Yoga and Running the Same Day?

Doing yoga and running on the same day could be too much exertion for you, but is it as bad an idea as it sounds? Both yoga and running are known to bring numerous health benefits, both physical and mental, so would it truly be hazardous to attempt both on the same day?

You can do yoga and go running on the same day provided that you have enough energy to do both, and you’re pairing the correct intensities together for both exercises so that you don’t end up completely exhausted.

To learn more about the different yoga varieties available, why yoga is the perfect counterbalance to running, and the type of yoga you should pair with your run, keep reading this article to have all your questions answered.

Why Should You Do Yoga Along With Running?

Yoga is a more beneficial alternative to stretching. Most runners are widely counseled to stretch before or after a run to warm up the muscles and prevent injury. Yoga can replace stretching if you haven’t already incorporated it into your everyday routine. It also carries with it a slew of benefits that will be explained in greater depth below.

Injury Prevention

Yoga has many well-documented health benefits, like improving emotional health and quality of sleep. However, yoga also interacts with high-intensity cardio exercises like running positively, preventing and reducing the strain of injuries on your muscles.

It is common knowledge that you can get injured easily from running if you’re not careful. However, why is running associated with a larger number of injuries when making the same motions while walking?

The reason behind this is due to a concept known as the ground reaction force. When you’re running, your feet are striking the ground at a force that is 2.5 times your body weight, while the force when you’re walking is only approximately 1.2 times your body weight. These foot strikes’ repetitive force puts an enormous toll on your muscles and joints, resulting in injury.

Here’s a handy table showing you the locations where an injury is most likely to strike, according to a 2015 study by Cingel & Associates.

Location on Body

Percentage chance of an injury occurring(%)

Knees

7.2 – 50

Lower leg

9.0 – 32.2

Upper leg

3.4 – 38.1

Foot

5.7 – 39.3

Lower Back

3.9 – 16.6

Ankles

3.3 – 11.5

Hips, pelvis, or groin

5.3 – 19.1

In exercise, injuries either occur due to repetitive stress being placed on a tissue, muscle, or joint without appropriate time being given for recovery or from a sudden acute overload that is above your body’s threshold.

Thus, if you’re trying to reduce injury, you would need to increase your balance to prevent slipping into those awkward positions that would cause acute overload. You would also need to strengthen your body tissues so that they can sustain an increased load, building up the injury threshold of a muscle.

According to this 2014 systematic review by Jeter & Associates, in 11 out of 15 studies, yoga was found to increase balance in healthy adults, linked to a 35% decrease in injury rate. Yoga also strengthens your muscles and tendons if you practice it consistently while managing to be a type of exercise that is considered low-impact enough that it won’t add to the microtears that your muscles face from running.

Faster Recovery Time

As an athlete, you have also likely encountered Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness(DOMS) after your workout. This condition pops up 12 to 24 hours after you’ve finished training, causing your muscles to be tender and score, lasting for anywhere from three to five days.

DOMS is caused by micro-tears within your muscles when you push them too hard. Although this might sound alarming, it is a vital part of increasing muscle strength and endurance. According to a 2004 study by Boyle & Associates, performing yoga directly before or after your high-intensity workout can play a part in reducing the duration or the painfulness of DOMS.

Reduction of Stiffness

Yoga contains a lot of stances that you would traditionally associate with stretching. Stretching is necessary because if you practice intensive cardio without stretching for long periods, your muscles shorten, becoming tighter and stiffer. Over time, they will gradually become weaker and less flexible due to their inability to extend fully.

If you’re a professional sprinter, you know that increased flexibility gives you that extra boost in speed when you begin your sprint. Your muscles stay healthy and flexible when you do yoga, and you’ll notice the rewards in terms of increased endurance on your run or a faster reaction time for sprints.

Aerobic Endurance

Unlike stretching, yoga places a lot of importance on breathing in a specific manner, at a particular time, as you move from one yoga pose to another. In yoga, practitioners are taught to use diaphragmatic breathing or inhaling and exhaling deeper from the diaphragm instead of breathing shallowly through the nose.

