Hot Yoga + Running = An Unbeatable Fitness Regimen
It’s certainly admirable to run 26.2 miles, whether it is for competition, health or just a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The LA marathon is heating up the fitness scene this Valentine’s Day weekend so we asked SoCal teacher Whitney Davies to share how hot yoga has improved her running routine. With an impressive track record of 12 marathons and counting, this hot yogini never fails to amaze us! Whether you are already a runner or want to incorporate running into your fitness regime, there are many lessons–mentally, physically, and spiritually–to be learned by practicing yoga.
1. Increase flexibility and avoid injury. Hot yoga helps your body establish and maintain flexibility, which is an important balance to a vigorous running routine that tightens muscles. Through a regular yoga practice, the body develops a greater range of motion, allowing you to run more efficiently. A combination of a few hamstring and hip opener stretches, such as Head to Knee, Bound Angle, and Pigeon Pose, right before and after a run is essential for stretching out tight muscles and avoiding injuries in the body.
2. Deepen awareness of your breath. A core principle of yoga is to connect with your breath and establish a steady, rhythmic flow. In hot yoga, most of the breathing is practiced through the nose and in Vinyasa each breath is assigned to a specific pose, giving the mind something to focus on while challenging the body to breathe slowly. This combination regulates the pattern and consistency of each inhale and exhale, thereby creating a moving meditation, which, during long runs, keeps the heart rate under control and the mind at ease.
3. Gain upper body and core strength. Having strong arms provides power and endurance that pushes you through your strides in running. A strong core helps you maintain good posture, protecting your lower back. The repeated chaturangas in a Vinyasa flow practice will build strength in your triceps, and almost all yoga postures require some awareness and engagement of the abdominal wall.
4. Strengthen your feet. Foot strengthening is not a benefit we regularly think about when it comes to yoga. While walking or running, the feet are the bodies main point of impact, which puts a lot of strain on them. In yoga, we teach our bodies to balance in postures for several minutes. By focusing on distributing weight evenly over the feet, we become more aware of the 100 plus tendons, muscles, and ligaments that make up these delicate and regularly used part of our bodies. The stronger your feet are, the better endurance you will have on long distance runs.
5. Become mentally strong. Yoga and meditation techniques develop mental focus and cultivate a calm mind when incorporated into your daily routine. Running, especially long distances can be mentally tiring. It’s a long time to concentrate while the body is under physical stress.
6. Handle the heat. Sweating for an hour in a hot room challenges your body’s limits and helps regulate your body temperature, especially if the the race falls on a particularly warm day. The cardiovascular endurance built in the hot room from breathing in hot and humid conditions improves performance in moderate temperatures.
7. Learn to balance. Awareness of your body and having full control over the way it moves is a skill that can be cultivated with a yoga practice. We are always aiming to balance in yoga, whether twisting, bending, pushing, pulling, or simply standing a stable as a mountain on two firmly-planted feet.