Yoga for Runners
There are many potential befits from Yoga for runners, and it's a relatively safe form of exercise. The most common form of Yoga practiced in the west is Hatha Yoga which includes stretching exercises and physical postures (Asanas), breath control (Pranayama) and concentration and thinking techniques (Meditation) intended to promote physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
- Relaxation. The ability to relax and reduce stress is important for your long term health. For runners, the risk of Overtraining is related to the lack of recovery and respite from stress, not excessive training loads. There is some evidence that Overtraining Syndrome is actually a natural defensive measure to try to reduce stress. The use of Yoga to relax makes it a useful form of cross-training on recovery days.
- Balance. Yoga can improve balance, which in turn can reduce the risk of ankle injury. I suspect it might improve Running Form and Running Economy, but I've found nothing to support that idea. There is some evidence that balance improves sprint running, and even college varsity track runners have scope for improving their balance. Improved balance may also help prevent injuries through falls in everyday life, as well as making you a little more graceful.
- Concentration. Learning to concentrate and focus attention can help you to deal with stress and to prepare for races.
- Self-awareness. Becoming aware of where your body is in space can improve posture when running and at other times. It can also help you become aware of your Running Form.
- Strength. Building strength in the non-running muscles can help prevent you becoming overly specialized. Runners can become injured more easily than they expect when performing a non-running activity because they lack generalized strength.
- Range of Motion. Scientific research into Stretching indicates a Goldilocks zone for flexibility; too little flexibility and you can become injured, but too much flexibility reduces your Running Economy. A good Yoga program will help maintain a good Range of Motion across the entire body, without creating excessive flexibility.
1 Yoga Safety
When compared with pharmacological interventions for serious conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes or cardiovascular disease is often considered safe. However, like any physical activity there remains a risk of injury from performing Yoga, something that has been received popular attention. My interpretation of the current research (summarized below) is that Yoga is not risk-free, but that's true of most forms of exercise. Continuing to perform any exercise past the point of pain creates a high risk of injury and that applies to Yoga. If you have Glaucoma (or a family history of it) then get medical advice before performing any inversion poses such as shoulder stand, or downward dog. Beginners should avoid advanced poses, and don't do Yoga while intoxicated, both of which should be obvious.
- The primary injuries are likely to be muscular injuries, most commonly the hamstring, knee, and low back.
- A survey of 110 practitioners of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga (sometimes called "Power Yoga") found that 62% had one or more musculoskeletal injuries lasting a month or more .
- A survey in Australia of 3,892 Yoga practitioners found that 2.4% had sustained a Yoga related injury.
- A review of the 2007 National Health Interview Survey by the CDC found that of the 2230 adults that had ever tried Yoga, only 13 (~1%) had discontinued due to a Yoga Injury, and only 4 sought medical attention .
- A review of 76 case reports of Yoga related injuries found 27 were musculoskeletal, 14 were the nervous system, and 9 (11.8%) the eyes. Case reports are details of a specific patient and a novel or unusual situation, so they are not a general overview of the risks or injuries, but they can provide some insight. The review concluded that beginners should avoid headstand, lotus position and forceful breathing due to their risk. It also recommended avoiding practicing Yoga in combination with alcohol or recreational drugs, and to be cautions if you have existing medical conditions, especially glaucoma. (I've heard from accomplished Yoga practitioners that some people will never be able to accomplish advanced poses like Omkarasana and that such poses can be risky even for advanced practitioners.)
It also seems important that runners don't overestimate their abilities in Yoga (or any other form of non-running exercise.) Just because you're an accomplished runner doesn't mean you can jump into an advanced Yoga class. A cautious approach is important for avoiding injury, starting at a level below your expectations and working up.
2 Yoga and Health
While there is a great deal of research into Yoga, much of it is of poor quality and it generally does not look at long term effects. However, I believe that there is a preponderance of evidence that Yoga has a number of health benefits.
- There have been few studies on Yoga and all-cause mortality. One study of 22,598 adults found there was a 63% reduced risk of premature all-cause mortality, but when adjusted for age differences the risk reduction shrank and became non-significant. I would like to see more studies in this area, but it will be hard to know if any reduction in mortality is directly due to Yoga practice or simply a result of those performing Yoga being more likely to look after other aspects of their health.
