Why yoga could be a runner’s best friend

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Ask a runner to tie their shoe laces while standing and you might be surprised to see just how inflexible they are. For while runners might be slimmer, more toned and generally fitter than the average person they often suffer from tight leg and back muscles.

It’s because of the repetitive and parallel movement of running that certain muscles, including hamstrings, glutes, the iliotibial band (that’s the muscle
that runs from ankle to hip on the outside of the leg) and the lower back will shorten and stiffen.

The problem with tight muscles (apart from causing problems with shoe laces) is that they all too often lead to longer-term injuries as the body becomes physiologically unbalanced.

But this isn’t a reason to give up running – rather. the smarter runner would be wise to take up yoga.

The benefits of yoga for runners

Yoga is the ideal activity for:

· Increasing flexibility

· Lengthening muscles

· Improving mobility of joints

· Promoting better body alignment.

· Increasing stamina

All yoga classes, from the most gentle to dynamic forms, such as Ashtanga Yoga, will be beneficial to a runner’s body. But some of the postures will be particularly helpful for the most taut leg muscles.

The best yoga postures for runners

* A standing yoga posture will help to correctly align the knee and strengthen the arches of the feet to provide better shock absorbers when running.

* A “Child Pose” will strengthen the lower back and a “Pigeon Pose” will lengthen the glutes.

Yoga is not a quick-fix cure

Many runners will find the yoga poses difficult to start with. Jo Lockhart, an Ashtanga-style yoga teacher based in Glasgow, says: “I can always spot a runner in my classes.All too often their muscle tightness and lack of flexibility is obvious and even touching their toes is difficult. But with a bit of practice, these people see improvements in muscle length and their overall posture.”

How yoga has helped my running

I have found yoga to be a revelation. I attend a weekly Ashtanga-style yoga class
and more recently I’ve been supplementing this with one of a range of shorter yoga sessions from an on-line fitness website.

At the first classes I found that the yoga was really hard work. This is because many of my running muscles were really tight. Even just sitting in the crossed leg position or kneeling was painful and sometimes impossible.

But I’ve kept at it and over the last year my flexibility, joint movement and muscle suppleness has improved amazingly.

I’ve also suffered less injuries from running. Before I started yoga I had numerous knee niggles, calf strains and ham string pulls. Now I tend not to be bothered by injury unless I really overdo the running.

Where to find out about yoga classes

Most towns and cities will offer a wide range of yoga classes. Check on-line and in local newspapers.

It’s also possible to follow yoga DVDs and on-line yoga videos. One website that offers a good range of on-line yoga sessions is ThinQFitness.

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