Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Yoga For Runners

Mike, a running buddy of mine was telling me how great yoga is, especially for runners. I had heard about the benefits of yoga—flexibility, relaxation—but had never given it much thought, especially related to running. After my conversation with Mike, I kept thinking about yoga, so I decided to do a little research.

There are several different branches of yoga, each with its own unique focus. Hatha yoga emphasizes concentration and consists of gentle stretching and strengthening exercises. Pranayama yoga uses breathing exercises and breath control to enhance vitality and energy. Mantra yoga uses the concentrated repetition of a word or phrase to aid in the control of the mind.

Many people choose yoga as a means of relaxation which is often hard to achieve in today's fast-paced, hectic life. So, it's not surprising that many modern-day stress-reduction techniques are based on yoga principals. Relaxation definitely bodes well for your health. Research shows that regular participation in mindful exercise such as yoga produces positive effects on people experiencing hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, pain, anxiety, and depression.

There's a lot more to Yoga than relaxation techniques. The regular practice of yoga can improve your performance in other activities (i.e., running). Knowing this, I began to wonder if there were any yoga programs specifically designed for runners. I was very delighted to find Yoga For Runners: The Essentials, a DVD produced by Christine Felstead. Christine was a runner for over 20 years. She began to wonder if something was wrong with the fact that she could run for miles and miles but couldn't bend over to tie her shoes. She decided to give yoga a try. She was hooked. It profoundly changed her life. So much so, that she became a yoga instructor.

Christine has created a wonderful yoga program specifically designed to meet the needs of runners. Her program helps offset the negative effects of running—stiffening of the joints and muscles. It also helps reduce injury as well as cut down on recovery time from racing, endurance running, or just an intense workout. Not only does the program increase a runner's flexibility, it also strengthens muscles in the body that aren't used in running, improves breathing, and deepens the mind-body connection.
The non-intimidating video is divided into four segments—Foundation, Lower Back, Hamstrings, and Hips. Each section presents a series of yoga holds, movements, and breathing techniques. Christine does a great job of describing how to do the various holds so that the novice can digest it all with ease and not feel overwhelmed. Knowing that flexibility-challenged runners may need some modifications to the various holds, Christine provides tips to help make many of the moves more comfortable. The fact that the other participants in the DVD are runners as well as Christine herself being a runner, made me feel confident that they understood me and my needs as a runner.

Whether you're new to yoga or have had some yoga experience, Yoga For Runners: The Essentials is perfect for any runner wanting to improve his/her overall conditioning and flexibility. I highly recommend you check out the Yoga For Runners website and order your own copy of the DVD. Yoga For Runners instructors can be found in Ontario and Alberta, Canada as well as in London, Italy, and Chattanooga, TN. Maybe I need to participate in one of her teacher training programs, so we can get more classes down here in the good old USA. Thanks Christine! (To order your own copy of the Yoga for Runners: The Essentials DVD, see the "My Picks" carousel under the Runner's Market on the right side of the blog.)


Stacey said...

I will have to try this. I can totally relate to the non flexible thing. Thanks for the info.

Anonymous said...

I've taught yoga for a number of years. It's excellent to incorporate into your routine, regardless as to whether you option before, after and both. A truly recommended pose is "pigeon pose" in any modification.

Have fun!

RunnerDude said...

Stacey, I thought I was pretty flexible, but doing Christine's program showed me otherwise. I did pretty well, but will need some practice for a few poses. That's the great thing about the DVD, you can stop and start it if you need more time.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Amy, you can be our resident yoga expert! I'll have to go back and see if the "pigeon pose" was in the DVD. I'm really pumped. Ready to go buy me a yoga block!