- Yoga may reduce stress, including Posttraumatic Stress (PTSD). The reduction may be similar to other interventions such as African dance or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but might be better than simple physical exercises.
- Yoga may help with blood glucose control (reduced hyperglycemia). There are limited comparisons between Yoga and aerobic exercise, but one study found Yoga might be better than brisk walking and another found they were similar. There are some studies that support the use of Yoga as a safe and cost effective intervention for Type 2 Diabetes. (Improved blood glucose control may also help with body weight reduction.)
- Yoga improves balance, which can reduce the risk of ankle injury. Yoga can also reduce the fear of falling in the elderly.
- Yoga might help reduce markers of inflammation. This evidence is rather more limited, and I wonder if it could be a consequence of reduced stress levels.
- Yoga may be able to reduce blood pressure, probably by 3-4 mmHg, which is similar to the reduction seen with diet or exercise. It's not clear to me if this reduction is due to the exercise effects or the stress reduction. Either way, it's a good thing for most people.
- While the supporting research is limited, Yoga appears to be cost effective as a primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease and is generally free of side effects. This conclusion seems reasonable to me, based on the improved blood glucose control, reduced blood pressure, reduced inflammation, and reduced stress levels.
- SC. Manchanda, K. Madan, Yoga and meditation in cardiovascular disease., Clin Res Cardiol, volume 103, issue 9, pages 675-80, Sep 2014, doi 10.1007/s00392-014-0663-9, PMID 24464106
- R. Stanton, PR. Reaburn, B. Humphries, The effect of short-term Swiss ball training on core stability and running economy., J Strength Cond Res, volume 18, issue 3, pages 522-8, Aug 2004, doi <522:TEOSSB>2.0.CO;2 10.1519/1533-4287(2004)18<522:TEOSSB>2.0.CO;2, PMID 15320664
- JA. Yaggie, BM. Campbell, Effects of balance training on selected skills., J Strength Cond Res, volume 20, issue 2, pages 422-8, May 2006, doi 10.1519/R-17294.1, PMID 16686574
- EM. Cressey, CA. West, DP. Tiberio, WJ. Kraemer, CM. Maresh, The effects of ten weeks of lower-body unstable surface training on markers of athletic performance., J Strength Cond Res, volume 21, issue 2, pages 561-7, May 2007, doi 10.1519/R-19845.1, PMID 17530966
- JM. Schmit, DI. Regis, MA. Riley, Dynamic patterns of postural sway in ballet dancers and track athletes., Exp Brain Res, volume 163, issue 3, pages 370-8, Jun 2005, doi 10.1007/s00221-004-2185-6, PMID 15655686
- Kim E. Innes, Heather K. Vincent, The Influence of Yoga-Based Programs on Risk Profiles in Adults with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, volume 4, issue 4, 2007, pages 469–486, ISSN 1741-427X, doi 10.1093/ecam/nel103
- "yoga shouldn't hurt", http://www.rachelyoga.com/2009/11/yoga-shouldnt-hurt-by-roger-cole/, Accessed on 12 November 2015
- "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body", http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/magazine/how-yoga-can-wreck-your-body.html, Accessed on 12 November 2015
- Jani Mikkonen, Palle Pedersen, and Peter William McCarthy (2008) A Survey of Musculoskeletal Injury among Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Practitioners. International Journal of Yoga Therapy: 2008, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp. 59-64.
