Running is great cardio, but it’s not very well-rounded, warns Laura Denham-Jones, who teaches a runner’s yoga class at Triyoga, a prominent health center in London. “As an exercise that requires you to do a repetitive motion, over and over, some muscles are used more than others. The problem, in the long term, is that if you have some imbalance in the body, like a weak or tight side or a twist in your pelvis, then you’re repeatedly doing that same out-of-sync motion, which will make things worse. Things like your hips and your hamstrings will get tight.”
While it’s not so bad to have some tightness in muscles that are supposed to be strong, you’ll need to balance out all the work they do. Why? To prevent injury, says Denham-Jones: “If things get too tight, and you then try and do something like increase your stride, you risk pulling your hamstrings. And it’s amazing how reluctant runners can be to take time off from their training when they’re hurt.”
Sorry, but yoga won’t make you run faster. (If that’s what you’re after, train harder.) But what it does offer is injury prevention through stretching and strengthening the body. “Recovery is crucial,” she says. “No one should be training hard seven days a week. Yoga, being a practice that helps to decompress the muscles, will draw attention to any quirks in your body. Restoring muscles back to their original length will enable runners to keep their range of motion and strengthen their body.”
Let go of ego
Yoga is about respecting the body: “It creates a body awareness whereby, when you notice when something is painful, instead of pushing through in a macho kind of way, you learn to take things easy so that you can nip injuries in the bud.”
Another benefit is that, as yoga is done barefoot, you can’t rely on shoes to support your ankle: Your muscles are doing all the work, and they’ll inevitably get stronger. You’re also stretching the tendons and increasing suppleness through the foot, says Denham-Jones.