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Yoga For Runners

By Doug Kurtis - Detroit Free Press

Yoga has long been known to enhance running, but few take advantage of its benefits.

Runners complain of sore knees, hamstrings and backs from the pounding they absorb. The pain they endure isn't necessarily from the force of their feet hitting the ground but from the imbalance caused by running.

Yoga can help strength, flexibility and balance.

The body tries to avoid injury by working around instability. This compensation puts stress on the muscles, joints and bones. Tight muscles get tighter and become hard and inflexible.

As shock absorbers, they should be soft and malleable, with some give. Brittle muscles are vulnerable to tears.

Repetitive actions, such as running, can create unbalanced and excessively tight bodies. The endorphins that give runners such a positive feeling also can mask the pain of oncoming injuries.

Yoga can help runners overcome their imbalance and learn to relax their bodies, making them more effective and also saving strength. Tight muscles limit range of motion, but relaxed muscles allow bodies to operate more efficiently and with greater range of movement.

Yoga also teaches relaxation techniques for breathing. Having an awareness of your breathing helps reduce the tension that running, especially racing, can cause.

Many gyms, YMCAs and parks and recreation centers also offer yoga classes.

In the past several decades, almost a dozen different styles of yoga have emerged. If you attend a class and it doesn't work, try another style.

Karen Lewis of Brighton quit weightlifting after she discovered that power yoga gave her the same upper-body workout and maintained her muscle tone and strength.

Grace Gilmore of Northville also was suffering from neck pain because of stress on the job.

"I'm addicted to yoga," she said. "A combination of strength, stretching, endurance and a quiet mind have been a godsend to my heavy travel schedule. I bring my yoga mats and Kest tapes wherever I go."

For another great article on how yoga can help your running, read Why Yoga Deserves a Place in Your Training Regimen

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