I’m far from a yogi and I’m the first person to admit that. I’d love to being able to contort my body into challenging poses but I can’t touch my toes on a good day. I lack flexibility and patience. But more and more athletes swear by yoga and it’s hard not to listen when they say it’s an excellent way to strength train, relieve stress and become centered.
Yoga’s been shown to help eliminate stress, aid weight loss and ease aches and pains. It can help people stick to an exercise routine and improve running times. World-renowned athletes like Laura Fleshman say it helps her mental game in long workouts and races. She told Runnersworld that“enduring an intense pose is a lot like enduring a long run or tempo run.”
Yoga can be a valuable part of a training regimen. But with such a wide variety of studios and types of practice, it can be hard to know how to start. The trick is finding the right yoga practice that works for your needs. Whether you’re a skier strengthening the legs, a runner looking to soothe sore muscles and ease tension or a hiker hoping to drop into a calm, meditative mental state, there’s a yoga class for you. Here’s a guide to help you find it.
Vinyasa Flow and Power Yoga
Vinyasa flow and power yoga repeat the same sequence of poses every class or practice. The movements tend to be fast-paced and flow from one posture to another. Because of the elevated pace, the intensity is higher, and the moves are fluid. In The Runner’s Guide to Yoga Sage Rountree writes that athletes are attracted to this type of yoga because it is a little more aggressive and dynamic. They’re styles of yoga which develop strength and stamina while delivering a hard workout.
Vinyasa flow and power yoga feel like high-intensity workouts and should be treated as such. It is a tremendous overall cross-training style for everyday athletes. However, if you’re training hard, be aware that the fatigue it causes could detract from your running performance, especially during higher volume weeks.
Hatha, Bikram Hot Yoga and Anusara
The rhythm of Hatha, Bikram Hot Yoga and Anusara is slow and deliberate. Poses are held for extended periods of time to allow for the entire muscle to fully release. The continuous hold increases the functional threshold for balance, stability and body awareness feels similar to a tempo run. Rountree says the longer holding patterns develop core stability, body alignment, and balance and lead to better hip stabilization that can promote efficiency by decreasing lateral hip motion and wasted energy.
Outside of Bikram Yoga, which is slow but intense due to the heat and length of the class, these styles of yoga are less aggressive, and an excellent complement to a runner’s recipe. A lower effort cross-training yoga such as these classes won’t interfere with training and help develop a solid base of core strength, balance and flexibility.
Restorative and Yin
Restorative and Yin yoga is geared towards improving flexibility and facilitating recovery or restoration. A minimal amount of time is spent on your feet and knees. Most of the session is spent on the mat. The relaxed, low intensity of Restorative Yoga can improve flexibility without the demands of a workout while enhancing mindfulness and focus.
It’s a great choice for runners already training in a variety of activities in addition to running strength training and other cross-training activities. Weaving it in during your rest or recovery days is a great way to take advantage of its many benefits. Because it requires little energy, it doesn’t detract from your training and increases blood flow and mobility to the muscles and joints, which aids in efficient recovery.