Yoga has been around for thousands of years, but we have seen its popularity increase since the turn of the 20th century. Even more recently, data from a survey by the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found an almost 5% increase in yoga practice between 2012 and 2017.
Runners of all skill levels can benefit from adding yoga to their regular cross-training routines. The physical and mental components of yoga can help you build muscle, prevent injuries and other health complications, and boost your focus, to name a few.
Here, we explore what yoga is, all the ways it improves your health and performance, and how you can incorporate it into your daily life.
What is yoga?
The practice of yoga dates back approximately 2000 years. It is believed that the Indian sage Patanjali collected the practice of yoga in the Yoga Sutra, “which contains 195 statements which serve as a philosophical guide for most yogas practiced today”, according to the Yoga journal.
Yoga combines physical poses, breathing techniques, and meditation, but improving fitness was not originally a primary focus, but mental focus was. It wasn’t until the practice began to gain popularity in the Western world in the 1920s and 1930s that better fitness became a priority.
There are several types of yoga. Some of the most popular are:
• Ashtanga Yoga: Applies six sequences of established postures that quickly relate each movement to the breath.
• Bikram Yoga (or “hot”): The rooms are heated to almost 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity. It consists of 26 poses and a sequence of two breathing exercises.
• Hatha-yoga: Any yoga practice that teaches physical poses.
• Powerful Yoga: A more athletic type of yoga based on Ashtanga yoga.
The type of yoga class you might want to attend depends on a few factors, such as your experience and whether you want something more relaxing or more intense. However, it might take a bit of trial and error to find the class that’s right for you.
What Are the Benefits of Yoga for Runners?
Researchers are constantly releasing new studies on how adding yoga to your cross-training routine can help you become a better runner and boost your overall health. For example, preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s 2019 Hypertension Science Sessions found that three hot yoga classes per week for 12 weeks had serious benefits for your heart, one of the muscle organs. most essentials of your body. Specifically, hot yoga and yoga at room temperature can help lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure puts extra strain on your heart, according to the Mayo Clinic, and can lead to complications such as heart attack, heart failure, sudden cardiac death, and stroke.
It’s also not surprising that yoga is good for your brain. A review of 2019 in the journal Brain plasticity looked at 11 previous studies that focused on the relationship between yoga practice and brain health and found that those who practiced yoga had more gray matter
volume in their brain. Translation? More gray matter means better overall brain function, especially when it comes to aging, and even higher intelligence. In addition, a 2020 review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that yoga can even help reduce symptoms of depression, and another study from 2020 found that yoga can reduce symptoms of anxiety.
If you are prone to migraines or back pain, another win for yoga is that it has been shown to reduce these types of pain. A 2020 study in the journal Neurology found that doing yoga three days a week for as little as a month was enough to prevent migraines without the use of medication. A 2020 review published in the journal Holistic nursing practice found that long-term yoga practice helped reduce back pain due to the “combination of physical poses with conscious, focused relaxation and an emphasis on breathing techniques. “ And a 2020 study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that mindful meditation and yoga resulted in increased participants’ perceptions of pain, depression, and overall chronic pain.
The best part? You don’t have to do the most difficult yoga poses to reap these benefits. During yoga can being intense workout, even the simplest yoga a few times a week will help.
What regular yoga practice means for your running
No matter how fit you are when it comes to running, you can still experience measurable benefits by adding yoga to your cross-training regimen.
More intense versions of yoga, such as hot yoga or power yoga, can help improve your overall fitness, whether that’s speeding up in a sprint or going farther on a long run, increasing your heart rate and increasing your fitness level. building your muscles.
According to Kaiser Permanente Washington, increasing your heart rate with exercise strengthens your heart, helping it to become more efficient at pumping blood throughout your body. This, in turn, “allows your heart to function better under stress and keeps you from short of breath during high intensity activities.” This means that your speed work and long runs will become easier.
Strengthening your lower body, upper body and core through yoga helps you gain more power during your runs and prevent injury. Strength training not only helps strengthen your muscles and tendons, but increases the flexibility of your ligaments, which decreases your risk of strains or tears, according to Athletic Lab, a center for research and training in human sciences. sport in Cary, North Carolina.
There are also many yoga flows that focus on stretching, which is also essential for preventing injury because it increases blood flow to your muscles and improves range of motion in your joints, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Plus, a relaxing yoga session at night can even help you sleep, making it easier for you to get up for your morning run.
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How to start
If you are going to your first yoga class or resuming your practice after a long break, you may be wondering what equipment and poses you need to get started.
A yoga mat and yoga blocks are essential. (The blocks are there to help shorten the distance between you and the ground in case you need to make a pose easier.) Here are some equipment recommendations to get you started:
While many yoga studios offer virtual classes, not to mention the variety that can be found on YouTube, here are 30 individual poses you can learn and instructions on how to do them correctly:
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