Yoga provides significant benefits for runners
There was no better way for the RunStrong team and class participants to end two weeks of frigid temperatures than to complete a one-hour hot yoga class at Lava Yoga. RunStrong partnered with Carrie Mandigo, owner of Lava Yoga, to offer a yoga class geared for the flexibility and strength needs that are typical of runners.
“Even though I was new to yoga, it was a great opportunity to try yoga and learn about its benefits for runners,” said Darby Harris, a Bishop Seabury junior who attends RunStrong training classes on Monday and Wednesday.
“Yoga for runners can help improve balance, increase strength and range of motion, and sync breathing,” Mandigo said. “Yoga helps make running more efficient. Although it might seem that yoga and running lie on opposite ends of the spectrum, they are complementary opposites.”
RunStrong students and adults attend a yoga class at Lava Yoga - Lawrence.
Mandigo shared these significant benefits of yoga for the runner:
- Yoga reduces the physical stress that results from running. Yoga’s internal focus improves balance, increases strength and range of motion, and trains the body and mind. Breath is coordinated with each subtle movement, allowing the runner to engage and strengthen all of the intrinsic muscle groups, which support and stabilize the skeletal system. The end result is having the body, mind and breath integrated in all actions. This can offset the effects of a runner’s one-dimensional workouts.
- Yoga increases awareness and confidence during running. Developing a greater understanding of the body and how it works allows runners to respond to messages the body sends them. Yoga teaches that each day is distinct, much like each run. Energy levels fluctuate daily, even hourly, thus it’s important for one to have a sense of their reserves. This heightened awareness keeps runners from powering through every workout mindlessly and instead respecting the body’s limitations.
- Varying energy levels can be maximized by focusing on another non-kinetic aspect of yoga, which is relaxation. By bringing the body into a state of repose, one becomes more effective at using and conserving strength. Relaxation allows energy to burn at a more efficient level. The resulting increased vigor means greater freedom of movement and ultimately, more enjoyment of physical activities. Tension is the athlete’s downfall, and breath awareness is key to reducing it.
- Yoga reduces the risk of injury. Don’t ignore the body’s signals – take a break when needed and learn to recognize when rest is appropriate. Start incorporating yoga postures into the warm-up and cool-down portions of a workout. Think of running as the linear part of the workout and yoga as its circular complement. Remember, your body is on your side. It has an inherent intelligence to bring about a state of equilibrium no matter how many times feet hit the pavement.
As middle and high school runners continue to prepare for the upcoming track season, taking part in a yoga class was an opportunity for them to learn more about their bodies and how to use strength, balance and mindfulness to improve performance.
“I loved doing the yoga class because it was super helpful with my flexibility, mental health and mindfulness about my body,” said Isabelle Klish, class participant and Bishop Seabury runner.
Training class partner and Lawrence High School runner Natalie Kennedy agreed. “Yoga helps me practice focus and mindfulness that I can transfer into my races.”
The RunStrong team looks forward to future collaborations with Lava Yoga to offer classes geared toward the needs of the runner. If you’d like more information on upcoming events, email the team at RunStrong@lmh.org.
About the authors
Nami Stone is a physical therapist with LMH Health Therapy Services.
Carrie Mandigo is the owner of Lava Yoga, located in Lawrence.