Thursday, April 29, 2010

DISCOVER Yoga for Runners: Choosing the Right Gear

Not only is yoga a great cross-training platform for runners, it’s also become very accessible. Yoga studios have popped up all over the country. Your local gym or park district are likely offering affordable and convenient classes. But if you’re a runner and want to get the most out of your yoga practice, you’ll need to choose the right yoga props and gear.

For the most part, your equipment will depend on the specific style of yoga and what you expect from your workout. Common to all and the best place to start, though, is a quality yoga mat. Your yoga mat provides stability, helps keep your body aligned, and prevents you from slipping. And for runners, the right mat can deliver the cushion necessary to reduce the risk of injury to muscles and joints.

Thickness is important. Mats typically start at 1/8”, but consider an extra thick yoga mat for added cushion and comfort.

Many runners practice yoga to stretch out their muscles, increase flexibility, and improve their body alignment. Iyengar yoga, in particular, is ideal for runners and relies heavily on the use of props, such as blocks, straps, and yoga bolsters. Props make it easier to perform many yoga postures comfortably and without strain. Yoga blocks, for example, are usually positioned behind the heels or hips to help maintain proper form, ensure alignment, and hold poses longer.

At a certain point, and to get the most from your yoga practice, you’ll want to shop around and find the right yoga gear for you. But if you’re a runner and think that yoga can potentially take your performance to the next level, it’s more important that you just get started.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

DISCOVER Yoga for Runners: Where to Begin

Runners across the country are turning to yoga to help increase flexibility, improve their performance, reduce the risk of injury, and find the right mental balance. But while yoga really can be the perfect complement to a daily routine, there are several different styles of yoga from which to choose. Some center around meditation and relaxation, while others offer a more intense, aerobic workout.

Hatha yoga, for example, is one of the more traditional forms of yoga and probably the best place to start. Hatha is a lot more relaxed, with a focus on basic postures, and can enhance breathing and flexibility. And it’s among the most accessible. Runners can check out classes at the local yoga studio or gym and get started right away.

Iyengar yoga works every part of your body and lengthens your muscles though properly aligned poses. Relying heavily on props---such as yoga blocks, bolsters, and straps---Iyengar is both physically and mentally challenging, but probably the best style to reduce the potential for running-related injuries.

Want something a little more rigorous? Ashtanga or vinyasa (flow) yoga consists of a series of more demanding poses, all of which flow together to test your physical limits. Similarly, power yoga has become very popular and provides an equally intense and more aerobic workout. Though flow and power yoga styles are great for enhancing performance and endurance, they’re likely not the best options for beginners.

There are several other prominent yoga styles and plenty of variations on each. But the key is simply getting started. Look for a local class or studio, check out resources online, and experiment until you find the right yoga style for you.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

DISCOVER Yoga for Runners: How Can Yoga Help?

As most casual and competitive runners will attest, a daily run can help boost energy, strengthen the heart, lower blood pressure, and build bone mass. But running can also be both physically and mentally demanding. Yoga provides the perfect balance to offset the stress on muscles and renew the body and mind.

Today, more than ever, runners are turning to yoga to help:

Prevent Injuries. As a weight-bearing activity, running can place a great deal of stress on muscles and joints. Many injuries are the end result of either overuse or imbalance. But regular yoga practice can counter these imbalances and provide symmetry and alignment, potentially relieving many back, neck, and joint problems.

Increase Strength and Flexibility. In spite of regular pre- and post-run stretching, few runners are very flexible. Yoga poses, particularly those supported by the right yoga props, can lengthen the muscles, improve flexibility, and expand range of motion.

Recover Faster. Yoga not only helps to focus and calm the mind, certain poses can help increase the movement of oxygen through the body and prevent the buildup of scar tissue.

Enhance Breathing and Capacity. By conditioning runners to take slower and deeper breaths, yoga can positively impact lung function, relax the entire body, and increase the flow of oxygen-rich blood to muscles.

Especially for competitive runners, yoga is a natural way to balance the mental and physical demands and take performance to an entirely new level.

Monday, April 26, 2010

DISCOVER Yoga for Runners

Spring is finally in the air. It’s a time for renewal and a great opportunity to shake off the winter blahs. And if you’re like millions of other Americans, you’re already hitting the streets or trails for an invigorating morning run.

Much like the yoga movement, running has become an obsession in our country. In fact, a recent study by Running USA shows that the number of road race finishers has more than doubled over the past twenty years.

But whether you’re training for a marathon or just running to get in shape, yoga should be part of your daily regimen.

Okay, yoga and running may not seem like the perfect match. How can the relaxed, mind-body balance of yoga align with the intense, aerobic demands of running? Consider the benefits of increased flexibility, stability, and oxygen capacity---as well as the potential to reduce or prevent injury---and you’ll understand why yoga is the ideal cross-training platform for runners.

And if you’re worried that you don’t have time to practice yoga regularly, start small. Simple stretching and breathing routines before and after a run can make a big difference. When you’re ready for a little more structure, and have a little more time to invest, just grab a yoga mat and head over to the local yoga studio or gym. Practicing yoga even a few times a week can go a long way in getting your mind, and body, ready for the big race.

Next up, we’ll take a closer look at which styles of yoga are best for runners, the benefits of each, and the yoga props and gear that make the most sense for your practice.