“If I were given £1 for every time someone has told me ‘I’m not flexible enough to do yoga’ I would be a millionaire by now”, says Catherine Jaschinski, a Reigate-based yoga and mindfulness teacher. Here she explains how yoga can help runners.
Honestly, as a yoga teacher I find it totally perplexing when I hear this [‘I’m not flexible enough to do yoga’] because it is so much more than flexibility. And for runners, yoga offers a vast range of benefits that can be accessed as and when they are needed.
I have run pretty much all my life, in fact, my mother said that as soon as I could walk, I ran! And I still love running; whether it be as part of a sport or just for the pure joy of getting out of the house and exploring my surrounds or challenging myself to run crazily long distances… it makes me feel alive and free (most of the time!).
For most of the years that I have been running, I have also practiced yoga, and I am not naturally flexible. There is no doubt that the stretching element of yoga has helped to keep my body more mobile than it would ordinarily have been, but I have discovered that it is surprisingly good in other areas. Let’s have a look at just a few of them.
Yoga does include stretching, but we also need to contract supportive muscles to create balance. Many of the muscles that are not used in running can be strengthened by yoga.
Take, for example, the upper body. Research is starting to show that the optimal arm position is with the elbows bent 90 degrees, close to your ribs with your arms swinging back and forth along the sides of your body (this may sound obvious but not everyone runs like this!). It takes strong arm, shoulder and back muscles to swing the arms in this fashion and yoga postures such as ‘downward dog’, ‘plank’ and ‘dolphin’ strengthen the whole upper body.
Core strength is also improved with yoga. A strong, stable core doesn’t come from doing thousands of sit-ups; it comes from positioning the body so that it develops balance and stability by challenging all of the torso muscles. Standing balances such as ‘tree pose’ and ‘eagle pose’ are great at this, as well as many balancing lunges where the arms are raised above the head, or are twisting to the side of the body.
Taking out injury insurance
One thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of runners who are totally passionate about yoga are those people who have been running for many years, have incurred a lot of injuries and have then realised they need to look after their body better if they want to continue to run. Yoga can be seen as an insurance policy for runners – you may still have injuries but you are less likely to get them, and, if you do, you are more likely to recover more speedily. I have certainly found this to be the case in the limited times I have been injured.
On my Yoga for Runners workshop I cover the most common injuries and identify which postures will help to prevent these injuries.
When running, we are used to persevering and pushing through to a longer distance or faster time. Sometimes we do this at the expense of our body and, if we do it often enough, we may injure ourselves.
Yoga can teach us how to listen to our body, and this may mean going a bit slower or being gentler. This ability to know when to pull back, as well as when to push through, can help us to respect our bodies and, ultimately, be a better runner.
Catherine’s next Yoga for Runners workshop is on Wednesday 9 September 7.30–9.30pm in Reigate.
If you’re interested in taking part, please contact Catherine Jaschinski, Illuminate Consulting Ltd, on 07801 045 905 or email firstname.lastname@example.org