Whether you want to feel more flexible, recover more efficiently, improve your running or relax your mind, yoga can help. We chat to new Jennis Fitness yoga ambassador, Lina Nielsen, to find out more….
When Lina Nielsen, 400m track athlete and Olympic hopeful, fractured her fibula during training, she took up yoga to help her recover physically and mentally. Little did she know that she would love it so much that she ended up training as a yoga teacher. Here, she reveals the surprising benefits of joining her for a Jennis yoga session…
You’re a track and field athlete, so how did you first get into yoga?
I got injured at the European Indoor Championships in 2017 and fractured my left fibula. I was pretty much at the peak fitness of my life, in great shape, and then suddenly I had to stop running. The injury happened because I’d got too fast too quickly and my body couldn’t keep up with the intensity.
After that, I needed to find a different outlet both physically and mentally, so I randomly went to a yoga class with a friend. Quite honestly, I absolutely hated it – and I know a lot of people who feel the same after that very first class. It wasn’t until a few classes in that I started to understand the power of the poses and the way they work an incredible number of muscles without you realising it. It was then that I fell in love with it.
How has yoga helped your athletics training?
When you’re training for the Olympics, there’s always going to be pressure on you from your coach, your sponsors and even yourself. Yoga gives me a better mind-body awareness so that I can read my stress levels, listen to myself and wind down.
How does yoga benefit your body?
It’s got tons of benefits for your body, but above all, you’ll get stronger. A lot of the poses look very simple and serene, but in reality you’re working lots of tiny, underused muscles that may not be reached in other types of training. By focusing on all those little muscles it helps the bigger ones get stronger.
People often say, "Yoga’s just stretching" and "It’s not intense enough for me." But when you get into it, you realise it’s so much more than that.
A lot of the poses look very simple and serene, but in reality you’re working lots of tiny, underused muscles that may not be reached in other types of training
Can yoga make you a better runner?
Absolutely. 100%. You’ll engage different muscles, which will make you stronger and it will also help you prevent injuries through building flexibility and elasticity.
The other big benefit of yoga is balance. Because yoga works both your left and right side equally, it corrects a lot of imbalances in the body. This is particularly important when you run, as you naturally tend to put more pressure on one side of your body. I got my fracture, for example, because I was running on an indoor track and heavily leaning to the left (as that’s how the track bends round).
Yoga will help you balance out your muscles, tune into your own body and figure out what you need to fix to become a stronger runner.
How would you describe your style of yoga?
A lot of yoga teachers focus on the spiritual side, but coming from a professional sports background, I’m more of a coach. I like to push students just a little bit further, but in an uplifting and motivational way.
Yoga will help you balance out your muscles, tune into your own body and figure out what you need to fix to become a stronger runner
How do you work your yoga around your own training schedule?
I find an intense yoga workout is similar to having a deep tissue massage, which is quite stressful for the body. You move fascia around and stimulate the lymphatic drainage system, and your body then has to work overtime to push the blood around and drain the lymph. So I tend to do yoga the day before a rest day. It means that on my rest day, I can hydrate and almost recover from the yoga as well as the athletics training.
What’s your go-to yoga flow?
I always begin my yoga practice with sun salutations. Sun salutations tell you how your body is feeling that day and how tight your hamstrings are, for example. I find it a nice way to check in with your body. Sometimes just doing sun salutations will be enough: I’ll tune into my body, realise I’m quite tired and feel that I won’t need to do any more moves.
What advice would you give someone who has never tried yoga?
A lot of people tell me they didn’t like their first class, so I would encourage you to keep persevering with it. You need to do a couple of sessions to really notice the difference to your body, but you won’t regret it.