In our upcoming ‘Off-Season’ Yoga Clinic for Runners and Cyclists with Ellie-Sunday 7th February 4pm-6pm, we will be delving into ‘what constitutes ‘good’ movement patterns within the context of sport’ and ‘how our yoga practice can be both functional and complimentary to support the demands we place on our body during exercise’ To find out more please click here
5 reasons why runners and cyclists should be doing yoga
With the gyms closed and group training on hold, many of us are turning to running and cycling to support our health and wellbeing during lockdown. No matter what your experience level or where you are starting from, you will definitely feel the benefits of complimenting your chosen sport with a yoga practice, here are 5 reasons why!
1.Proprioception and Embodiment
It’s so easy to not be in your body and be completely unaware of where you are in space. Yoga can help us to feel the sensations of movement beneath our skin and understand how our body works as a whole. If we can build greater awareness (proprioception) on the yoga mat then we can transfer this ability to our sport. This allows us to develop a deeper insight into how we are moving, and then the ability to make improvements to our form.
Proprioception improves our overall coordination, which can help to prevent injury as we are better able to respond to the forces and stresses that are placed on our body. But developing this coordination takes practice. In yoga we follow diverse movement patterns and experience sensations that challenge our ability to balance, not to mention our awareness of our ‘lefts’ and ‘rights’!
2. Skilful alignment
From greater proprioception comes greater skill and awareness of alignment and posture. Many athletes have a tendency to respond to muscular tightness by overcompensating in other areas of the body and affecting their own perception of their range of movement within a joint.
For example ‘tightness’ in the front of the hips might mean that our default position of the pelvis is tilted forwards. This can lead to disengagement of the abdominals, rounding of the shoulders and limited mobility in the thoracic spine!
Therefore without being conscious of it, our posture and general alignment becomes ineffective for the movement that we are trying to put it through and as we fatigue this issue becomes exacerbated. Having a basic understanding of how you place your body can help you to stay informed about what you might want to strengthen or stabilise and will allow you to develop greater muscular control.
3. Range of Motion
A normal range of motion allows a joint to move within its natural mechanics. Have you ever heard the term ‘use it or lose it’? When we don’t use a muscle it can weaken or the muscle fibres stick and we can experience something called ‘fascial adhesions’ which is when the muscles struggle to glide and function in the way they were designed. During sport, we often work with repetitive movement patterns which means that some muscles become over-used and some muscles are left out. Through yoga we can explore joint potential and work with a really varied and conscious way of moving through lots of different planes of motion. A complementary yoga practice can help you bring balance back to the body, especially if we work in a skilful way by approaching our sequences with a blend of strengthening, mobility and stability based exercises.
How do you usually cool down after sport? Do you rely on those long static stretches to tend to those sore muscles from your runs and rides? Or, do you think about your nervous system as well? Your body knows how to look after you and I sometimes like to approach my Savasana practice as a way to reset my tired legs. When I come in after a run one of my go-to cool downs is to bring my legs up the wall and practice box breathing which I find makes me feel grounded and really soothing for my nervous system…which leads me onto my final reason for this blog (there are of course-plenty more)…yoga can help you breathe!
Conscious breathing can help us to regulate our emotions and find stillness in situations of discomfort or challenge. I don’t mean that we should be learning how to breathe through pain (for example if we have a tendency to over train) but more that we learn how to control our response to our own performance as well as letting go of our expectations or fixations on disappointment.
Every time you jump on your bike or go out for a run it feels different. It’s the same on the yoga mat! Sometimes you have a ton of energy and sometimes a breath of wind makes you feel like you have hit a wall. Using the breath to anchor us to the present moment can help us to experience and accept things as they are, which I find can help you return home to the simplicity of movement and maintain your love of your sport as it is.
Blog piece written by Ellie Roberts
Become a healthy, peaceful, content version of yourself in 2021!