Yoga for runners
“Yoga really balances out the body so it helps with flexibility to create more movement when you’re running but also helps with strength and stabilising muscles to help you propel forward
If you want to put your best running foot forward you need strength and stability throughout your entire body. Well limber up pavement pounders because Aquanation yoga instructor and runner, Bronwyn Dunstan, is going to help you discover why yoga is the ying to the runner’s yang.
Why yoga is a runner’s best friend
If you love the high you get from a run, you might not feel super jazzed about slowing down and joining a yoga class. But before you diss the idea, consider this: “yoga really balances out the body so it helps with flexibility to create more movement when you’re running but also helps with strength and stabilising muscles to help you propel forward,” explains Dunstan.
Bet we’ve got your attention now. And if not keep running cardio kid because the benefits don’t end there. “The flexibility and space you can get in your body from yoga helps you get more freedom in your run and it prevents against future injury because you’re strengthening your muscles and coming from a better starting block,” explains the instructor.
And because yoga is all about getting in tune with your body, Dunstan says that awareness is transferrable to your run. “With the awareness that your yoga practice gives you, you’ll know when to push off the balls of your feet more or opening up tightness in certain parts of your body when you finish.”
And when you start to get puffed, yoga will have you sorted there too. “You also learn how to focus on your breath as well, which helps you pace yourself in your run and create more stamina,” the instructor points out.
Lets get specific
When it comes to which moves are going to change your whole running game, Dunstan has three she recommends.
The first is downward dog, which is quite familiar. To refresh your memory it’s where
“The downward dogis great for runners because it can get the length through your body, through your torso, lower spine and open up the backs of your legs more gently.”
Her next fav has a rather convenient name, the runners lunge. Nifty! “The simple runners lunge, is where you begin in a plank position, bend one knee so it’s sitting off the ground a little and extend your other foot and while keeping your hips square and lunging through you’ll get a bit of length through that back leg,” explains Dunstan. She adds that that when you’re in a low lunge you can “get a bit of space in the hip flexors.”
And her third go-to move is thread the needle. For this move, begin on your hands and knees and place your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Then inhale and sweep your right hand up to the sky, exhaling as you thread your right hand under your left arm with palm facing up.
“Thread the needle up your back opens up your hips and gets into your lower back, it gets into the hips, glutes and inner thighs to loosen them up,” says Dunstan. In fact, she loves this allrounder so much she reckons “If you’re going to do any pose for the rest of your life, do this one.”
How often per week should runners do yoga?
For Dunstan, it all comes back to your goals. “If you’re running a lot, the more you practice yoga the more it will benefit you, but to start off just once or twice a week a session of yoga will be really beneficial.”
And if you want to enhance your pre and post run routine, Dunstan recommends chatting to your instructor. “Speak to your teacher or instructor to pick certain yoga poses that you do after a run to really get the benefits. It might be the down dog, thread the needle or the runners lunge after a run and then just a couple of sessions during the week will really help you,” suggests the instructor.
If you’re not all that familiar with yoga, Dunstan is very reassuring. She says when you start off her number one tip is patience. “Have patience with your body, breathing and slowly getting into each pose so you give yourself a chance to find your point where you can start to do the work and get the length or strength that you need,” says Dunstan.
She explains that although you may feel like it, don’t go too hard too fast. “One thing I learned early on was I’ve started a stretch and gone really hard into it, all that does is contract your muscles and lose the point of you doing it.”
Additionally, don’t worry about whatever other people in the class are doing. You do you yogi! “Try not to compare yourself to anyone else in the room because it can put you in a bad frame of mind and you never know what anyone else is doing or what they’re working with - they might just have super long hamstrings.”
Dunstan points out that if you’re watching everyone else, you’re not really getting the point of yoga because “you’re not getting in tune with your body if you’re concentrating on other people.”
Her tip for blocking everyone else out is to get in tune with you. “Keep bringing your attention back to your body and how it’s feeling, be patient with it and draw your awareness onto your breath because that’s also a go-to of letting you know how you’re going.”
The instructor adds that being aware of your breath is a really great indication of how you’re treating your body, “if you go too far into something you’ll find you’ll breath more shallowly or stop breathing altogether and you think it’s difficult and you realise you forgot to breathe.”
This applies to running too. So, no matter what’s happening, breathe!