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Yoga for Runners

Posted by Chrissy Horan  December 30, 2013 01:31 PM

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I stumbled into my first yoga class after a kickboxing class at an old gym. I was on a “try something new” kick and decided I would stay for the 60 minute Hatha yoga class. I have always been pretty flexible, so I thought I’d manage to hold my own, despite not knowing the name of a single pose. What I also did not know was the other benefits practicing yoga would bring.

I’m hardly an advanced yogi, but I have been practicing yoga pretty consistently for about 10 years. I haven’t yet mastered Salamba Sirsasana (headstand) without a wall or come even close to Galavasana (flying crow).

As a runner, yoga has been both a teaching tool as well as a way to balance the physical strains of running and keep my body healthy. Here’s what I have learned from yoga that I take with me when I run:

  • Breathe - Simple right? Inhale. Exhale. But if I listen to my breath, I can learn more about how I am feeling during a run than I may realize.
  • Focus – Yoga teaches about drishti, focusing the eyes to control attention. When I am struggling during a run, I focus on an object ahead of me and just run towards it. Controlling my attention for short distances helps me to complete longer distances.
  • Staying present- Yoga is about the present and what is happening on your mat in the moment. If I am doing a 10x800 workout, there is no pint wondering if I will tire out by the 10th 800 while running #3.
  • Core Strength – Many yoga poses build and rely on core strength. A strong core is important for runners to maintain good form and avoid injury.
  • Rest – Every yoga practice ends with the pose Savasana, or corpse pose. It’s a pose of rest, intended to rejuvenate the body and mind after a yoga practice. Rest is good for runners too.

While I try to incorporate stretches into my pre and post-run routines, the mental benefits of a yoga practice still make attending class once a week a worthwhile investment for me. I’m lucky to have one of my favorite yoga instructors, Rebecca Pacheco, teach in a studio just blocks from my home, but there are still some weeks, especially recently, when even that seemed too difficult to fit into my schedule.

Fortunately, Rebecca has a knack for social media and also, conveniently, a passion for running (she ran the Boston Marathon in 2009). In addition to the many videos she has posted on her own website, rebeccapacheco.com, she is the face of the recently launched Runner’s World’s Yoga Center. The site has 2 25-30 minute classes posted so far, as well as several other short videos of useful yoga poses for runners. Rebecca even throws in some of her usual jokes, which even though I’ve heard more than a few times, still make me smile.

I tried the videos this past month, when snowstorms and travel kept me from attending classes in person. It’s not an exact replacement, but much more structured than my own home practice, where some extra savasana can lead to a nap on my living room floor. For a new yogi, the classes are a good introduction to yoga. I found that hitting the pause button to extend a pose or asana made the classes a bit more challenging for me.

This morning, I treated myself to a yoga class with Rebecca at Inner Strength in Watertown after a chilly 5.5 mile run. I find I usually have a better yoga practice after a run, perhaps because I have lower expectations for myself on these days. And after the speed skating loop I ran around the ice-glossed paths along the Charles, the warm (ok, hot) studio felt amazing.

Chrissy and Rebecca

As I begin my marathon training, I know yoga will be an important part of my weekly routine, both to stay physically healthy and mentally balanced. When I can’t get to the yoga studio, I can take advantage of resources like Rebecca’s videos from home.

I’ve just got to be a little flexible.


As always, let me know what you think and what’s going on in your running community. Post comments here or email me at RunAlongBoston@gmail.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

     Chrissy Horan has been running around Boston and nearby neighborhoods since 2000. An athlete through high school and college, she has found the running community in Boston to More »

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