Is Yoga For Runners?

If you are a fan of yoga for runners, I wouldn’t blame you!

Like most, I assumed that yoga was good for everybody and that it had nothing but benefits, after all it’s been practised for thousands of years and is now practised widely around the world

yoga for runners image

Generally speaking, as long as it is practised safely and taught by experienced tutors, yoga is enlightening and has many health benefits…

-    But is yoga actually good for runners?

Well this is where it gets a bit sticky. If you are a long distance runner, trying to improve your running performance or if you do speed training, then not only will yoga not help you, it will most likely impede your progress and slow you down

So what is so bad about yoga for runners?

When considering yoga for runners, it all comes down to the mechanics of running and running economy

Running economy relates to the amount of energy we use to propel our legs and bodies forward when running a given distance

running economy

When the leading leg is out in front the muscles, tendons and ligaments are extended. When the foot lands on the floor they compress and fill with stored energy. When the foot pushes off the energy is released, the muscles and other fibres contract, the leg is pulled back and the foot flicks up

A good way to imagine it, is like an elastic band - you stretch it out and then let go and it snaps back

The more tight and taut the elastic band, the quicker it snaps back and less energy is used

It is just the same for the muscles and fibres in the legs, the more taut and tight they are, the quicker they will pull back and with less energy used

This means you will run faster and be able to run for longer

How does yoga affect the muscles, ligaments & tendons?

Yoga for runners means that the muscles, ligaments and tendons are stretched out over and over again

And what happens to an elastic band if you keep stretching it?

- It gets flexible and loses its snap back

It’s the same for the muscles and fibres in the body, they become more flexible and this means that we have to put extra energy into pulling back legs that should snap back automatically

speedy runner

-    Does this apply to all runners?

Yes, the science applies to every runner, what you have to consider is whether you are concerned about your running economy or not. For example, yoga and running is not a bad idea for someone who runs just to stay fit…

Take myself and Andy:

I am the world’s best plodder, I don’t run long distances (2/3 miles), I also enjoy mixing up my workouts doing kick boxing routines, ball workouts and hiking. My running is part of staying fit and to control my weight

Running economy is not a priority and flexibility helps with my other activities, so, yoga and running is good for me

Andy, on the other hand, runs long distances and uses speed training and intervals, especially when training for events. He is always looking to improve his running performance

So running economy is a top priority for him, the less energy he expends the longer he goes and faster he can get, therefore yoga would not be good for him

-    What about the other benefits of yoga?

Practitioners of yoga will tell you that it is not all about flexibility

Here are some of the other benefits of yoga which you may want to take into account while deciding

  • Emphasis on deep mindful breathing during yoga can expand lung capacity (good for asthma)
  • Stress relief, yoga lower levels of certain hormones which brings on a calm state
  • Lowers blood pressure and heart rate, good for sufferers of hypertension
  • Increases the range of motion in joints (flexibility) and increases fluid to the joints, good for relieving arthritis symptoms
  • Helps to alleviate pain especially in the lower back by realigning the spine
  • Helps posture

Running Tips HQ:

Something to consider is that running has its own health benefits without yoga. Visit our Benefits of Running page for a complete list

-    How do I know if yoga is for me?

You need to take a look at your training schedule (if you have one), and think about what you expect to gain from your running in the future. And what you would hope to gain from practising yoga

yoga for runners hippy

You may have an intense training schedule that is centred on speed and distance but need something to calm and de-stress you (especially before an event) but you don’t want to compromise running economy

Why not try Tai-chi? This martial art is excellent for calming and focusing the mind, there is no stretching involved so it won’t compromise running economy. It is also a very good way to warm up the muscles

If your running is of the more relaxed variety, or like me you enjoy other activities that would benefit from flexibility (no not that kind!), then you may like to try yoga and not worry too much about running economy

Common practises of yoga are Hatha, Vinyasa, Kundalini, and Ashtanga (power yoga)

Make sure you are safe and stay injury free

You should not be attempting yoga on your own, you need to make sure you are doing the poses correctly and not over stretching, injuries can be severe and are common, especially in the neck and back

If you believe yoga for runners is for you, make sure you get an experienced qualified teacher, the last thing you want is to injure yourself and not be able to go for a run!

Bottom line?

For some, yoga for runners works, yes. But for most runners it is a disadvantage.

Hope this helped!  :-)

Looking for injury free running tips? Here is a list of different strategies to avoiding running injuries – A list well worth reading :-) …more

To return from Yoga For Runners back to the Home Page, click here