Now that we know the benefits of yoga for runners, it’s time to start practicing. But, with so many different styles, classes, and teachers, it may be tough to know where to start.
First, you need to ask yourself some simple questions:
- What does your body need more of?
- What type of movement will keep you engaged?
The answers to these two questions may contradict each other.
If you’re running long distances, your body may ask to slow down and find some balance. At the same time, in order to stay engaged you might need something fast-paced and challenging. Both are equally important and neither should be discounted as right or wrong. Finding a class that fulfills both these needs is possible and holds the key to bringing you to your mat again and again.
From here, you need to decide which of the many styles of yoga appeals to you. Below is an outline of just a few. This is by no means a comprehensive list but simply a snapshot of some of the most popular styles that are likely offered at nearby studios and gyms.
- Hatha: A general style of yoga from which all other lineages diverged. Classes are basic and gentle, usually consisting of standing and balancing poses followed by seated postures and the universal resting pose, savasana.
- Ashtanga/Power: A vigorous style of yoga. These classes are heated and include warming poses, sun salutations, standing postures, backbends, and a cool down. They are sometimes accompanied by music depending on the teacher and studio.
- Bikram: Classes are for the heat lover. Students practice a set sequence of 26 poses, including two breathing exercises, in a room heated to over 100 degrees F (38 C). These classes are great for those who like to know what’s coming next but be forewarned, it gets hot! Water and a towel are necessary.
- Iyengar: Alignment-based class, usually prop heavy. The pace is slower as the teacher takes you through subtle, precise alignment cues for individual poses. Iyengar classes are wonderful for learning how to do poses correctly and safely.
- Restorative: Relaxing, slow-paced class in which you hold poses for extended periods of time. Postures are usually supported by props and mostly done seated or on the back. They are deeply nourishing and calming to the body and the mind.
- Vinyasa/Flow: A dynamic, flowing class, which links each movement to a breath. These classes vary greatly depending on the teacher but can include music, heat, and unique sequences incorporating arm balances, inversions, and twists.
Once you’ve decided on a style, you need to find the right class and teacher. My best advice is to try several studios and take advantage of their introductory promotions. Almost all studios offer massive discounts to new students, allowing you to sign up for great deals on unlimited and even free classes for periods of time. Groupons and Living Social deals are also great resources for discounts. Once you’ve selected a studio, try as many teachers and classes as you can to determine what works best for your needs.
Yoga is not one size fits all. It can take some time to determine your likes and dislikes as you navigate class sizes, teacher’s personalities, and the overall feel of the community. How you prefer to practice will ultimately be based on personal preference. Just like you didn’t give up after your first run, don’t give up after your first class. If one doesn’t feel right, another one might. Ask teachers and the front desk folks for recommendations, listen to your body, and remember to be open and have fun, which is the ultimate key to coming back for more.
Photos and article by Lisa Horvath.
Related: WalkJogRun guide to Yoga for Runners