"You want to maximize the results of time spent on the mat," says Rountree, who teaches Yoga for Athletes in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. "While it wouldn't hurt to do gentle yoga on your rest day, power yoga might be better for building strength. You wouldn't want to do power yoga during a taper, when you have pent-up energy. It might tempt you to push yourself harder than you should."
Beyond balance, strength, and flexibility, yoga offers an added benefit that can enhance performance: improved mental focus. "It teaches you to be in an intense situation—perhaps deep in a back-bending pose—and to bring awareness to your form and your breathing to make the situation manageable," Rountree says. "This skill is invaluable when at mile 18 of 26.2. You'll learn ways to cope, which will benefit you as an athlete and in life."
Yoga for Runners
Try these three poses:
Balance Pose: Pyramid (promotes stability, stretches hamstrings)
Stand with your left leg front. Hinge forward from the hips, tilting the pelvis forward and keeping the back straight, knees slightly bent. Interlace your fingers behind your back and stretch them up.
Power Pose: Lunge with Twist (stretches hips)
Step your left foot back; lower down so your knee and toes rest on the ground. Put your palms together. Twist and rest your left triceps on your right quad. Look over your shoulder.
Core Pose: Reverse Table (strengthens abs and back)
Sit with your knees bent, feet on the floor, hands directly under your shoulders with fingers spread wide. Push up through your hands and feet until your torso and thighs are parallel to the floor.
On Miles and Mats
Your yoga should have an inverse relationship to your training. Easy runs can be followed by tougher yoga sessions; challenging runs should be followed by gentle poses. Here's a sample plan.
Run/Cross-train - Rest day
Yoga - Power (vigorous flowing practice) + Core
Easy plus strides
Yoga - Gentle (easy stretches targeting tight spots)
Cross-train or easy run
Yoga - Balance (works stabilizers in the legs and core) + Core
Yoga - Core (strengthens the trunk muscles)
Cross-train or day off
Yoga - Flow (gentle flowing practice, milder than power) + Core
Easy run plus strides
Yoga - Breath (focus on breathing, relaxation, visualization)
Yoga - Warm/cool/breath (sun-salutation warmup, hip-opener cooldown; focus
on deep breathing and visualization)
For more more information and additional poses, visit runnersworld.com/yoga.