As you become more aware of your body and learn to regulate your breathing patterns, you will improve your aerobic endurance when you go running. Thus, you’ll be able to run for a greater distance, with that burning in your lungs kicking in much later than usual.

Mental Endurance

Running doesn’t just involve the physical part. There’s also a fair amount of mental endurance required when you go for a run because you’re continually pushing your body’s limits and trying to go farther than you previously did, even when your body doesn’t want to.

This mental endurance can be slowly built up in your runs as you learn to push past your limits a bit more every time you go out for a jog.

However, it can also be done in a less painful way – through yoga. Believe it or not, yoga wasn’t always about contorting your body into specific positions. Instead, it holds its roots in Indian philosophy, meant to improve a practitioner’s control over their emotions and mental focus, guiding them towards a path of self-actualization.

In yoga, practitioners focus on an intention or goal, also called a mantra, which prevents unwanted or negative thoughts from penetrating your mind and keeps you focused on the end-game. This practice can be used in running when you feel like you can’t run any longer. Create a mantra and focus on it to keep running and block those negative thoughts out.

Can You Do Yoga on the Same Day As Your Run?

Provided that you have enough energy, it is possible to do yoga and running on the same day. It would be best if you always tried to combine yoga and running into one workout by either using yoga as a warm-up or cooldown for the main event. Otherwise, you might not have enough energy to go for your yoga session after your run, or you could miss some of the health benefits associated with yoga.

As a rule of thumb, you should try to do the more active types of yoga before your run to serve as a warm-up and the more passive types of yoga as a cooldown. If you’re limited in terms of time or energy, you don’t even need to go for a full 45 minutes class. You can just do some basic yoga poses and be done with it.

Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not just limited to slow breathing and power poses. Many different yoga varieties exist, and some of them can even double as a light cardio session. If you try to go for the more difficult classes with no experience, you will leave with sore muscles, depleted energy, and less incentive to go running. On the other hand, if you’re experienced, this should pose no problem.

Let’s go through the most common types of yoga so that you can understand which type of yoga is best suited to you.

Hatha Yoga

Hatha yoga is the type of yoga you think of when the word “yoga” comes to mind. A Hatha yoga class is slow-paced, involving breathing mindfully as you slowly go through specific poses for a certain amount of time. These classes can also include meditation, at the very start, the very end of the class, or both.

Hatha yoga does not feature much cardio, if any. Instead, the poses used in these classes are commonly used in light stretching, which can act as a warm-up or cooldown after the main workout, your run. Here are some examples that you might recognize:

  • Tree Pose (Vrikshasan): In this pose, you place the sole of one foot on the thigh of another foot while folding your palms in front of your chest. You can think of it as a more advanced version of a quad stretch. This pose increases balance and mobility in your entire body, making you more agile.
Tree Pose
  • Standing Forward Pose (Uttanasana): In this pose, you touch your toes and try to bring your entire upper body down to hug your knees. It’s an advanced version of touching your toes. This pose stretches out your quads and hamstrings, decreasing stiffness, and increasing flexibility.
Uttanasana Standing Forward Bend Pose
  • Downward Dog Pose: Begin in a plank position, then raise your posterior towards the ceiling while aligning your head with your arms. This pose stretches out your calves, preventing soreness.
Downward Dog Pose
  • Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana): Lie on the floor with your feet together. Drive your hips upwards and maintain that position with your arms on the floor. This pose targets your glutes and back, preventing injury.
Bridge Pose
  • Locust Pose (Salabhasan): While lying flat on your stomach, lift your torso, arms, and legs away from the floor, keeping your arms parallel with the floor at all times. This pose explicitly targets your back muscles, reducing stiffness.
Locust Pose

Going for a hatha yoga class is an excellent idea if you’ve decided to do HIIT in the form of sprinting or if you’ve gone for a more heavy jog.

Vinyasa Yoga

A Vinyasa yoga class features moving seamlessly from one yoga pose to another while controlling your breathing. This type of yoga is also called ‘flow’ yoga, and unlike other types of yoga such as Bikram yoga, the stances within this variety are not fixed. The unpredictability of the stances results in increased balance, along with the prevention of repetitive motion injuries.

