Do you regularly practice yoga as a triathlete? If not, you should. Cross-training with yoga serves triathletes with a multitude of benefits. “Yoga is complementary to endurance sports and is one of the best forms of cross-training an athlete can do,” says Sunny Humber, a yoga instructor at The Yogashala in Waterdown, Ontario. “Intelligently sequenced yoga practices not only stretch your tight muscles but also strengthen the entire body and increase range of motion and flexibility. This can reduce the likelihood of sport-induced injury.” Yoga is also a popular stress-reliever and thus a great way to wind down from a busy week of training and work. If you’re considering adding yoga to your training, this guide will help you navigate the many styles to figure out which will best meet your needs?
A good place to start for new yogis. Hatha yoga is known as an “introductory” style of yoga. In a hatha class, you’ll learn basic breathing techniques and fundamental poses. This is a great way to increase range of motion and flexibility.
Bikram, or “hot yoga” is a unique style comprising 26 sequences poses that students will practice each session. The room is hot so be prepared to sweat and start with a warm class to get your body used to practicing in the humidity. Triathletes racing in hot locations will benefit from regular bikram yoga as it teaches your body to operate in high temperatures. Bikram is a challenging style with endurance and strength benefits.
Practice your patience and breathing with yin yoga. Classes will lead students through just four or five poses which are held for an extended period of time. You’ll be able to test your mental strength during this style as it requires intense concentration. Yin is a great recovery style for triathletes looking to decompress after high-energy training sessions.
On the other end of the spectrum is vinyasa yoga, a popular choice for triathletes because of its fast-paced movement. Students “flow” through poses and will feel challenged from a strength and cardiovascular standpoint. Some vinyasa classes are set to music which can either help or hinder concentration depending on your preference.
Ashtanga isn’t recommended for beginners as poses get challenging quickly and require some level of flexibility. Each pose is more difficult than the last and there is a heavy emphasis on proper breathing technique.
Tips for triathletes trying yoga
- Talk to the instructor ahead of time: mention any physical limitations due to injury or otherwise. Let them know your background as a triathlete so they can help you through any poses that might be particularly difficult (ahem, hip flexors).
- Bring water: don’t forget to hydrate! Just because you’re not moving quickly doesn’t mean you won’t work up a sweat. Drinking water is especially important for hot classes.
- Don’t be afraid to take a break: Whether you’re starting out or have been at it for a while, it’s always perfectly acceptable to take a break in child’s pose or savasana on your mat. Listen to your body and remember yoga is a journey, not a race!