5. Mental toughness
Holding a yoga pose for a long time — especially a core-trembling, quad-shaking position like “warrior” or “chair” pose — not only strengthens muscles, but it also builds confidence, quiets the mind, and translates directly to race day, says Scott Rodwin, founder of Radiance Yoga in Boulder, Colorado. "Over time,” he says, “the practice of simply holding the pose teaches you that you are stronger than you think. The asana asks you to overcome self-limiting thoughts and the fear of pain. It requires discipline and commitment."
Athletes who are out there on long, solo training runs already know about developing an inward, mindful state of being, a.k.a. “the zone.” Staying mindful of your breath helps achieve this, says personal trainer Carrie Jesse, allowing athletes to stay in the moment and “even match the rhythmic breathing to their footfalls.”
Tight hamstrings, calves, glutes, and lower back muscles are all common side effects of many endurance race regimens. “Hatha Yoga helps immensely in releasing tight muscles and restoring full mobility to the body’s joints,” says Alexander Cortes, a strength and conditioning coach at a UFC gym in California. “Often times endurance racers will unknowingly develop bad movement patterns due to tight muscles. Mobilizing and realigning the body [with yoga practice] can restore proper patterns and prevent avoidable injuries.”