I’ll start with the most obvious benefit, the one most people associate with yoga: flexibility. If you’re really tight, improving your flexibility can really increase your range of motion. There are some people who think that too much flexibility can be detrimental, but even if that’s true, I think the other benefits of yoga outweigh any potential loss in running economy. Making sure that muscles aren’t too tight ensures that an overly tight muscle isn’t pulling on surrounding muscles, tendons, and tissues, which could lead to injury. Stretching sore muscles can just feel good, too.
The second benefit, strength, is so incredibly important, in my opinion. Yoga will work your overall body strength, including core strength, which is really important to maintain proper running form.
I trained for but was unable to complete the Chicago Marathon in 2012 because I injured my hip flexor. I was so busy between training and writing my dissertation that I gave up my yoga practice for a few months. When I had to go through physical therapy to recover from the injury, I found out that a major cause of my injury was weak muscles in my hips that weren’t directly involved in running, muscles that I had been working when I was going to yoga classes.
When you’re holding crescent lunge or warrior II or many other poses, you’re working those stabilizing hip muscles. The same goes for all of the joints of the body. What’s great about yoga is that you’re able to work on flexibility, and strength, and your mental focus (Benefit #3) all at once.
3: MENTAL FOCUS
I think a lot of runners forget how important having good mental focus is to having good running performance. Having good mental focus is incredibly important to being a good runner and racer. Learning the skills to breathe through discomfort and to push aside thoughts of doubt can help you whether you’re racing or just doing a hard workout. These are the skills you’ll learn in a vigorous yoga class. When your quads are burning and you want to come out of a pose but you stay because you know you can give a little more, you’re building more than physical strength, you’re building mental fortitude.
Read More: Sublimely Fit