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Yoga for runners

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Build core strength and improve your mental wellness with yoga instructor and runner Tim Senesi.

Headshot of Tim Senesi wearing blue shirt and cap

Meet Tim

Tim Senesi regularly posts movements and poses to his YouTube channel “Yoga with Tim.” His goal? To use his platform to help others practice yoga safely while providing a full-body workout.

“I wanted to be able to share yoga freely for anyone interested. I had already been teaching yoga full time for 10 years and I never thought it would really turn into anything. But it’s turned into a really cool community of people practicing yoga with me,” he says.

Tim began teaching yoga during his third year at San Diego State University and never looked back. In addition to his YouTube channel, which now has more than 260,000 subscribers and more than 20 million views, Tim offers an exclusive Conscious Movement Community membership program, retreats, 30-day challenges, and more.

Cross-training with yoga can help runners achieve their fitness goals and provides exercise variety, which is good for healthy muscles. We caught up with Tim and he shared how yoga and running are similar, the mental health benefits of both sports, and the proper way to stretch before and after a run.

Side of Tim Senesi doing yoga

Running is constant motion, but yoga seems like a stationary sport. Turns out they’re similar in many ways. How?

If we can cultivate the opposite of our instinct, it can help bring us into balance. The idea that yoga is stationary is a false notion. There’s always movement, but you learn to be still and watch. Even sitting in meditation is very fluid. There are constant changes, mind-wave sounds, pulses, vibration, respiration. You’re just sitting there watching it all happen, staying present, not identifying with any of it.

Yoga helps you find a flow with your breath and then when you pause for the stretch, you’re able to stay present in the sensation. Moving meditation through running is similar — the pounding of the road, your breath and the sensations help keep you present and quiet your mind.

Tim Senesi running on a sunny path

What mental health benefits have you found through running and how has running complemented your practice as a yogi?

Running helped me train focus and mindfulness. At first, I learned I could push past any barriers in my mind about what I could do or how far I could go. But then that became a hinderance because when I pushed past barriers in running, that lead to injuries. I eventually learned to find balance.

Running also helped to teach me self-discipline. Many yogis lack discipline, they only practice when they feel like it, and won’t stay consistent. Runners seem to learn to run no matter what. And if they wake up feeling emotional, or lazy, they feel better after a run, so they just make it happen. They learn to overcome, and that helped to keep me going in yoga when I didn’t feel particularly inspired.

Tim Senesi stretching on a sunny path
Tim Senesi stretching his leg

How should stretching before a run differ from stretching after a run?

We had it all backwards for years. When I was a kid, we would hold long static stretches before we would run.

You should start with a dynamic warm up before you run. Studies show this primes your muscles for movement and reduces the risk of injury.

After you run is when it’s time for slow, static stretching. This triggers the nervous system to tell the muscles to relax. To lengthen and rest. The nervous system becomes restored through slow mindful breathing. It’s all about finding balance and harmony.

Tim Senesi doing a yoga pose

Get the benefits

Here are three ways yoga can help improve the run.

  • Warming up with yoga can increase blood and oxygen throughout the body which in turn prepares the muscles to get ready to move.
  • Researchers from Florida State University found that pre-run dynamic stretches like yoga warm up muscles so they are more receptive to new movement and increase mental focus on the training session.
  • Dynamic stretching prepares your brain for exercise so your body feels ready to run further. A collaborative study between researchers in Italy in 2021 found that stretching before a run will “decrease the perception of effort, which in turn made run more enjoyable for the research subjects because they felt like they were not doing as much work.”

Learn more

In fitness, health, and life, it’s essential to find balance. Follow Tim Senesi’s YouTube channel “Yoga with Tim” for more great yoga content. Check out his website for news about his retreats, daily and monthly challenges, and other offerings.

Want to know what else can boost your run? Keep up to date with the Run Happy Blog, where you can learn about great gear, fun workouts, top training plans, and more.