By Christine Felstead
Pages: Approx. 256
Available: October 2013
Champaign, IL—Runners are often reluctant to try yoga, but according to Christine Felstead, creator of the Yoga for Runners training program, runners have a tremendous amount to gain from adding yoga to their fitness regimen. “Yoga restores the body’s balance and symmetry through the physical postures, especially sequences that are designed specifically for runners,” Felstead says. “Many runners feel tremendous benefits even after just one yoga class, often expressing that they feel taller, their lower backs feel better, and they have greater body awareness during runs and during their daily activities.”
In her forthcoming book, Yoga for Runners (Human Kinetics, October 2013), Felstead outlines three benefits runners will receive by practicing yoga.
- Better running. “Yoga stretches and lengthens muscles so they become more supple and able to react while running,” Felstead says. “This decreases muscle stiffness and increases range of motion in joints, namely the hips, shoulders, ankles, and spine.” Longer hamstrings and greater mobility of the hip joint create a longer and more fluid running stride. In addition, the strength and length gained by the muscles help to stabilize the skeleton, resulting in faster running. “A flexible joint requires less energy to move through a wider range of motion, while a flexible body creates more energy-efficient movements,” Felstead adds. “This results in greater ease while moving about throughout the day and potentially an improvement in athletic performance. Runs will be less exhausting and more enjoyable.”
- Healing and avoiding injuries. Improved symmetry, alignment, and balance through yoga prevent injuries from occurring while healing stubborn, chronic, and recurring injuries. Yoga postures will help align the knee joint while strengthening the arches of the feet for better shock absorption. This reduces the weight-bearing impact of running. “Runners have a high threshold for dealing with pain and learn to live with many aches and pains as part of daily living,” Felstead admits. “Runners are often amazed at how many of these nagging discomforts are eliminated with yoga practice.”
- Postrace recovery. A yoga practice after racing helps to eliminate the stiffness caused by lactic acid buildup in muscle tissue. “Students who force themselves to attend a yoga class the day after a marathon are amazed at the speed of their recovery,” Felstead says. “Recovery times are reduced so runners are able to get back on the road quickly and in good health.”
“While there are no guarantees in life, a regular yoga practice is a safe bet for reducing the risk of injury or helping cure a current one,” Felstead stresses. “Many runners today are experiencing tremendous benefits, and the best results are from those who have made yoga part of their weekly workout routines. After some time they marvel at how injury free they have remained, regardless of the miles they run.”
Yoga for Runners introduces 98 yoga poses and 10 sequences to instruct readers on improving strength, flexibility, endurance, breathing, mental sharpness, and overall running performance. For more information, see Yoga for Runners.
With an extensive history as a long-distance runner and yoga instructor, Christine Felstead has married her twin passions into a pioneering program for runners. She teaches yoga classes and workshops for runners and endurance athletes. Her Yoga for Runners teacher training program offers certification to a growing number of instructors now working in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Felstead presents regularly at Yoga Alliance and canfitpro conferences and has produced two best-selling DVDs on yoga for runners. She has been featured in numerous publications, including Runner’s World, Women’s Running, Yoga Journal, Women’s Health, Library Journal, and Canada’s National Post. She resides in Toronto.
Chapter 1 A Fit Body
Chapter 2 Yoga for Runners
Chapter 3 Breathing
Chapter 4 A Fit Mind
Chapter 5 Running Injuries
Chapter 6 Feet, Ankles, Knees: Stabilize Your Foundation
Chapter 7 A Healthy Spine: Reduce Pain, Strain, and Pressure
Chapter 8 Core Strength: Maximize Your Running Performance
Chapter 9 Hamstrings: Achieve a Longer, More Fluid Stride
Chapter 10 Hips: Unleash the Power
Chapter 11 Quietude and Relaxation Poses: Restore and Recover
Chapter 12 The Yoga Sequences
Chapter 13 Yoga Off the Mat
Chapter 14 Yoga and Injuries
About the Author
- Running can alter mood through the release of endorphins. These hormones create a sense of euphoria, often referred to as a runner’s high, and can result in mood enhancement. According to Michael Sachs and Gary Buffone in Running as Therapy: An Integrated Approach, running is often used to treat clinical depression and other psychological disorders. Some doctors claim that running works as well as psychotherapy in helping patients with clinical depression. Running makes patients less tense, less depressed, less fatigued, and less confused.
- The effects of running have significant parallels to the meditative aspects of yoga. Yoga practice teaches you to stay in tune with your body and connected to the breath. Running, especially longer distances, requires this same discipline. It is easy to see that the awareness that yoga develops will enhance your ability to remain focused, calm, and in tune with your body during challenging times.
- One of the biggest benefits of yoga is better running. Yoga stretches and lengthens muscles so runners become more supple and able to react while running. This decreases muscle stiffness and increases range of motion in joints—hips, shoulders, ankles, and spine. Specifically, longer hamstrings and greater mobility of the hip joint create a longer and more fluid running stride. In addition, the strength and length gained by the muscles help to stabilize the skeleton, resulting in faster running.
- Yoga is an excellent cross-training method because it helps offset the negative impact of running. Rather than merely resting the muscles, yoga works to restore the body to better alignment, symmetry, and balance. As the body moves in this direction, the physical strain creating the injury in the first place diminishes and, over time, the injury subsides.
- As you do physical exercise to strengthen the body, you also need to strengthen the mind in order to achieve mind–body harmony. Meditation can be viewed as a psychological exercise that will reward you with improved concentration and therefore a stronger mind. Through meditation you are able to control the fluctuations of the mind, and as the mind is under more control, it is better able to effectively guide you through daily life.
- Yoga will immediately reveal and deal with the muscle imbalances that often lead to injury. Through its very nature, yoga helps restore the body to balance. Runners who practice yoga are often surprised to discover the differences in strength and flexibility between their right and left sides. Likewise, they make the unexpected discovery that they have a weak upper body and core and learn that this can contribute to injury. But often most astonishing is the discovery that the legs may be strong for running yet imbalanced in strength in all muscle groups.
Facts taken from Yoga for Runners.
- What are the benefits of yoga for runners?
- How does yoga help runners to become more in tune with their breathing?
- How can yoga help speed the recovery process after a long practice run or race?
- How does yoga help undo the negative effects sitting and running can have on the spine?
- How does meditation benefit runners?
- Why are strong gluteus medius muscles vital to maintaining good running form, eliminating nagging hip pain, and reducing the risk of injury?
- How does taking your yoga practice off the mat result in better alignment while sitting, standing, and running?
- For those that spend all day at the computer, what are a few simple yoga exercises to relieve aches and pains associated with repetitive strain?
- How does Yoga for Runners help restore the body to balance and symmetry?
- Why are overly tight muscles also very weak and how can yoga help?