” she says. “Enduring an intense pose is a lot like enduring a long run or tempo run.”
Yoga Before A Run?
With fitness fads popping up regularly then fizzling out just as fast, running has passed every endurance test with flying colours. Speak to a runner and it’s like you’ve been transported to a different world of fitness and calm, where nothing exists except the path in front of them. You could say it’s a meditative experience and you wouldn’t be wrong – quite like yoga.
As wonderful as it sounds, along with any form of exercise come the tight hamstrings, the sore calves, and the aching knees. Runners have accepted these things as second nature to something they love but more studies are showing that a regular yoga practice can at least alleviate, if not eliminate these annoyances.
To Yoga Or Not To Yoga
The question that emerges is whether to practice yoga just before a run. Taking a slightly closer look at this, let’s understand why yoga and running go so well together. To be a good runner, and avoid injuries, acquiring balance and a strong core is vital. Breathing deeply and evenly is also vital. All yoga styles take these elements into account – keeping the muscles flexible, strong and mobile. While Pranayama (breath work) fosters even breathing while you run, post-run, yoga loosens up stiff joints, stretching tight muscles like nothing else. All of which lead to a lower risk of running-related injuries – that is what sportspeople seek.
The Fine Print
Although the result of a yoga class sounds like the perfect way to warm up before a run, it isn’t a good idea. Doing certain yoga-based stretches before you take off are beneficial, but a full yoga sequence can have adverse effects. Yoga is designed to relax and stretch muscles, which, when being used during a run need to be tight to withstand the weight of your body. Having your muscles too relaxed can be detrimental to overall running performance, and increase the chances of injury. Therefore, what I suggest at Dhyana is for runners to let loose on the road or the treadmill and then come home to us to integrate that cardio blast into a finer expression of overall wellbeing.