Updated: Jul 21, 2022
Laura Pearce is the founder of Yoga Collective London, she's a senior Yoga teacher and breathwork practitioner with over 10 years teaching experience.
She was recently interviewed by Stylist magazine on Yoga for runners, you can find the full article here.
Yoga has long been established as one of the most synergistic forms of cross training for runners. Runners are tight, they're often injured, and with the impact full nature of running, they seriously need to look after their joints. But it is important to understand the why, how, WHEN and which runners should be practicing Yoga...
Q&A with Stylist magazine
Stylist - Are there any type of runners who should stay away from practising Yoga?
Laura - As a hypermobile Yogi (hypermobility occurs in about 30% of the population) its easy for me to overstretch and actually destabilise my already unstable, weaker-than-average joints. I can get into big end range stretches like the splits easily, but I need to be really careful not to aggravate my hips and loosen the delicate tendons and ligaments of the joints as I do. For some hypermobile runners, big stretches and advanced Yoga needs to be performed with care, and certain types of Yoga (namely Yin) where you relax the joints into the pose, should actually be avoided.
Most people however have the opposite problem - they lack mobility not stability; they don't have enough 'suspension' in their joints, and as any mechanic will tell you, without suspension, your car will ride pretty jolty...
For HYPOMobile people, aka the majority of the population, deep stretches and relaxed holds are the perfect tonic to keep their runs comfortable, their stride longer, their injuries less frequent, and their recovery quicker!
(There are other benefits of course- in 2019 the American Heart Association found that hot Yoga considerable improved Heart health - a vital consideration for runners).
Stylist - What happens if you do yoga before running? What’s the science behind this?
Laura - In 2012 an article in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy described the way that stretching works: It generally focuses on lengthening the musculotendinous unit, increasing the length between the muscle origin and insertion. Muscle length has an inverse relationship with muscle tension/stiffness, ie the more stretched you are, the less stiff you are, BUT at the start of a run you actually need a little tension to create power and 'bounce' (think of an overstretched spring) so it's actually best to avoid Yoga or even any kind of big, passive stretch before a run.
Stylist - What happens if you do yoga after running?
Laura - This is when Yoga comes into its own. A nice, gentle, stretchy Yoga practice post-run is going to really get the juices flowing through those tired stressed out muscles. Stretching can improve recovery, as can relaxation and meditation - the key tenets of any Yoga practice. When we're in a relaxed state, we drop into our Parasympathetic nervous system, the 'rest and digest' state, which is the branch of the nervous system responsible for recovery and repair of the body's tissues. This is the most important part of any cross training program if you ask me - to incorporate relaxation, meditation, and a very slow gentle Yoga practice POST run. In my own routine (and what I always recommend to my corporate wellness clients) even if I don't have enough time to stretch or practice my post-run Yoga routines, I will always take 5 minutes to lie down in Savasana, or meditate. It's all in the recovery!
Stylist - What type of Yoga practices/ poses are recommended pre-run?
Laura - As above I would NOT practice Yoga before a run, however breathwork which is a big part of any Yoga practice has been incorporated by many professional runners and athletes - one of the most famous runners in history, Emil Zatopek aka the Czeck Locomotove was obsessed with breath holds (what we call Kumbhaka in Yoga). And many famous sprinters extoll the virtues of nasal breathing during training - another skill that is finely honed in any standard Yoga practice.
Stylist - What type of Yoga practices/ poses are recommended post-run?
Laura - My favourite Yoga stretches for runners hit the quads, hip flexors, and hamstrings - a lovely deep low lunge or pyramid pose stretch, and again to emphasise the importance of beginning the rest and recover process - I recommend seated Yoga poses held for as long as comfortable, with a focus on relaxation and slowing the breathing rate all the way back down.