During the course of an average mile run, your foot will strike the ground 1,000 times. The force of impact on each foot is about three to four times your weight. It’s not surprising, then, to hear runners complain of bad backs and knees, tight hamstrings, and sore feet.
The pain most runners feel is not from the running in and of itself, but from imbalances that running causes. If you bring your body into balance through the practice of yoga, you can run long and hard for years to come. There’s no reason why running and yoga can combine to improve strength and flexibility.
Runners who stick with running are most likely structurally balanced individuals who can handle the physical stresses of the workout with minimal discomfort. Yet, many runners don’t survive the imbalances that running introduces. Often, they suffer from chronic pain and are sidelined by injury.
A typical runner experiences too much pounding, tightening, and shortening of the muscles and not enough restorative, elongating, and loosening work. Without opposing movements, the body will compensate to avoid injury by working around the instability. Compensation puts stress on muscles, joints, and the entire skeletal system.
If you’re off balance, every step you take forces the muscles to work harder in compensation. Tight muscles get tighter and weak muscles get weaker. A tight muscle is brittle, hard, and inflexible. Because muscles act as the body’s natural shock absorbers, ideally they should be soft, malleable, and supple, with some give. Brittle muscles, on the other hand, cause the joints to rub and grind, making them vulnerable to tears.
Muscle rigidity occurs because runners invariably train in a “sport specific” manner—they perform specific actions over and over again and their focus is on external technique. This repetitive sports training or any specific fitness conditioning results in a structurally out of shape and excessively tight body.
Yoga’s internal focus centers your attention on your own body’s movements rather than on an external outcome. Runners can use yoga to balance strength, increase range of motion, and train the body and mind. Asanas move your body through gravitational dimensions while teaching you how to coordinate your breath with each subtle movement. The eventual result is that your body, mind, and breath are integrated in all actions. Through consistent and systematic asana conditioning, you can engage, strengthen, and place demands on all of your intrinsic muscle groups, which support and stabilize the skeletal system. This can offset the effects of the runner’s one-dimensional workouts.
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