Unlike Hatha Yoga, which is more slow-paced, Vinyasa yoga can either be a low-intensity exercise or a more moderate-intensity cardio exercise if the stances become harder or the duration of the intervals to hold the poses are lessened.

Here’s an example of some exercises that you are likely to encounter in Vinyasa yoga:

  • Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations): This flow sequence consists of 12 stances, with the most challenging ones being a plank position, the four-limbed staff pose, or holding yourself stationary in the middle of a push-up, and the lunge. These stances require bodyweight strength and are more challenging than the stretches or balance positions you see in Hatha yoga.
  • Navasan (Boat Pose): In this stance, you sit with your knees bent, like you would in Russian Twists. Then, tilt back on your sitz bone while straightening your legs out while stretching your arms forward so that your legs are suspended mid-air. This pose requires serious work from your abdominal muscles.
  • Bakasan (Crown Pose): When in a deep squat, put your hands opposite each other on the floor. Then, use your arm and core strength to lift your heels off the floor in a controlled motion.

As you can see, Vinyasa yoga classes have a propensity to be much more challenging than Hatha yoga classes. As a result, you should only pair these classes when you’re doing a low to moderate intensity jog because it is a guarantee that you will be completely knocked out if you try doing them on a high-intensity day.

Power Yoga

Power yoga is an offshoot of Ashtanga yoga, which incorporates the most heavy-impact Vinyasa yoga stances. Unlike other yoga branches, which have been around for centuries, power yoga was only popularized from the 1980s. This type of yoga is very high-intensity, associated with a lot of movement, sweat, and loud music.

Here are some popular stances associated with a power yoga class:

  • Side Plank (Vasisthasan): As opposed to the traditional plank pose, where you use both your arms to balance, you’re only using one arm in a side plank position. This modification means you need increased upper body and core strength to do this exercise.
  • Three-Legged Downward Dog (Tri Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana): This pose is the normal downward dog position, except you’re lifting one leg as high as you can towards the ceiling. It works your glutes while simultaneously building strength in the one leg that you’re balancing on.
  • Dolphin Plank Variation (Catur Shvasan): This pose is a traditional plank position, except that you’re holding one leg raised in the air for an increased burn in your core.

As you can see, the poses in power yoga are near impossible to do if you attempt them after having exhausted yourself on a high-intensity run. You should do power yoga either on your rest days or after going for a low-intensity jog.

For a more detailed reference on the various types of yoga and their pairings with their specific benefits in relation to running, you can refer to this:

  • Vinyasa or Power Yoga or Ashtanga or Batiste: These yoga types are high-intensity, featuring aggressive and dynamic movements. This would appeal to runners, who would be used to sweaty, strenuous workouts. You should do these with low-intensity runs because if you’re training hard for long periods, doing this type of yoga with high-intensity runs causes fatigue and a deterioration in your running performance.
  • Hatha or Sari or Iyengar or Bikram or Anusara: These yoga classes feature more deliberate and slow movements, allowing you to increase core stability, body alignment, and balance, which means better hip stability. This decreases lateral hip motion and reduces the amount of wasted energy, letting you go on longer runs. All of these classes are good compliments to a moderate or high-intensity run, apart from Bikram yoga.
  • Restorative or Yin: This type of yoga facilitates recovery from high-intensity exercises, featuring very low-impact movements. It increases blood circulation around your muscles, but it does not require a great deal of energy. You should practice this type of yoga on the days where you’ve reached your body’s threshold for runs.

Conclusion

You don’t necessarily need to follow these recommendations regarding running and doing yoga on the same day. However, be sure to listen to your body and follow its needs. If it tells you that it wants to do a high-intensity yoga session after a high-intensity run, or if you don’t feel up to doing any yoga after your low-intensity jog, that’s okay.

During your exercise sessions, ensure that you stay hydrated, taking electrolytes in the form of sports drinks if needed. Even if yoga is less demanding than running, taking a class without the appropriate hydration after a run can cause fainting.

Sources

Sita

Mother of three and Yogi of 20+ years and 200 Hour Certified Yoga Teacher. I am also a Certified Thai massage therapist and I have taught Gymnastics for more than 10 years. In the last couple of years, I've been a big promotor of intermittent fasting.

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