The benefits of yoga
If you’re practising yoga to upgrade your fitness, you need to choose a style that complements the strengths and weaknesses native to your regular training and body type. “For example, a bike rider who’s just done a 200 kilometre bike ride probably shouldn’t do a hot yoga class that day or the next day as it will impact their rehydration, which is really important for the body to recover,” says PT Emma Smith.
Long, static stretching may also undermine performance come race day. A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports found static stretching (where muscles are stretched and held for longer periods) to be detrimental to power, explosive performance and strength, and concluded that static stretching should be avoided as a warm-up. “As a general rule, I recommend that athletes do yoga on a scheduled rest day, or a day which they are planning to do less intense exercise,” says Smith.
For runners, flexibility isn’t necessarily advantageous. “Becoming more flexible isn’t necessarily a good thing, and it doesn’t necessarily make you good at yoga…it’s more about controlling your individual range of motion. The more range of motion you have, the more range you have to control. Most runners, for example, really don’t need to get their leg over their shoulder. If you force too much flexibility without gaining control of that new range, it could potentially lead to injuries like impingement syndrome around the hip and other consequences anywhere from the pelvis and lumbar spine because the whole lumbo-pelvic-hip unit has muscles and nerve supplies in common to all three areas.”
Yoga your way
”Runners tend to have tight hips, tight calves, sore feet, and usually forget to focus on upper body strength or posture,” says Smith. Choose yoga styles that balance these areas and focus on breathing.
Do yoga for: Upper body strength, core/posture, recovery, breathing
Sitting in a static position for long periods can lead to stiffness. “Those who cycle a lot tend to have tight glutes, deep hip rotators, ITB, lower back and neck pain,” says Smith. “These will usually benefit from leg stretches and postures with reverse position on the bike, like backward bends, and seated postures will help open up hips.”
Do yoga for: core/posture, alignment, breathing
THE HIIT JUNKIE
“You need to have a decent strength base before you engage in this kind of exercise, so your yoga practice should support this strength.” It can also help to cultivate better breath control to aid sprints.
Do yoga for: upper body strength, core/posture, control, breathing