Sit down and stretch if you want to get up and run

Tue, Mar 5, 2013, 00:00

Yoga helps the body recover from the stress of running, allowing people to continue doing the sport they love, whatever their age, writes SHANE HEGARTY

In the search for better core strength and flexibility, runners – in common with other athletes – have increasingly looked towards yoga and pilates for answers. It’s become enough of a trend that there are now specific yoga for runners classes around the country.

Kanta Barrios, who teaches a course in Dublin, answers questions on the benefits of sitting down and stretching, when what you plan to do is get up and run.

Why can yoga benefit runners?

“Most vigorous training, sport or exercise programmes can put a lot of strain on the body. When you are a young athlete, the body will restore faster and bounce back from an injury much quicker; but as we age, repetitive stress and injuries will force someone to stop running or playing the sport they love. This can be prevented with yoga practice.

“Yoga helps with musculoskeletal imbalances that lead to chronic injuries. It can prevent and heal muscle pulls, inflamed tendons, release lactic acid from muscle tissue, joint stress, back pain and many other common consequences of a vigorous training programme.

“A yoga practice, done with mindfulness and good alignment, will integrate the entire body and restore balance. Physically, yoga strengthens weak muscles and lengthens tight ones. With practice it helps develop an understanding of how the body works, and it allows you to listen to the signals that it sends you.”

Is there a very specific type of yoga suitable for runners?

“Yes, alignment-based yoga. The long-term benefit of yoga comes from a practice that helps the student cultivate awareness, that teaches right alignment and skill to help them support and take care of the body.

“Look for a yoga class and instruction that focuses on teaching good alignment and how to create balanced action between strength and flexibility. Yoga should help cultivate sensitivity and awareness for the body.

“You want yoga to have a therapeutic effect, to help nourish and restore the body. Good yoga therapeutics is basically good alignment. When the body comes into good alignment, the connective tissue becomes stronger and more resilient and you increase circulation and flexibility. The body is able to move in a harmonious flow.

“There is a set of simple principles of alignment to learn and practise in yoga. Learning these principles and how to apply them protect and heal the body.”

How quickly can those benefits be seen?

“You will feel the benefit immediately after the first yoga session. People usually feel lighter, with their bodies open, more at ease and even in a better mood after practice. But after a run, or even after sitting at a desk all day long, the body will go back to old patterns and feel stiff again. Students who are athletes, who maintain a regular practice, start to see long-term benefits and changes in their bodies within four to six weeks.

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