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Guest blog: Benefits of yoga for runners and triathletes

Written by Fiona October 03 2013

Glasgow yoga teacher Mark Russell teaches classes for runners and triathletes. I have been a pupil most of this year and I now swear by his yoga for keeping my sporting niggles and injuries at bay. Mark is a keen runner and triathlete himself so he knows the areas of the body that come under most strain from sport. His classes are tailored to suit the needs of athletes. Here, he guest blogs.

1377287_10151605700807260_1947395330_nThis weekend tens of thousands of runners from Glasgow and beyond will converge on the city centre at the city’s newly refurbished George Square for the Great Scottish Run (half marathon and 10k). Each one will have their own story. For some it will be the culmination of months of training, while for others it will be a walk with a friend.  Unfortunately, there will be some who may not have made it to the start line because they have trained hard but picked up an injury along the way.

The hardest part of racing is making it to the start line, injury free and feeling ready. The race should be a culmination of all your hard work; the proverbial icing on the cake.

I have been racing in running and triathlon races for seven years.  I have loved (almost) every event.  I began practising yoga around the same time. I found that making it along to my Saturday and Sunday afternoon classes meant that I didn’t feel so sore or tight by Monday morning after long runs and bikes at the weekend.

I’ve now been teaching yoga to runners and triathletes for two years.  Once you get over the initial struggle, running feels great.  A long run through a forest trail can be an enlightening experience.

However, for the runner, injury becomes almost inevitable, and if not, tightness, pain and stiff  joints usually cause niggles. But thanks to yoga you don’t have to feel like this.

Benefits of yoga for athletes

Yoga reduces the negative effects of running.  Most runners – and, in fact, most people – have small imbalances throughout their body.  For the runner, who repeats the same movement several thousand times throughout a run, these imbalances start to become a problem as other muscles compensate for tightness, which in turn causes further imbalance and eventually injury.

Mark Russell yoga

Mark Russell yoga

Making it to a regular yoga class, and developing your own practice, will assist the runner in thinking more about alignment and length throughout their body.  Yoga strengthens the muscles and helps you to stay flexible through your joints. By stretching, yogis also benefit from  greater blood flow through the muscles.  And how you think about your body alignment  helps, too.

I’ve been watching my 11-month-old nephew “learn” how his body works; what feels good, what he needs to do to move efficiently, what joints need to do what to allow him to get his foot in his mouth.  As adults, we stop doing this but starting a yoga practice allows this process to begin again.

We think: How does my left hip compare to my right?  Why do I feel more able to balance on my left leg but find it more difficult on the right?  Boy, I didn’t realise my glutes were so tight!

Developing this awareness of your body allows the runner to “listen” to their body, develop more efficient movement patterns and attend to niggles before they become full blown injuries.

Benefits of good breathing

If you’ve ever run in a race, you’ve either ran beside or are this person.  The panter!  The runner who is breathing so hard that they are gasping for air is no longer using their lungs efficiently, no longer oxygenating the muscle groups that are already working to their limit and not getting the most out of their body.  And ultimately running slower than they could be.

Yoga allows you to focus on your breath.  There are many yogic breathing techniques (pranayama), but even making it along to the most basic of classes should allow you to develop a different relationship with your breath. Proper breathing also allows the body to align better.

Running the Great Scottish 10k

So, I’ll be down at the start line for the 10k on Sunday morning.  I’m pacing for all of those that want to get just under the hour, which is a massive milestone for many runners.  If you’re running beside me I’ll be listening to your breathing, encouraging you to stay tall, keep aligned, but mostly have fun and stay relaxed.

A bit about Mark: He teaches yoga to the under 21 Scottish Hockey team, the Glasgow triathlon club, professional boxer Michael Roberts and the Bellahouston Road Runners, as well as several classes for runners throughout Glasgow.

Join his Facebook group Kridaka Yoga for more info or email him at [email protected] to attend any of the classes below.


6.30 pm – 7.30 pm Glasgow Triathlon Club Session
Turning Point Scotland
123 West St


G5 8BA


8 pm – 9 pm Yoga For Sports Session
The Treatment Hub/ Prana Yoga Studio
60 Cadzow Street
South Lanarkshire


7 pm – 8 pm Yoga For Runners Class
Chi and Co
64 Darnley St

G41 2SE

8.15 pm – 9.15 pm Yoga For Runners 2
Chi and Co
64 Darnley St

G41 2SE.

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