I used to think yoga was pointless. It's easy, girly, and boring...right? Wrong! Yoga is much more difficult than some people think! And the the benefits received from yoga extend well beyond physical benefits.
I have been doing pilates training for a while now, focusing on stengthening my core so that I can become a stronger, faster runner and triathlete. And while there are some shared poses in pilates and yoga they are not alike. I didn't realize how much yoga could challenge me and relieve me of my aches and pains. I now respect yoga. It is a terrific way of helping our bodies strengthen and lengthen muscles and to relax and relieve mental and physical tension that we inflict on ourselves as endurance athletes.
Many athletes swear by yoga for preventing injuries (especially runners). There are numerous poses and variations that you can try to strengthen and relieve your hips, hamstrings, thighs, calves and knees. Don't be afraid to go to a yoga class in your gym or a nearby yoga studio. There will be people at all levels there. You can also do yoga in the comfort of your home by watching a DVD or online video (there are many free videos online at YouTube).
I am going to list the poses that I use in my own practice below. I am not going to provide lengthy explanations or images but you can easily look these up online and may already be familiar with some of the popular poses.
Best for stretching out muscles:
- Downward Dog
- Pigeon Pose (and double pigeon)
- Bound Angle
- Half Lord of the Fish Twist
- Wall Dog
- Child's Pose
Best for stengthening muscles:
- Warrior I
- Chair Pose
- Runners Lunge
- Crescent Lunge and Crescent with Prayer Twist
There are many other poses you can try. The point is to do it. Most endurance athletes should practice yoga at least once each week for an hour. You can fit that into your schedule wherever or however it makes sense (an hour class or 10 minutes a day after your workouts). You will become a more relaxed, balanced athlete from applying yoga to your training. And if you're not an endurance athlete, you still will benefit your mind and body by practicing yoga.