- Sherry Roberts, Yoga Styles, http://www.yogamovement.com/resources/styles.html, publisher Yoga Movement, Accessed on 8 January 2012
- Stephen Penman, Philip Stevens, Marc Cohen, Sue Jackson, Yoga in Australia: Results of a national survey, International Journal of Yoga, volume 5, issue 2, 2012, pages 92, ISSN 0973-6131, doi 10.4103/0973-6131.98217
- MK. Holton, AE. Barry, Do side-effects/injuries from yoga practice result in discontinued use? Results of a national survey., Int J Yoga, volume 7, issue 2, pages 152-4, Jul 2014, doi 10.4103/0973-6131.133900, PMID 25035627
- H. Cramer, C. Krucoff, G. Dobos, Adverse events associated with yoga: a systematic review of published case reports and case series., PLoS One, volume 8, issue 10, pages e75515, 2013, doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0075515, PMID 24146758
- MB. Ospina, K. Bond, M. Karkhaneh, L. Tjosvold, B. Vandermeer, Y. Liang, L. Bialy, N. Hooton, N. Buscemi, Meditation practices for health: state of the research., Evid Rep Technol Assess (Full Rep), issue 155, pages 1-263, Jun 2007, PMID 17764203
- M. Hagins, R. States, T. Selfe, K. Innes, Effectiveness of yoga for hypertension: systematic review and meta-analysis., Evid Based Complement Alternat Med, volume 2013, pages 649836, 2013, doi 10.1155/2013/649836, PMID 23781266
- GermanÂ E. Gonzalez, Jie Wang, Xingjiang Xiong, Wei Liu, Yoga for Essential Hypertension: A Systematic Review, PLoS ONE, volume 8, issue 10, 2013, pages e76357, ISSN 1932-6203, doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0076357
- K. E. Innes, C. Bourguignon, A. G. Taylor, Risk Indices Associated with the Insulin Resistance Syndrome, Cardiovascular Disease, and Possible Protection with Yoga: A Systematic Review, The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, volume 18, issue 6, 2005, pages 491–519, ISSN 1557-2625, doi 10.3122/jabfm.18.6.491
- AW. Li, CA. Goldsmith, The effects of yoga on anxiety and stress., Altern Med Rev, volume 17, issue 1, pages 21-35, Mar 2012, PMID 22502620
- P. Posadzki, E. Ernst, Yoga for low back pain: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials., Clin Rheumatol, volume 30, issue 9, pages 1257-62, Sep 2011, doi 10.1007/s10067-011-1764-8, PMID 21590293
- Kyeongra Yang, A Review of Yoga Programs for Four Leading Risk Factors of Chronic Diseases, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, volume 4, issue 4, 2007, pages 487–491, ISSN 1741-427X, doi 10.1093/ecam/nem154
- Paul D. Loprinzi, Yoga participation and all-cause mortality: National prospective cohort study, Complementary Therapies in Medicine, volume 23, issue 6, 2015, pages 757–758, ISSN 09652299, doi 10.1016/j.ctim.2015.08.004
- J. West, C. Otte, K. Geher, J. Johnson, DC. Mohr, Effects of Hatha yoga and African dance on perceived stress, affect, and salivary cortisol., Ann Behav Med, volume 28, issue 2, pages 114-8, Oct 2004, doi 10.1207/s15324796abm2802_6, PMID 15454358
- A. Michalsen, P. Grossman, A. Acil, J. Langhorst, R. Lüdtke, T. Esch, GB. Stefano, GJ. Dobos, Rapid stress reduction and anxiolysis among distressed women as a consequence of a three-month intensive yoga program., Med Sci Monit, volume 11, issue 12, pages CR555-561, Dec 2005, PMID 16319785
- Raj Kumar Yadav, Dipti Magan, Nalin Mehta, Ratna Sharma, Sushil Chandra Mahapatra, Efficacy of a Short-Term Yoga-Based Lifestyle Intervention in Reducing Stress and Inflammation: Preliminary Results, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, volume 18, issue 7, 2012, pages 662–667, ISSN 1075-5535, doi 10.1089/acm.2011.0265
- Farah Jindani, Nigel Turner, Sat Bir S. Khalsa, A Yoga Intervention for Posttraumatic Stress: A Preliminary Randomized Control Trial, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, volume 2015, 2015, pages 1–8, ISSN 1741-427X, doi 10.1155/2015/351746
