By Faye Martins
Does Hatha Yoga for runners help performance and recovery? Yes, and here’s why: Running is a passion for many people, but it takes quite a toll on the human body over time. Pairing a demanding physical activity such as running with a therapeutic activity such as yoga helps to reduce the likelihood of strain and injury. Hatha is a physical form of yoga, which attracts many different types of athletes, because of its healing benefits.
There are many passionate runners out there, and they all seem to agree that injuries are a price one must pay for experiencing the freedom and rush that a good run provides. In fact, running provides many benefits beyond cardiovascular health, such as: mental stimulation and emotional health. Just like walking, there is a mental and emotional bonus for runners. Surprisingly, running is not as complete of a workout as many runners would like to believe, but this is fortunately easy to resolve with the addition of Hatha yoga to one’s exercise routine. The addition of stretching, strengthening, and breathing exercises to running is a complete whole body fitness routine.
Runners benefit from yoga practice for a variety of different reasons. Runners are some of the most injury prone athletes in the world, and part of this stems from inflexible, rigid muscles. Running does indeed build strong, powerful muscles, but they are quite short and stiff. When one is out on a run they may feel like they are experiencing a large range of motion, but in reality they are not. Running is a small, repetitive movement that varies very little, and leads to limited muscular development.
Many individuals believe muscular flexibility is unimportant, but this is a serious mistake. Muscles provide the shock absorption in the human frame, and the amount of shock they are able to absorb is determined by the muscular flexibility. Inflexible muscles therefore are an indirect cause of the majority of running injuries. It only makes sense for flexibility and shock absorption to be crucial factors in the longevity, performance, and recovery of muscle tissue.
Shock absorption is an important matter when an individual is engaging in an activity that puts such tremendous weight on the body. The force of impact with each footfall during a run is 3-4 times the total bodyweight of the runner. An average mile has over a thousand footfalls. Think of what that does to the delicate cartilage of the joints.
Adding Hatha yoga for runners becomes a lifestyle that brings the body back into balance and stretches those rigid muscles, increasing the shock absorption of the body. This makes each footfall feel lighter and easier. This is important, because if the footfalls feel wrong the body will automatically compensate by shifting the center of gravity in order to reduce the strain. This may work for the short term, but for the long term it leads to injury.
According to Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research: “Hence, it can be said that pranayama improves respiratory breathing capacity by increasing chest wall expansion and forced expiratory lung volumes.”
Therefore, another added benefit that Hatha yoga for runners offers is an increase in lung capacity. This is especially attractive for marathon runners, who need all of the endurance they can get. Yoga poses are done in conjunction with the flow of the breath, and this automatically increases the aerobic capacity in an individual.
Preventing injuries, such as runner’s knee, shin splints, IT Band Syndrome, Plantar Fasciitis, and many more ailments, should be a priority. Some runners will complain about the extra time a yoga workout would consume. Yet, educated runners often have warm up and cool down routines for injury prevention and recovery. Hatha Yoga for runners is as simple as adding a 20-minute session daily and is all that’s needed to see a great benefit in healing and recovery time, though sessions could certainly go longer if desired. By pairing yoga with running, runners may enjoy the rush and thrill of a good run for the rest of their lives.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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Ruprai Reena Kaur, et al. Effect of yoga training on breathing rate and lung functions in patients of bronchial asthma. International Journal of Recent Trends in Science and Technology. 2013;5(3):127–29. ISSN 2277-2812 E-ISSN 2249-8109.
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