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Stretching and running are like the yamas and the niyamas, you can’t have one without the other, at least not if you want to maintain the best physical health.  Stretching is often done through a dynamic warm up prior to a run, with some light stretching, following your run, to work out any of those “cranky” areas.  What better way to stretch after a run, then with a visit to your friendly neighborhood yoga studio.   You’ll join 75% of yoga practitioners and 98% of yoga teachers who are likely to participate in running (or another physical activity), according to Yoga Alliance, Yoga in America Report 2016.  You are sure to find some connections to running and yoga, while enhancing your physical, spiritual and mental health, which helps you whether you are in running shoes or flip flip, on or off your mat.

So why should runners incorporate yoga into their regular physical activity routine, read on to discover four reasons runnings need yoga now.

Stretching Sore Muscles

When you run, you put tremendous pressure on all your muscles because running is a full body sport. From your calves, quadriceps, ankles, thighs, all the way up to the hips.  But, it doesn’t stop there. You will feel it in your back, your shoulders, your neck, especially for those runners who take on half marathons, marathons, and ultra marathons around the world, and pound the pavement for hours on end.

Improved Flexibility

Running is a bit of a monotonous sport, just move one foot forward than the other. But, every step requires you to adjust to the terrain, the wind, your gait, obstacles in the road, uneven surfaces, inclines and the like.   By developing your focus and strength on your yoga mat, you actually help your body maintain more control and agility for greater flexibility during your weekly runs.  You are able to move and respond to changes throughout your run.    According to Yoga Journal,Yoga gives you the opportunity to practice “active and passive stretching”, one warms up the body making it more soft and supple, the other asks you to stabilize and sustain a pose in a relaxed way, despite the physical demands of doing so.

Build Strength, Stability & Stamina 

There are some out there who don’t consider yoga a “workout”, but those naysayers have obviously never taken a yoga class.  The physical asana practice of yoga certainly provides a great opportunity to develop your muscular strength and endurance – think hill runs, fartlicks and sprints.  This also especially true when it comes to your core, but also with every other muscle in your body – some you may not even know you have until you stepped on your yoga mat – and smaller muscles, for example, in the hands, feet and ankles, that are difficult to strengthen with traditional weight lifting or running alone.

Mental Conditioning

Yoga and running – two forms of meditation when your bring your intention and attention completely inward.  Whether you are moving on your mat through vinyasa or running a marathon your mind needs to remain focused and in the present moment. Through the practice of yoga, runners can discover the powerful impact of mindfulness when their feet hit the pavement.  Yoga Journal even suggests ditching the headphones to truly benefit from bringing the focus inward instead of to your favorite playlist – go ahead, give it a try, see what happens.   You may even be able to incorporate your mantra into your running practice, either to act as a reminder, or a motivation.

Injury Prevention

When you step onto your yoga mat, and you begin to move through your asana’s, any good yoga instructor is going to remind you to pay attention to your body, your balance, your posture.  While these cues are important for physical health and injury prevention in yoga the same reminders apply for your run too.  When you run, you need to stabilize on the right points of your feet, micro adjust your gait, pace and impact to improve speed, stamina, and coordination.  This mindfulness of the body is one of the best ways to minimize injury, along with building strength.

Breath Control

The breath control you need on your mat, is the same kind of breath control you need when you lace up your sneakers.  Your breath is a natural gauge for the effort you are putting forth in your run – the perceived exertion or “talk” test can be an indicator of intensity.  You can use your breath to gauge intensity, as a yoga practitioner, you already know how to do this because you move your body with the breath every time you move through your asana practice.  The work you do on your mat teaches you to be mindful of your breath, you know when to push yourself and when to back off, which in turn makes you mindful of your body, how its feeling, and what you can do with it today, it can also help you enter, and recover from times of discomfort, which is bound to happen during running.  The mind and body connection is enhanced through both activities.

Are you wondering how to enhance your yoga practice, to enhance your running, download our free 5-Hour online training