There are many benefits to yoga. The first that comes to mind is flexibility. But there’s more. Did you know that you can substantially increase your resistance to stress with a few “asanas”? Indeed, working on your ability to focus can improve your response to stress, which can positively affect your endurance as a runner. Here’s how it works.
Our body comes with a “cruise control” function – the central nervous system – that controls our reactions to external events without the need for our conscious authorization. It regulates our hormones so that we can react quickly or calm down, as needed.
When we put our body under stress; for example, when we run, the central nervous system is automatically triggered. Stress hormones are released in order to raise the heartbeat and mobilize more blood to aid the working muscles. This response to stress is normal, and it is possible to decrease the effect of stress on the body with progressive and adaptive training.
Yoga also induces stress, whether it is in the contraction of muscles under load in a difficult position, or holding a sustained pose. But the results are different, in the sense that the central nervous system reacts with resilience. Yoga teaches us not to fight, but to accept the sensations that arise during our practice, while respecting our own limits.
Although it may seem like a very passive approach, the process of creating a habit through repetition is very efficient for endurance athletes. The logic is simple. When the body experiences a stressful demand, it is possible to consciously stay calm through focused attention. Now, since the process of creating a habit requires the repetition of a behavior so that it becomes normal, each time you coach your mind to accept sensations rather than to fight them, you increase your ability to manage stressful demands with calmness.
The nervous system can be trained, so to speak, in a way that it will respond appropriately to a stimulus, instead of getting carried away with an automatic response that affects to body’s ability to sustain an extended, demanding effort.
Here is another eloquent example of the benefits of integrating yoga into your routine as a runner. Whether it is passive or active yoga, the ideal is to practice regularly, at least once a week, with the guidance of a qualified teacher.
Translation : Valérie Bélanger
Éloïse Rochefort is a yoga teacher and a marathoner. She strives in inspiring athletes to improve their performance through yoga, as well as amateurs to discover the numerous benefits of this ancient discipline. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
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