You may not think of yoga when thinking of cross training. Think again! Practicing yoga can benefit all your other athletic activities, especially running.
The main reason why most people start yoga is for stress reduction. Yoga provides a great way to alleviate stress from the body and mind. But many soon find out how much more it can do for their strength and flexibility.
Yoga postures can correct muscle imbalances from high impact training by aligning one’s joints, improving bone density, stretching and stabilizing the body. This prevents pain and injury, particularly in injury-prone zones, such as hips, hamstrings, knees, Achilles tendons and the iliotibial bands.
The result is increased flexibility and more fluid muscle control, which dramatically reduces the risk for injury. Flexible muscles are also more efficient compared to misaligned muscles, which are stiffer and less effective. As for strength, many people think yoga amounts to a lot of sitting and meditating. This is false. Contemporary yoga can be equated to modern dance. You are continuously striking poses that resemble leg lunges, squats, pushups and handstands. After 30 minutes of these dynamic movements, you know you have gone through a total-body strength workout. This equates to better overall strength and benefits your running.
Mentally, yoga is a lot like running, in that it requires you to focus on the immediate moment. Like a beautiful morning run, yoga is great at silencing the endless chatter in the brain. Yoga teaches you to be in a graceful and effortless place. Yoga breathing and concentration exercises can improve body awareness and confidence, and helps garners pleasure in all other athletic pursuits.