If you are a runner, you can be sure that yoga is one of the most complementary disciplines to support and enhance your performance. It improves strength and flexibility and helps improve balance and coordination, breathing capacity and mental focus.
One of the most fundamental aspects of running is breath. When our breath is disconnected and short, it can very quickly lead to a depleted and less energetic run as the body craves more oxygen to the lungs and blood to support this activity. In yoga, your breath is the bridge to developing and evolving into postures and has the ability to create more space and strength in the body. Focusing on the breath allows you to constantly return to it's benefits of expanding your lung capacity and creating a sense of lightness and ease, no matter what physical challenge you may be facing. When you start to shift your primary focus to your breath, you will find it has an incredible way of supporting the body, opening the chest for fuller lung capacity and allows for energy to be conserved and used more efficiently throughout the entire body.
Physically, runners rely on a combination of tension in the hips and mobility in the legs to move forward in an economical manner. Stability in the hips is pivotal to reduce injuries and strain on the lower body so it is essential for runners to maintain a healthy range of motion and to strike a balance between strength and flexibility in this area. One sure way to do this is to bring awareness to a large and powerful muscle - the gluteus medius - which is what we need to strengthen for sturdy, balanced hips. Engaging the gluteus medius integrates the head of the femur (thigh bone) snugly into the hip socket, stabilizing this joint to help move away from being quad dominant when running. When the gluteus medius is weak, the quads are forced to take on the task of stabilizing the hips, which over time can cause instability and inefficiency, as well as longer term injuries to the pelvis, hamstrings and IT band.
Running requires the whole body to work together, however our sedentary lifestyles can result in bad posture and hunched shoulders, closing our frontal plane. And not to mention the continual impact in running can also compress the spine and lead to a tight chest, shoulders and upper back. Creating space in the frontal and upper parts of the body, particularly the shoulders, allows more room for the breath to be fuller and more expansive, as well as an easier and more fluid range of movement.
Overall, yoga allows us to build strength and create space in the body when breath and movement are infused - a powerful and enhancing combination.