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4 Ways Yoga for Runners Can Improve Your Performance

Yoga for runners improve performance through better balance, strength, breath control, and mobility: a lot of benefits for a short time of work!

4 Ways Yoga for Runners Can Improve Your Performance

  1. Yoga strength improves your ability to control your stride as well as improve the strength of the foot push-off. 
  2. Yoga mobility improves your running form in order to maximize your performance.
  3. Yoga for balance helps improve your stability on one leg, especially on trails or other uneven surfaces.
  4. Yoga breathing practice helps moderate and control your breathing while running.

Yoga for runners improve performance through better balance, strength, breath control, and mobility: a lot of benefits for a short time of work!

Our yoga for runners practice tends to holds poses longer while we focus on breathing. 

And that, in turn, helps build the strength and mobility.

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Yoga for runners starts with nose breathing

I always start my practice with a focus on my breathing: Inhale through your nose and exhale from your nose.

Generally, start in a seated (Easy pose) position, although you can start in a standing pose (Mountain), or even in Child’s Pose. 

Keeping a relatively straight back will help faciltate breathing into your belly. Sometimes it’s also helpful to put your thumb in your belly button and your hand below it, and then push against your hand as you inhale. 

Always, though, I’m trying to fill my belly with air, then 

There are a ton of different ways to breath in yoga for runners. I find this method works best to mimic how runners and cyclists breath during easy runs and rides. 

Yoga builds strength in runners

When we hold a pose like Warrior 1 or Crescent Lunge for 10 to 20 seconds, we create a lot of isometric stress in the forward leg. 

That stress translates to building strength in your hip and leg. 

No, it’s not the same as using a barbell to do heavy deadlifts, but it’s a great way to build strength without creating as much muscle damage as weight lifting. 

And when you hold your arms in the air in Warrior 1 or Crescent Lunge, you build the same kind of isometric stress in your upper body and core. 

Doing regular yoga for runners in the off-season and race season is a good way to strength train. 

Yoga for runners can improve balance for single-leg movements

Anytime you can do single-leg balance poses like Tree, Dancer, or Warrior 3, you not only build the isometric stress, but you train your leg to use stabilizer muscles.

You learn to improve your balance through yoga for runners. 

Try staring at a spot on the floor or wall and focus solely on your breathing while trying a balance pose. 

Tree is a good balance pose to start with since you can easily put the other foot down. I often practice Tree while standing in line at the grocery store!

If you practice with Dancer or Warrior 3, you can practice with a chair or counter in front of you to use your hands. 

Mobility can improve with yoga

I want to be careful that we don’t equate yoga mobility with flexibility or stretching. 

Yoga mobility is about join range of motion and your ability to move comfortably in any direction. 

So we want to open your hips, allow your spine to move freely, and your shoulders to be loose. 

Yoga is a tool to help you improve your running efficiency and form. The more you are able to allow your body to get into the best possible position for you, the more endurance and speed you’ll find. 

We use poses like Warrior 1, not only because of the hip strength of the forward leg, but for the mobility of the opposite hip. 

In any of the Warrior poses, your back leg is open sideways, so your hip joint has to move and open. 

If you slowly try to open the joint by inhaling and releasing the pose, and then exhaling and deepening the pose, you will gradually increase the range of motion in the joint. 

Yoga can help runners improve all aspects of performance

Running is moving forward in one plane. 

  • Yoga to build strength improves your ability to control your stride as well as improve the strength of the foot push-off. 
  • Yoga to build mobility improve your general movement and your capacity to improve your running form in order to maximize your performance. 
  • Yoga for balance helps improve your stability on one leg, especially on trails or other uneven surfaces. 
  • And maybe most importantly, yoga practice can help your breathing while running. Breathing through your nose is a good sign you’re in your endurance zone, breathing into your belly means you’re utliziing your full breath and getting as much oxygen into the system as possible. And learning to breathe helps moderate and control your effort and concentration during harder efforts. Try counting your breathing the same way you might pay attention to your breathing while running. 

Moving with your breath and holding the pose is the key to building strength, mobility, and breath control

The key to doing this kind of yoga is breathing with your movement. 

The thinking comes from research into stretching that suggests that contract and release movement is more effective than static stretching. 

So we inhale and relax, and exhale and move more deeply into the pose. 

For example, in a Triangle pose, we might drop the upper arm and shoulder on the inhale, breath into the belly, and open up the torso on the exhale by stacking the top shoulder on the bottom. 

With a Downward Dog, come up on your tiptoes on the inhale, and come down on one heel at a time on the exhale. Or bring your collar bones closer to the mat on the exhale. 

Keep moving with your breathing without forcing your movement, and you’ll find yourself getting more deeply into a pose than you expected. 

Want to know more about what you can achieve? 

My purpose with Simple Endurance Coaching is to help cyclists and runners achieve their goals with more strength, endurance, and mobility. 

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Paul Warloski is a: 

  • USA Cycling Level 3 Coach
  • RRCA Running Coach
  • Training Peaks Level 2 Coach
  • RYT-200 Yoga Instructor
  • Certified Personal Trainer