Some people think that yoga is for a very specific type of person: someone who wants to be (or already is) highly flexible, and who is seeking to be one with the universe. Well, people, I’m here to clarify that you don’t have to be a “hippie” to join a yoga class. Drop your judgments at the door, and roll out a new perspective on this healing activity. Lay back on your yoga mat for a few minutes and check out these attractive benefits for folks of all backgrounds. Specifically athletes! Yoga makes for a perfect complement to your rigorous training routine.

I can testify from personal experience about the power of yoga in a physically active person’s life. I came to yoga after completing my first marathon. I thought my body would never go back to normal, after I pounded the pavement for months of training and for hours on race day to reach the finish line. But I was wrong. Just after one yoga class, I was miraculously cured. My body became more aligned, my muscle tightness loosened and my breathing became steadier and more focused – bringing my inner serenity to a whole new level!

Now I use yoga for practically any and every ailment of body, mind and spirit and it’s great because medical research, more and more, is validating the healing aspects of yoga over medication and surgery. In fact, the Seattle Times recently reported that runners especially benefit from the healing aspects of this ancient Indian practice. How does it to this, exactly?

As we all know, yoga promotes flexibility. For runners, what’s more important is not how deeply they can fold and bend, but rather, the muscle lengthening for the purpose of preventing injury. The article explains that “this increased range indirectly increases runners’ performance capacity, keeps the muscles supple and regulates nerve conduction.” Yoga poses that promote muscle pliability include the Low Lunge and the Reclining Big Toe.

Another reason that runners can use a little yoga in their routine is the benefit of body alignment – which can eliminate many of the body’s reoccurring aches and pains when on the running trail or track. By holding a pose as simple as the Mountain pose, the body’s alignment begins to correct itself over time, terminating the muscle pains that perhaps you have just gotten used to living with in your daily exercise routine!

Physical healing is one thing, but getting tuned in with your inner peace can be a whole other battle to conquer. Don’t simply rely on running to clear your mind and tune out the day’s stress. Yoga has a cleared-mind “zone” as well – just like running! The practice of controlled breathing in each yoga pose can help runners develop an even stronger lung capacity for their sprints and long runs.

Sounds like a great combination of mind, body and spirit exercise to me! Time for a little post-race healing and pre-race cross training!