Welcome to our new Yoga for Runners blog

In the first instalment of our new blog, Team RW takes up yoga in a bid to out-stretch injury.

RW Senior Writer Kerry McCarthy

Kerry McCarthy is senior writer for Runner's World magazine. He has run 10 marathons, raced Usain Bolt and trained with Paula Radcliffe - but he hasn't been able to touch his toes since he was a child.

Hello and welcome to our new Yoga for Runners blog. If you're a regular reader of this website or Runner's World magazine you'll know the importance of stretching and flexibility in helping to make you a better runner and ward off injury.

After three years of on-off injury I decided that my new year's resolution this year was to see a little less of my physio and a little more of the great outdoors, so working on the premise that what's good enough for Ryan Giggs is good enough for me, I took up yoga. At first I thought - as I imagine many guys would - that yoga was either

a)  A hobby for Birkenstock-wearing, dream-catcher-toting hippies.

b)  For women.

How wrong I was. A month in (one session a week) I have already seen improvements in my running, my daily posture and my core strength - and I'm excited to see what improvements I make over the medium- to long term. So, to business.

There are numerous different branches of yoga, some more strenuous than others. This blog will focus specifically on Bikram yoga.

What exactly is yoga?

5000 years old, yoga in each of its forms is a series of intense stretches and poses designed to improve your body and mind. It strengthens your muscles, increases suppleness and flexibility, boosts oxygen flow to your muscles and brain, and improves concentration and relaxation.

The great thing about it is that, while there is a perfect way of doing each pose, few of us will ever do a pose perfectly - so the pressure's off. Although you see gym classes with 30 people all doing yoga together (and yes, with plenty of men in there as I've discovered), it's really a solitary pursuit. How quickly you progress and how hard you push is up to you. A person who progresses quicker than the person next to them is not necessarily better since our bodies are all different and we all start with different issues and aims.

What is Bikram yoga?

Bikram yoga is 26 postures, done in a certain order, and practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees fahrenheit.

The order the poses are done in is specifically designed to work all parts of the body - the nerves, the muscles, the veins, the ligaments, the internal organs - to their maximum without causing injury. The heated room obviously makes you sweat heavily, which helps to flush away toxins and impurities and improve circulation.

Over the next 12 months, we will post a fortnightly blog which will describe, using text and images, each of the 26 poses, explain which parts of the body they benefit and show you how to do them properly in the comfort of your own home.

We'll offer beginner and advanced options for each pose - so whether you've never tried yoga before or you've been practicing for some time, there'll be something there for you.

And don't worry, you won't need to install a sauna in your house to get a decent Bikram yoga practice. Simply turn the central heating up to maximum 10 minutes or so before you start and you'll definitely get enough of a sweat on to help you bend your way to a fitter you.

We'll be using advanced yogi and keen runner Olga Allon (check her out at www.hotbikramyoga.co.uk) as our resident expert offering tips and tweaks to make your experience better, and once every so often she'll pop onto the forums to answer any questions you may have.

Right, I'm off to go and sit in the lotus position for an hour...

Kerry is training with the help of the team at www.bikramyogauk.co.uk

Previous story
Yoga for runners: Stretch your way to a faster 5K

yoga, bikram, Kerry McCarthy, stretching, avoiding injury, Yoga for Runners

Discuss this story

Ooh, exciting! I will follow with interest....
Posted: 13/04/2011 at 10:13

This sounds great! I will be keeping an eye out for new blogs too. 

Posted: 13/04/2011 at 10:22

awesome! i started to do yoga regularly in January and it has definitely helped my running! 
Posted: 13/04/2011 at 10:49

>>> The heated room obviously makes you sweat heavily, which helps to flush away toxins and impurities and improve circulation.

Yoga has done wonders for my running and doing Yoga in a heated room probably has some good benefits, but the "sweating out toxins" thing is a myth. From Columbia University's Health Services:

". . . inducing heavy sweating is not an effective method of ridding your body of toxins — though it's very good at ridding your body of vital fluids, potentially leading to dehydration. Sweating releases traces of toxins (less than 1% of the body's total content), but in reality, its sole purpose is to prevent overheating. The liver and kidneys (not the sweat glands) are the body's true detoxifiers. They filter toxins out of the blood and the body releases them through urine and feces."

A good a good electrolytic solution is 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice, 1/3 teaspoon of salt (preferably celtic sea salt).

>>> 5000 years old, yoga

While the philosophy and practice of Yoga is likely thousands of years old, the Asanas (Postures) aspect of Yoga in it's current form is only about 100 years old.