- B. Banerjee, HS. Vadiraj, A. Ram, R. Rao, M. Jayapal, KS. Gopinath, BS. Ramesh, N. Rao, A. Kumar, Effects of an integrated yoga program in modulating psychological stress and radiation-induced genotoxic stress in breast cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy., Integr Cancer Ther, volume 6, issue 3, pages 242-50, Sep 2007, doi 10.1177/1534735407306214, PMID 17761637
- LE. Carlson, M. Speca, KD. Patel, E. Goodey, Mindfulness-based stress reduction in relation to quality of life, mood, symptoms of stress and levels of cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) and melatonin in breast and prostate cancer outpatients., Psychoneuroendocrinology, volume 29, issue 4, pages 448-74, May 2004, PMID 14749092
- M. Satyapriya, HR. Nagendra, R. Nagarathna, V. Padmalatha, Effect of integrated yoga on stress and heart rate variability in pregnant women., Int J Gynaecol Obstet, volume 104, issue 3, pages 218-22, Mar 2009, doi 10.1016/j.ijgo.2008.11.013, PMID 19110245
- Michael Girodo, Yoga meditation and flooding in the treatment of anxiety neurosis, Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, volume 5, issue 2, 1974, pages 157–160, ISSN 00057916, doi 10.1016/0005-7916(74)90104-9
- C. Smith, H. Hancock, J. Blake-Mortimer, K. Eckert, A randomised comparative trial of yoga and relaxation to reduce stress and anxiety., Complement Ther Med, volume 15, issue 2, pages 77-83, Jun 2007, doi 10.1016/j.ctim.2006.05.001, PMID 17544857
- R. Chattha, N. Raghuram, P. Venkatram, NR. Hongasandra, Treating the climacteric symptoms in Indian women with an integrated approach to yoga therapy: a randomized control study., Menopause, volume 15, issue 5, pages 862-70, doi 10.1097/gme.0b013e318167b902, PMID 18463543
- J. Granath, S. Ingvarsson, U. von Thiele, U. Lundberg, Stress management: a randomized study of cognitive behavioural therapy and yoga., Cogn Behav Ther, volume 35, issue 1, pages 3-10, 2006, doi 10.1080/16506070500401292, PMID 16500773
- D. Khatri, KC. Mathur, S. Gahlot, S. Jain, RP. Agrawal, Effects of yoga and meditation on clinical and biochemical parameters of metabolic syndrome., Diabetes Res Clin Pract, volume 78, issue 3, pages e9-10, Dec 2007, doi 10.1016/j.diabres.2007.05.002, PMID 17597249
- Savita Singh, Tenzin Kyizom, K. P. Singh, O. P. Tandon, S. V. Madhu, Influence of pranayamas and yoga-asanas on serum insulin, blood glucose and lipid profile in type 2 diabetes, Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry, volume 23, issue 4, 2008, pages 365–368, ISSN 0970-1915, doi 10.1007/s12291-008-0080-9
- Suresh C. Jain, Alka Uppal, S.O.D. Bhatnagar, B. Talukdar, A study of response pattern of non-insulin dependent diabetics to yoga therapy, Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, volume 19, issue 1, 1993, pages 69–74, ISSN 01688227, doi 10.1016/0168-8227(93)90146-V
- Subhash Manikappa Chimkode, Effect of Yoga on Blood Glucose Levels in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, JOURNAL OF CLINICAL AND DIAGNOSTIC RESEARCH, 2015, ISSN 2249782X, doi 10.7860/JCDR/2015/12666.5744
- ThangapandiyanGangavalli Subramaniyan, Natarajan Subramaniyan, Moorthi Chidambaram, Brisk walking and yoga as adjuvant therapy in management of type 2 diabetes mellitus, International Journal of Students Research, volume 2, issue 1, 2012, pages 43, ISSN 2230-7095, doi 10.4103/2230-7095.113492
- V. Malhotra, S. Singh, OP. Tandon, SB. Sharma, The beneficial effect of yoga in diabetes., Nepal Med Coll J, volume 7, issue 2, pages 145-7, Dec 2005, PMID 16519085
