Which Yoga Do I Choose? Exploring the Different Types of Yoga from a Runner’s Perspective
Runners are notorious for having tight muscles and for saying, “I should stretch more.” As a result, many runners turn to yoga either as a great way to cross-train or as a way to stretch post-run. Both are excellent complements to running. Yoga can assist runners in their flexibility, mobility, and increase strength.
Here we will explore 7 common types of yoga that can be beneficial to runners of all shapes and speeds.
Hatha yoga is an excellent “starter yoga” for runners. A hatha yoga class will focus on the physical postures of yoga (several other types of yoga can emphasize focus on the breath with the physical manifestations being the secondary focus). Hatha yoga also tends to be at a slower pace than other varieties of yoga, making it a good introduction to the practice.
Many runners seeking a more rigorous yoga practice turn to Ashtanga. You can expect a good strength workout in this type of yoga class making it ideal for a cross-training day. Ashtanga follows a faster-paced sequence and is excellent at strengthening core muscles. And as we know, core strength is key for runners.
Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) Jeana Burt of Mount Dora, Florida, explains, “Because running works the legs extensively, you want to stretch them and strengthen the core. Moves such as boat pose, chaturanga (reverse push up) and plank are great at achieving that.” Building on the principle of core strength, she elaborates, “Yogis believe you are as young as your spine is flexible. So, we try to move it in 6 ways: forward bends, backward bends, bend to the right, bend to the left, twist to the right, and twist to the left.”
Vinyasa Yoga (also known as “Vinyasa Flow”)
At the root of Vinyasa yoga is the idea that breath and movement should move as one. Vinyasa involves smooth transitions between postures (which is why it is often referred to as vinyasa flow – you “flow” between the movements). Jeana tells her students, “Yoga focuses on linking movement with the breath to bring Prana (life source energy) to all parts of the body. It also trains the mind to be present in the moment. This discipline can carry over to running.” Vinyasa yoga sequences vary per class and instructor, so this can be a fun practice if you value variety.
Restorative Yoga (also called “Yin Yoga”)
The name alone sheds light on why this type of yoga can be beneficial for runners. Running can be hard on your frame. Restorative yoga is beneficial because it places an emphasis on calming both the mind and body. This type of yoga is slow moving and often involves staying in seated postures. Props are commonly used in these classes, all with the intention of bringing its participants deeper into a relaxed, meditative state.
Named after its founder, B.K.S. Iyengar (1918-2014), the emphasis of Iyengar yoga is on precise movements and proper alignment. Poses are held for a steady length of time and attention is drawn to tiny corrections. This meticulous form of yoga is good at building strength (it is hard to stay in one place for a while!) and can be great for those recovering from an injury. This slower, particular style of yoga will provide its participants with a good way to stretch and relieve tight muscles. It also uses a number of props to aid participants in sinking deeper into a pose.
Kundalini yoga is a mixture of spiritual and physical practice. This is achieved through a combination of chanting, mantra repetition, meditation, breathing exercises, and physical movement. “Kundalini energy” is said to be trapped in the lower spine and this type of yoga works at releasing it. Even if you do not believe the thought processes behind such energy work, kundalini yoga can be viewed as a good source for a core workout. All that chanting and rapid breathing come from your middle and this yoga will help you detoxify.
Hot yoga classes are held indoors in intentionally heated rooms. Temperatures are typically placed between 90 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. These high temperatures induce sweating which is believed to help remove toxins and aid in increased flexibility. There are a number of subgenres of hot yoga that are commonly practiced including Baptiste Yoga, Bikram Yoga, CorePower Yoga, and so on. Remember your towel and a water bottle during one of these classes!
If you are in a pinch and don’t have time for a full class, certain yoga poses will still serve you well. Stretching the glutes and hamstrings is of course, very important for runners. Poses such as pigeon pose and bridge can help you with that. Additionally, any yoga pose that claims to be a good hip opener, such as runner’s lunge or lizard pose, will also be very beneficial for runners. The great thing about many poses done in yoga, such as downward dog, is that they work numerous muscle groups at a time.
Whether you are seeking a way to strengthen, a way to be more present, or a way to stretch out those tight runner muscles, yoga can be a great addition to your routine.