Posted: 18/04/2011 at 12:48

This article caught my eye this morning just as I am about to go outside to do some yoga in the garden! I have been practising yoga on and off for years and it is brilliant, not just for keeping me flexible for running but also for getting rid of back and shoulder problems that creep up and get me from time to time. I am not super bendy and the lotus is not for me, but that doesn't matter!

The benefits that I did not expect from yoga include strength - some of the postures are pretty challenging - and improved concentration, especially with the balancing postures. Also, it makes me feel more grounded.

Must go -  I have a sun to salute!

Posted: 20/04/2011 at 08:30

I nearly had to give up running a few years back because of a degenerated lower spine (prolapsed)....Started Yoga becuase of free classes at a local Gym I was using at the time and have never looked back!

I still get back problems and have to be very careful when handling goods or bending, but running regularly now as well as Triathlons etc.

Don't go to classes anymore but try and preactise at home following recoreded TV classes (although not easy to follow when trying to perform the poses) but do try to do a Sun Salutation every a.m. & p.m. (more if poss') and sure this helps.

If my back does go, it now normally only lasts a day or so whereas before Yoga, it was sometimes months!!

Posted: 20/04/2011 at 09:21

I have run the London marathon 6 times, 2 years on and 2 years off since 2000.  The first 2 years I had physio throughout my training to enable me to finish the course.  In 2002 I took up yoga and for the 2004 marathon improved my time by just under an hour to 4.24 and didn't need a jot of physio.  Yoga has done wonders for my running, posture and general health not to mention my ability to relax.  It's such a great contrasting and complementary exercise to running and is far from lying down breathing in a dark room.  The yoga I practice has a fantastic heat inducing warm up, a good mix of flexibility, balance and strength moves and a very calming cool down with spirituality thrown in for good measure, what is not to love? Mind body and soul, they're not wrong.
Posted: 20/04/2011 at 09:25

I'm taking up yoga again as I've had so many problems with my back and feet lateley.  Used to do it many years ago and it was probably one of the best things I ever did.  Got my first class on Thursday next week.  I'm trying a different sort of yoga - a Korean version which is more as much about the mind as the body - it all sounds a bit new age to me but I'm reading a fascinting book about it.  It's as much about training the mind as the body and where I'm at at the moment this sounds what I need.  I'm also going to be doing some Hatha yoga classes with my daughter.  I'm looking forward to a stronger more flexible, calmer, happier me.
Posted: 20/04/2011 at 09:38

What type of yoga are you doing please? I'm thinking of tackling my first marathon next year and have been looking at doing some yoga classes too but with so many different types, I wasn't quite sure which one would benefit my running so if you could let me know which one you are doing, I'd be most grateful.
Posted: 25/04/2011 at 13:44

I would recommend yoga retreat.

I have been to a few yoga holidays in St Lucia which helped me to get rid of my back ache.

Posted: 27/04/2011 at 14:26

I'd like to suggest Ashtanga Yoga, ultimate stretching and core strength. 
Posted: 27/04/2011 at 16:28

Well I'd love to try Bikram yoga - challenge is finding somwhere that does it!!!

And there’s me thinking I lived in a cosmopolitan area of the country (Chester, North West) with close links to Liverpool/Manchester – hmmmm but can I find??? Nope! 

Posted: 28/04/2011 at 14:16

Hey Rob

There is a bikram yoga centre in Manchester, its in the norther quarter, nearish to the Buddhist centre - which also does yoga lessons I think.

Posted: 04/05/2011 at 16:52

I've signed up for yoga classes, got my first one tomorrow evening. Doesn't actually say what specific type of yoga it is, so I hope we're not doing it in a heated room.

Wondering if I'm going to be the only guy in the room... 

Posted: 04/05/2011 at 17:40

found some with a distance just need to get a little closer to Chester/Runcorn now..



L4 3qd



MP4 1Pd

Posted: 09/05/2011 at 12:18

Is there any good Yoga Centers anyone can recommend in Edinburgh? Moving there for a few months in July due to work.

Posted: 19/05/2011 at 14:34

Great to see more yogablogs online! I am a yoga teacher myself and very passionate runner. the combination of the 2 is great !! thanks for sharing! http://alexiaku.wordpress.com
Posted: 17/10/2011 at 12:49

Hey Running Yogis and Yogini's -

 I'm facilitating a series of specific yoga workshops for runners this spring 2012. If you're curious about yoga as a cross training tool, or looking at how to tailor your existing practice to your running needs then these are for you. 

Follow this link for details on Yoga for Runners around the south coast.


Warmest wishes, Emma 

Posted: 23/01/2012 at 11:01

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