- Kelly A McDermott, Mohan Rao, Raghuram Nagarathna, Elizabeth J Murphy, Adam Burke, Ramarao Nagendra, Frederick M Hecht, A yoga intervention for type 2 diabetes risk reduction: a pilot randomized controlled trial, BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, volume 14, issue 1, 2014, pages 212, ISSN 1472-6882, doi 10.1186/1472-6882-14-212
- Arlene A. Schmid, Marieke van Puymbroeck, David M. Koceja, Effect of a 12-Week Yoga Intervention on Fear of Falling and Balance in Older Adults: A Pilot Study, Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, volume 91, issue 4, 2010, pages 576–583, ISSN 00039993, doi 10.1016/j.apmr.2009.12.018
- S. Tüzün, I. Aktas, U. Akarirmak, S. Sipahi, F. Tüzün, Yoga might be an alternative training for the quality of life and balance in postmenopausal osteoporosis., Eur J Phys Rehabil Med, volume 46, issue 1, pages 69-72, Mar 2010, PMID 20332729
- PR. Bosch, T. Traustadóttir, P. Howard, KS. Matt, Functional and physiological effects of yoga in women with rheumatoid arthritis: a pilot study., Altern Ther Health Med, volume 15, issue 4, pages 24-31, PMID 19623830
- H. Tropp, J. Ekstrand, J. Gillquist, Stabilometry in functional instability of the ankle and its value in predicting injury., Med Sci Sports Exerc, volume 16, issue 1, pages 64-6, 1984, PMID 6708781
- AW. Watson, Ankle sprains in players of the field-games Gaelic football and hurling., J Sports Med Phys Fitness, volume 39, issue 1, pages 66-70, Mar 1999, PMID 10230172
- C. Hrysomallis, P. McLaughlin, C. Goodman, Balance and injury in elite Australian footballers., Int J Sports Med, volume 28, issue 10, pages 844-7, Oct 2007, doi 10.1055/s-2007-964897, PMID 17373597
- TA. McGuine, JJ. Greene, T. Best, G. Leverson, Balance as a predictor of ankle injuries in high school basketball players., Clin J Sport Med, volume 10, issue 4, pages 239-44, Oct 2000, PMID 11086748
- TM. Willems, E. Witvrouw, K. Delbaere, N. Mahieu, I. De Bourdeaudhuij, D. De Clercq, Intrinsic risk factors for inversion ankle sprains in male subjects: a prospective study., Am J Sports Med, volume 33, issue 3, pages 415-23, Mar 2005, PMID 15716258
- Paula R. Pullen, Sameer H. Nagamia, Puja K. Mehta, Walter R. Thompson, Dan Benardot, Ramadan Hammoud, Janice M. Parrott, Srikanth Sola, Bobby V. Khan, Effects of Yoga on Inflammation and Exercise Capacity in Patients With Chronic Heart Failure, Journal of Cardiac Failure, volume 14, issue 5, 2008, pages 407–413, ISSN 10719164, doi 10.1016/j.cardfail.2007.12.007
- C. Patel, WR. North, Randomised controlled trial of yoga and bio-feedback in management of hypertension., Lancet, volume 2, issue 7925, pages 93-5, Jul 1975, PMID 49737
- H. Subramanian, MB. Soudarssanane, R. Jayalakshmy, D. Thiruselvakumar, D. Navasakthi, A. Sahai, L. Saptharishi, Non-pharmacological Interventions in Hypertension: A Community-based Cross-over Randomized Controlled Trial., Indian J Community Med, volume 36, issue 3, pages 191-6, Jul 2011, doi 10.4103/0970-0218.86519, PMID 22090672
- S. Sundar, SK. Agrawal, VP. Singh, SK. Bhattacharya, KN. Udupa, SK. Vaish, Role of yoga in management of essential hypertension., Acta Cardiol, volume 39, issue 3, pages 203-8, 1984, PMID 6331698
- R. Murugesan, N. Govindarajulu, TK. Bera, Effect of selected yogic practices on the management of hypertension., Indian J Physiol Pharmacol, volume 44, issue 2, pages 207-10, Apr 2000, PMID 10846637
- Kanupriya Dhameja, Savita Singh, M. D. Mustafa, K. P. Singh, Basu Dev Banerjee, Mukul Agarwal, Rafat S. Ahmed, Therapeutic Effect of Yoga in Patients with Hypertension with Reference toGSTGene Polymorphism, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, volume 19, issue 3, 2013, pages 243–249, ISSN 1075-5535, doi 10.1089/acm.2011.0908
- R. McCaffrey, P. Ruknui, U. Hatthakit, P. Kasetsomboon, The effects of yoga on hypertensive persons in Thailand., Holist Nurs Pract, volume 19, issue 4, pages 173-80, PMID 16006832