Do you know why are your muscles sore when you have been training? Most sports, like running, require a mechanical movement in which your muscles work together with a series of contractions and extensions. The repetition of that series of movements causes the muscle fibers to shorten, and with time to remain short. This happens with any repetitive movement, or static posture. An example you’ve probably heard is the carpal tunnel syndrome which may be provoked by the repetitive use of the hands and wrists in the same position for extended periods of time. Shortened muscles remain unbalanced and reduce the movement range in the joints.
This is the major cause of injuries while running, and you have probably felt it when your muscles feel tight, and you can’t move them as usual. Imagine the pain of going down the stairs the day after a long run where you didn’t stretch. The good news is that it can be avoided by using your muscles in a balanced way. For each group of muscles that you contract, you should do the inverse movement to stretch it and bring it back to its relaxed position.
This is why yoga is a great exercise. I know I write this, and at this moment in the sky there is a yogi with a long beard who loses his wings. In the Hindu philosophy yoga is composed of a physical, mental and spiritual practice. I’m only into the physical part (and a bit of the mental part). The way I see it, it’s like eating pizza, where some people leave the crust, and still enjoy the rest of it.
The physical part of yoga is composed by the asanas, or postures. These postures stretch, strengthen, and tone different muscles reestablishing the balance and symmetry of your body. You could stick to regular stretching, but a yoga series will do all the stretching needed, you will strengthen other parts of your body, and it is much more fun. I love to practice yoga together with my regular training which has really helped me to avoid injuries.
Most people think of yoga and imagine someone bending like a pretzel. You don’t need to be able to do that in order to get the benefits of yoga. In fact, the stiffer you are, the more benefits you will get from your practice. So go ahead, sign up for some beginner yoga classes, or if you have done it before just keep on doing it!