Marathoners, ultra-race trainers, and yoga instructors agree to a T — regular practice of Hatha yoga breathing exercises and asanas, or poses, should be an integral part of any endurance race training regimen. Why? Well, the benefits are mental, physical, emotional—and undeniable to those who have tried it. So whether you’re training for the Leadville 100 or the Marathon des Sables in north Africa (a six-day, 156-mile ultramarathon, equivalent to six regular marathons!), the message is clear: start stretching now. Here are 10 reasons why.
Breathing practice is essential to Hatha yoga, some would say even defined by it. Practitioners use a back-of-throat nose breathing called ujayi pranayam, or “breath of the victorious warrior,” which lengthens inhalations and increases lung capacity. This, in turn, delivers more oxygen to the body and helps with overall performance and efficiency. (See numbers 4, 5, and 6 for other benefits.)
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To cover more ground with fewer steps, you need loose hip flexors, lubricated joints, greater hip flexion, and properly stretched hamstrings — all of which are common results from regular Hatha yoga practice. Many asanas cover these areas, which help develop a longer natural stride and smoother, steadier pace.