Hot yoga has become a big part of my training for Edinburgh Marathon, I love how it counteracts the pressure running puts on my body, challenges me to slow down and really works my core. My hips are more mobile and my posture is way better. Seeing the impact hot yoga was having on me made me curious, what is it about the practice that means it's so good for runners? Luckily Fierce Grace (FG) teacher Daniel had some answers!
What are the benefits of hot yoga for runners?
As good for you as running most definitely is, it invariably makes some of the body's biggest & strongest muscles rather tight; namely the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes in the legs. Hot yoga helps effectively counter this, by gradually & consistently stretching those muscles out. More mobile & flexible muscle allows greater range of movement, in turn making injury less likely.
At the same time the heat allows work safely & deeply into muscle, ligaments, and connective tissue - all respond far better when they are warmed & relaxed by the heat. Hot yoga such as the FG system effectively works to engage & strengthen both the spine and the abdominals; a strong core then benefits running through better running posture, and quicker/easier adaptation to different speeds/incline/terrain. So hot yoga is a great balance to running - I'd highly recommend both!
How can hot yoga help injuries?
The standing balancing postures in the FG hot yoga system are fantastic for strengthening joints the hips, knees, and ankles all become stronger through yoga practice. This in turn helps with injury prevention when running; stronger joints are of course less liable to strain/sprain/twisting.
The spine is essential to virtually any physical movement, especially running. So the strengthening & mobilising of the spine - which is a focus of all the classes in the FG system - can only bring benefits when other demands (such as running) are put on it. It can aid in the prevention and cure of sciatic issues (many of which are spinal-related), which running is sometimes associated with.
Probably the most common running injuries and issues are knee-related. The knee is an amazing and also complex joint which needs its own special TLC. So gently working with & through knee issues (eg ACL, MCL) in hot yoga is of course a good thing. Many postures can be modified by using blocks/props, or adapted by using variations of postures. Yoga done well can help heal and then prevent knee injuries.
How can runners work hot yoga into their routine?
There's no one ideal answer which will suit everyone and their individual needs. Initially I would suggest perhaps swapping out a running session for a hot yoga session once per week, especially if new to hot yoga. Then, as and when more experienced with hot yoga, as much or as little as time and desire will allow. Just make sure you're doing SOME! Yoga is about balance, in many more ways than one, so a good balance of running session and hot yoga sessions is very healthy.
How quickly should we see results from hot yoga practice?
HOW QUICKLY SHOULD YOU EXPECT TO SEE BENEFITS FROM HOT YOGA?
Even after just one hot yoga class, you can feel physically more loose & open, akin to a post-massage sensation. Mentally you can feel relaxed & satisfied. After several classes (say over a few weeks / couple of months) you can start to feel both stronger and more flexible - one comes hand-in-hand with the other. Then the more you practice, the greater and more varied the benefits become.
What's the best FG class for runners?
Any hot yoga class in the FG system is going to be beneficial for runners, but if I had to pick, I'd pick two! It would be both the Classic and the Deep Core classes. Classic isn't as easy as people might think, indeed I always say its Standing Series is pretty challenging - working to strengthen the ankle, knee, and hip joints through several strong postures. This is of course beneficial to runners. Don't be just FG-class-exclusive! Then Deep Core obviously works wonders for the big & tight muscles in & around the hips, helping to open & stretch them through many different floor-based postures.
So there you go, ALL the reasons to get involved and get to Fierce Grace! When are you joining me for a class?
*I'm an ambassador for Fierce Grace Brixton, but all opinions are my own.
**image: Anna Rachel Photography