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6 reasons every runner should practice yoga

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1. Mental Focus.
Yoga provides the perfect opportunity for runners to improve our mental game.  Precise alignment cues and dynamic flow sequences demand that we carefully attune to the way our bodies are moving in space, and to listen to what our bodies have to tell us as we move.  The heightened body awareness that we develop on the yoga mat translates into an enhanced ability to tune in to our pace, our form, and the inevitable twinges and niggles that come up as we run.  And when our minds begin to wander – as they most certainly will – yoga teaches us to watch where they go.  We learn to repeatedly bring our minds back into the moment, and manage the negative self talk that all to often undermines our best efforts as runners and human beings.

2. Breath control.
Yoga teaches us to coordinate our breath with precise physical movements, and to “breath into” areas that need attention.  Runners can translate these lessons to the roads and trails, using better awareness of breathing patterns to relax, to run with maximal efficiency and to fuel peak performance.

3. Balanced strength.
A routine practice of yoga postures strengthens big performance muscles, as well as the smaller stabilizers and core.  As our yoga practice deepens, we may begin to uncover and correct imbalances in our musculature which is a key in injury prevention.

4. Appropriate flexibility.
As runners, we don’t need to be Gumby too.  We should strive for enough flexibility and range of motion on the yoga mat to allow for an easy, fluid and full running stride.  Runners actually benefit from a certain amount of stiffness in the hips and core so we get a nice snappy rebound from the ground instead of “sinking” with each step.  So runners rejoice!  We don’t actually have to do hand-standing pretzel poses (even though it sure is fun to try!).

5. Tuning in and finding balance.
A regular and attentive yoga practice teaches us to tune in carefully to our bodies and what they need in the moment. We begin to know intuitively when we can push our runs harder and when to reign it in.  We learn to find our own optimal balance between training and recovery, work and rest.

6. Recovery.
Yoga can give us a tough work-out for sure, but just as important are yoga’s restorative postures to help us deeply relax and consciously restore.  We can speed recovery and become stronger and healthier runners by incorporating restorative yoga into our weekly routines.

Article by Tracey Cook
Tracey teaches yoga at Hemma and Total Body Chiropractic, as well as custom classes for private groups. You can join her for her NEW CLASS: YOGA FOR RUNNERS on Thursdays at 7:45-8:45pm at Hemma. She has a specialty certification in Yoga for Athletes with Sage Rountree (author of numerous books on yoga for athletes, Runner’s World Yoga Expert, and Yoga Journal’s Active Yogi columnist). Tracey is a BCRPA certified Group Fitness leader and mother of two active girls. She is a former varsity basketball player (University of Alberta) and has coached basketball in Victoria for the last 8 years. Tracey loves getting herself outside at every opportunity to swim, cycle, paddle, hike, grow food, and run the trails. Over the years, she has enjoyed training and taking part in triathlon, duathlon, and road and trail races in distances ranging from 5Ks to marathons.