Building A Personal Yoga Practice

Running for Yogis Ryan Miller Yoga

When I first started doing yoga over 10 years ago it improved my running greatly.

I enjoyed training much more and my race times improved. My body started to become much more balanced and aligned which allowed me to relax and focus more in training and races. I knew yoga was good for runners but I didn’t understand how or why yet.

After I graduated college I started studying yoga more seriously and became a teacher. Since then I’ve worked with hundreds of runners helping them implement yoga into their running practice. Yoga has helped everyone from the competitive track athlete to the casual fitness runner.

When I work with runners I generally classify them into one of three categories:

  1. Cross Country/Track Athletes – These runners compete in Cross Country and/or Track, have specific races to focus on, and a specific training schedule to follow.
  2. Competitive Runner – These runners compete in local road races and want to improve their times and place well against their competition.
  3. Fitness Runner – These runners are focused mostly on fitness and do not run to compete.

Depending on what type of runner you are, your yoga practice will vary.

I once worked with a mother and daughter who came to me to learn yoga together. The daughter was a high school cross country runner dealing with injuries, with her achilles being the biggest offender. She wanted to fix her injuries so she could perform well in the upcoming season.

Her mom had been interested in trying yoga and wanted to get back into running but anytime she tried to run her hip pain was too much to handle. She had a feeling yoga might help them both. She came to me expecting me to run them through a few standard sequences. Instead she got a bunch of questions. I needed to understand where they were currently at before setting up a yoga practice with them.

It was a good thing I did. After my initial screening I realized that they needed an entirely different practice to meet their goals. The daughter was training for about 2 hours a day running, lifting weights and doing core exercises.

On top of the running she was a high achieving academic student at one of the top prep schools in the country. Her stress levels were extremely high. What she needed most was to relax. She needed a way to shut everything down and allow her body to recover. The balance, alignment, and strength work helped as well, however the overwhelming focus of her practice was relaxation.

Specifically, she would do about 10 minutes of stretching and loosening and then 20 minutes of restorative yoga poses usually spread across four poses at five minutes each.

The mom had a desk job and hadn’t run consistently in years.

Physically, she needed to move. Her daughter needed stillness. She needed movement. The visual of working with them became quite comical! Picture a mom going through down dog, up dog, warrior, twisting, bending, reaching…while her 16 year old daughter relaxes on the floor in a supported savasana or child’s pose!

So while the daughter spent 20 minutes barely moving, her mom spent 20 minutes moving as much as she could. It took some time for them to become convinced! When I first met them, the mom just wanted to rest and the daughter wanted to do all the extravagant poses she had found on google.

When that 16 year old super-achiever found out she was going to be spending 30 minutes doing nothing but focusing on her breath? When she was in all AP classes and trying to get accepted into all the top colleges? To just lie there with pillows and blankets and do…nothing? She thought I was out of my mind. She strongly resisted what I was offering. She didn’t want to do it.

After a couple weeks, her achilles was so bad she couldn’t run at all. It was at that moment she decided to go all in with her yoga practice. After about four weeks of practicing every day she told me she felt like she was a new person. She was sleeping better, eating better, and overall feeling less anxiety throughout her busy day. She was able to run without injury and competed well in all of the big meets.

If you are new to yoga, one easy way to figure out what type of practice is right for you is to ask this question:

“Will this make me more balanced?”

If you have been training at a high intensity you might want to choose a more gentle yoga practice to help balance you out. If you have been missing practice due to an injury you might choose a more vigorous practice to maintain your fitness. It all depends on what you need at that time.

This is the single biggest mistake I see people making when choosing a yoga class. They choose the style they have already mastered! The elite athletes go to the most vigorous yoga classes, while the least mobile among us go to the most gentle. We need to flip this around and challenge ourselves in yoga to do the things we need not the things we like.

The benefit of online sites like is you can select from a variety of teachers and classes to customize a program that works for you. You can filter down to exactly what you need to work on and start practicing. If your fitness is already top notch and you need to relax and restore you can do that. If you need to get your heart rate up and build strength you can do that as well.

The part that is up to you is figuring out what you truly need. What is going to benefit you the most? You will be drawn to the things you are already good at. Dig deep and ask yourself what is it that you truly need to work on.

And as always, if you need help customizing your practice please reach out. We would love to help.

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About the Author:

Ryan Miller is a running coach and Kripalu Yoga teacher. He was a provisional national qualifier in the 10K and a five-time all–New England award-winner in college. Learn more at