Running + yoga: why they work together

They may be very different activities, but running and yoga complement each other really well! Find out how a regular yoga practice can help improve your running performance…

Woman stretching after a run

Runners may not necessarily identify with yogis, and vice-versa; however, the two activities are an excellent match! Yoga and running target many of the same muscle groups and both activities require flexibility, mental strength and breath control.

Muscle strengthening

Many yoga poses strengthen your hamstrings and quads—muscles that do a lot of work while you run. Downward Dog, Triangle Pose and Half Splits are just a few classic yoga poses that activate your hamstrings. When it comes to your quads, Crescent Lunge, Pigeon Pose and Dancer (among others) help to stretch and strengthen the area. Strengthening your leg muscles will not only add power to your running stride, but it will also help protect your joints. Muscular imbalance and tightness can cause strain on joints (like your knees) that already work overtime when you run.

Why developing muscle strength through yoga is great for your running:
- You’ll be able to run for longer periods without getting over tired.
- You’ll prevent joint strain and injury.
- Your run stride will be more powerful and balanced.

Flexibility

Yoga is an excellent activity for increasing flexibility. While it may not seem obvious, being flexible will also help improve your running performance and prevent injury when you run. In general, flexibility increases your range of motion and allows your body to react more quickly and safely to abrupt movements. Stretching muscles that work really hard when you run will result in greater freedom of movement, as well as reduced tension and muscular strain.

Why developing flexibility through yoga is great for your running:
- You will have increased range of motion and a more powerful stride.
- Your muscles will recover more quickly from the strain induced by running.
- Your risk of injury will decrease as your muscles will be more relaxed and will have a chance to recuperate through your yoga practice.

woman working on her flexibility on a yoga mat
woman concentration on a yoga mat

Mental strength

Some people say running is 90% a mental game as it can be very challenging to keep going when your body is exhausted and the voice in your head tells you to stop. Yoga is one of the best activities for harnessing one’s inner strength and tapping into the immense power of the mind. All types of yoga require great focus and an effort to be in the present moment. Developing these mental skills will greatly benefit runners who struggle to ignore negative thoughts while pushing themselves through a tough run.

Why developing mental strength through yoga is great for your running:
- When your mind is calm, your body is naturally more relaxed and the exertion of running will not seem as intense.
- You will be able to get through the more challenging parts of your run by tapping into the mental strength you have developed and focussing on positive thoughts.
- You will learn to pay closer attention to your foot placement, arm swing and breath pattern—all important elements of improved performance.

Breath control 

Almost every yoga session begins with a focus on the breath. Yoga instructors guide participants to become aware of the physical mechanics that go into breathing, to pay attention to the way their bodies breathe naturally, and to explore the ways breath can support their movements. Since running is so demanding on the cardiovascular system, all runners can benefit from improved breath control. Learning how to be aware of your breathing pattern and how to get the most out of each breath will bring more power to your run and will allow you to run for longer periods.

Why developing breath control through yoga is great for your running:
- You will learn to breathe more deeply, thereby bringing more oxygen to the muscles that work so hard while you run
- By regulating your breathing pattern, your body will settle into a movement pattern that feels comfortable and sustainable.
- Being conscious of your breath will make you more aware of how far you can push yourself. While it’s great to challenge your cardiovascular system, you never want to be in extreme discomfort, or have the feeling that you need to gasp for air. 

Trying different activities is always a good idea as it allows you to work your body and your mind in new ways. Running and yoga are a great match since they are mutually beneficial. Whatever sport you choose, enjoy reaching new levels of fitness while still listening to your body and respecting your limits. Let’s get moving!