The Purpose of Yoga for Runners

I work with a couple of running groups and recently was out to see one of them on their Saturday long run day. The topic was how to choose the right kind of yoga to support running. It was a great visit with lots of good questions and I wrote a short piece to sum up what we talked about and share with those who weren't able to make it out to the run. I'm sharing it here as well. It's a long overdue and welcome return to my 50 miles page. 

Running and Yoga - What, When and Why

In case you haven’t heard, yoga is great for runners. It can play an important role in keeping the runner’s body and mind balanced and prepared for whatever that days, weeks, or months training requires. 

However, not all yoga styes are the same and not all yoga classes are appropriate at all times in a training cycle. 

So how to choose what yoga at what time? 

While the full answer always depends on the characteristics and experiences of the individual athlete, general guidelines say that the more intense training is, the less physically intense a yoga practice should be. A yoga practice should be one that boosts recovery, not adds more physical or mental stress. It should also support all ranges of motion, not only reinforce running’s repetitive pattern of movement. 

When in maintenance or off season, this can be the time to explore different styles to see what you like and how your body and energy is impacted with different practices. You can risk some sore muscles (not injured!) without it interfering with key workouts or a race and it’s good to know which styles make you feel drained vs energized. 

As you get going with your training plan and miles are increasing, yoga can support strength building. Styles to try during this time are Vinyasa, Power, Flow or Hot Yoga. 

As you enter the next phase of training which usually consists of more intense workouts (speed, tempo, hill, lengthier long runs, etc.), yoga practices should also shift to a focus of mobility and flexibility. Styles to try might be Hatha, Slow Flow, Gentle Flow, or Alignment-Based. 

When it’s time to taper, race and recover, yoga practice becomes about focus. It’s the time to hone your mental training for race day and promote rest and healing after the race. Classes to try might include Gentle, Mindful, Restorative, Yin or Nidra. 

During all phases of training, if you are finding that your practice is draining you and keeping you from maintaining quality in your key workouts, dial it back. Choose a gentler style, practice for less time in each session or fewer times per week. Plan your practices out in terms of what makes sense over the course of a week and be prepared to adjust based on how training is going, life load, illness, etc. If you're struggling with your yoga practice or running at any time, yoga therapy can help you sort out what practices will be helpful as you continue with your training. 

With a well chosen yoga practice and appropriate training program, you will avoid injuries (both acute and overuse) and keep illness and burnout at bay. 

If you have any questions or need help choosing or developing a yoga practice that is right for you, wherever you’re at in training, please reach out. I love talking running and yoga. 

Here’s to many great miles on and off the mat,