Tag Archives: yoga

Review: yoga for runners

Last week Christine Felstead wrote a guest blog on her yoga for runners classes. I’ve now had a chance to attend several of these classes and figured it’s time that I post about them.

I’ve been practicing yoga for about two years. Initially, I was practicing at a wonderful studio in Cabbagetown (The Union Yoga Centre), and then at Jivamukti Toronto (previously at Shuter and Yonge street – the studio is currently relocating). Generally, I enjoy practicing yoga with a heavy serving of philosophy and spirituality. It’s never been about the calisthenics of asana (the poses) for me. Yoga has been a place to decompress, to open, and to find moments of stillness within the movements — space. I don’t mean to get too deep with this, but rather to illustrate the yoga I was accustomed to, and that I’ve generally shied away from what is commonly referred to as “gym”-style yoga.

So I must admit that when I first heard of yoga for runners (despite it being held at a highly regarded yoga studio), I was skeptical of what these classes would be like. I’ve definitely been pleasantly surprised.

While there is no meditation or philosophical references during these classes (and I’m sure that this is much to the relief of its target audience), these classes are chalked full of great things for runners.

From the few classes I’ve attended, there is a clear emphasis on not only leading the yogi runners through the poses, but also in educating them about what is happening in their bodies. There seems to be an unfortunate stereotype that yoga is simply a stretching activity, which disregards the immense capacity for strength building within the practice. Christine takes painstaking care to balance these two components of the practice, while explaining to students what muscles, bones and tendons are at work. There is also a strong focus throughout the class on how each particular pose will translate into a benefit for students as runners.

Beyond her technical and practical knowledge of yoga, Christine’s first hand experience as a runner of 20 years gives a feeling of familiarity and accessibility to the classes. From my own experience at yoga for runners, there has been a mix of people who are new to yoga and those who’ve had some experience. Both were able to work through the sequences with variations being provided to allow individuals to work from where they are.

These classes have come at a great time for me in my training. As I work through this minor blip in the road to my first marathon, these classes will provide an excellent opportunity to remember to slow down (yes, even the fartlek runner), breath and stay mindful in my running.

Specifically designed to meet the needs of the running community, these non-intimidating classes are a true gift.

For more information on yoga for runners or Christine’s yoga for runners dvd, visit her website.


Yoga for runners…

I’m excited to present today’s guest blogger Christine Felstead — creatrix of yoga for runners. Those who know me, know that in addition to running, my other love is yoga. I recently had the pleasure of attending one of Christine’s yoga for runners classes at the Downward Dog Yoga studio in the Beaches, which I’ll write about in a future post. Today’s post is an article Christine wrote for The Fartlek Runner on the benefits of yoga to runners. Enjoy!:

Runners love to run – and so they should! Running is a fabulous sport that invigorates the body and mind. There is nothing more inspiring than seeing a runner’s long, rhythmic stride, seeing the look of determination and focus on their face, and feeling their euphoria and sense of freedom that comes with every step.

The lucky ones — those who are structurally symmetrical and balanced — can enjoy years of running with minimal discomfort. But many of us aren’t in this elite category, and yet we still want to enjoy the benefits that running offers. Running affects the body through its repetitive use of the same muscles. Every sport or activity involving repetitive movement carries its own set of potential issues. Note the classic modern day overuse symptoms of lower back/shoulder stiffness and carpal tunnel strain from sitting for extended periods of time at a computer

While running, specific muscles in the legs, hips and feet are used in continuous repetition and become overused. Overused muscles will shorten from being in a constant state of contraction. Without opportunity to restore length to these muscles, they will continue to shorten and eventually restrict and even limit the range of motion of related joints, creating misalignment in the body that in turn makes one more prone to injury. While each body is unique, it is safe to say that runners are susceptible to tightness in the hamstrings, hips and lower back. Initial soreness may be a warning that something is out of alignment. Rarely will the issue go away simply by “running through it”. Moreover, taking time off running may cause the acute pain to subside, but once you’re back on the road, it’s very common for the injury to flare back up. Unless the initial muscle imbalance that caused the injury is treated, the same injury will reoccur.

Yoga is a perfect complement to running because it works to restore balance and symmetry to the body. However, while the stretching is such a key part of the benefits of yoga for runners, there are also tremendous benefits related to strength, lung capacity and mind/body centering. Benefits of yoga for runners include:

Strengthening: Improves strength in core and upper body and also in leg muscles that are not used in running (e.g., adductors, gluteus).

Lung Capacity: The conscious breath work that is practised in yoga can also increase lung capacity.

Mind/Body: The meditative aspects of yoga are well known, however many of us don’t immediately relate this to the meditative aspects of running. Especially during longer runs and/or races, the requirement to remain focused, calm and tuned to the body is key. Running is meditation in motion!

For the casual, avid or competitive runner, the benefits can include:

  • Improved running times
  • Feeling better while running
  • Less aches and pains
  • Nagging injuries that heal and do not recur
  • Reduce risk of new injuries

Now that you have been convinced of the benefits of yoga for runners, and perhaps interested in giving it a try, you may be scratching your head wondering where to start. If you live in Toronto you have a plethora of yoga resources at your fingertips – like Starbucks, yoga studios are everywhere. While all forms of yoga are good, I also encourage you to try one of my yoga for runners classes. These classes are tailored to the needs of runners and many students feel more comfortable knowing they are in the class with others that are equally stiff. I offer a range of workshop and drop-in classes across the Greater Toronto Are — for more details, please visit my website.

For those that prefer to practise yoga on your own, there is a yoga for runners DVD that is tailored to runners and provides the basics so you can start feeling the positive effects right away.

Kick off the new year with some yoga for runners – your body will thank you!

Christine Felstead has more than 20 years experience as a marathon and road race runner and used to run with the Metro Central Silver Runners. She has been practising yoga for 14 years and has been a yoga instructor for the past eight. Focusing primarily on runners and endurance athletes, Christine’s work with runners teaches them to incorporate yoga as an effective means of cross training, helping to keep them healthy and on the road.