Yoga For Runners

by Sally Drake

Pose of the Month: Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing (deep belly breaths) has essential benefits for runners, in addition to being a foundational pranayama practice in yoga. Breath fuels our body with oxygen. When running, we may struggle to breath in enough oxygen, leading to an increase in lactic acid in our muscles, resulting in cramps and fatigue. Efficient breathing–when the breath comes deeply from the belly rather than short and shallow from the chest–can immediately get more oxygen into the body and when practiced over time it will help improve exercise tolerance and your running performance. In short, breathing is an essential part of training to become a stronger, more efficient, and more resilient runner.

The diaphragm is the large muscle directly under your lungs. Engaging this muscle allows for greater expansion of the lungs and the inhalation of a greater amount of air. Taking larger and fewer breaths calms the body, helping you feel more comfortable while running, and you will use less effort to maintain the breath throughout the run. Less effort leads to more energy which leads to a stronger run!

How To Practice: This breathwork can be done in any comfortable position, lying down on your back or in an easy seat as shown in the image. If lying down, bend your knees and keep your feet planted on the floor.  Placing your hands on your belly, outer rib cage, or one hand on your chest, one your belly will help you monitor the rise and fall of the belly with the breath.

Start with a deep breath in through the nose, consciously forcing air into your belly. You should feel the hand on your belly rise. As you exhale, your hands and belly should recede. If you keep one hand on your chest, notice how when you take the deep, diaphragmatic breath the hand on the belly moves while the hand on the chest is mostly still.

Practice for 5-15 minutes as often as you can. When comfortable with a seated or reclined practice, try incorporating the technique while running by keeping your inhalations deep and directed into the belly and focusing on complete exhalations, expelling as much air as possible. With practice, this breath pattern will become easier to engage and maintain.

Other benefits: Diaphragmatic breathing calms the body which has significant benefits to our physical and mental health, from reducing blood pressure to managing anxiety. Committing to a breathing practice is a worthy and valuable part of any training plan, and its benefits will extend to many parts of your life.


SallyYogaPose.jpegSally Drake has been a runner in the Capital District community for over twenty years and  is a 200-hour certified yoga teacher. Join her Monday and Thursday mornings from 6:30am-7:30am for morning yoga flows at The Hot Yoga Spot in Albany.  Follow her on instagram @sdrakeyogi for schedule updates.






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