At a race the other night, I was sharing with a friend that running is my passion. It is just in me, I run in snowstorms, I run pregnant, I run in stifling heat and humidity, I run in my sleep. But YOGA is truly what I crave. While running will always be my first love, yoga is what helps me maintain my physical and mental strength.
So how did my love for running morph into a love for yoga? Well, after ten years of pounding the pavement, my body was feeling the adverse effects of running’s repetitive, high-impact motion. My muscles and joints ached and I was starting to get minor injuries. The backs of my legs were so tight that I could hardly reach my knees when I folded forward. Trying to avoid disaster, I turned to yoga to loosen up my muscles. What I received from a regular yoga practice, however, not only improved my flexibility, it increased my overall athletic performance, and made me more vital in ALL aspects of life.
Yoga offers runners a number of benefits. Whether you are a diehard ultra-marathoner, a beginner doing a couch to 5K program, or a recreational runner never looking to race, yoga can help you:
- · Reduce risk of injury
- · Eliminate nagging aches and pains
- · Shorten recovery times post-races
- · Increase strength and flexibility
- · Improve daily postural habits
- · Correct and strengthen muscular imbalances
- · Improve breathing patterns and increase VO2 max levels
Not a bad list for some simple stretching, right? An easy way to integrate yoga into your current exercise routine is to perform short session pre- or post- run. Below are my favorite poses that target the lower back, hamstrings and hips. Try them out for yourself!
Intense Side Stretch or Pyramid
This pose is excellent for opening up tight hamstrings, the illiotibial bands and promotes balance.
Stand in Mountain pose with your feet together. Step your left foot back about three feet and angle the back foot out slightly. Keep both hips facing front, squaring the hips. Draw your hands behind your back, bending the arms and clasping the elbows. Inhale as you look up, opening the chest, exhale, hinging from the hips, keeping your spine long as you fold forward over your straight right leg. To modify, slightly bend the front leg, working toward straight. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on second side.
This pose is probably the best hip opener in yoga, opening the deep muscles of the hip and the hip flexors.
Start in Downward Dog. Lift your right leg up and sweep it through to your mat, folding it and placing it on the mat. Keep your right foot flexed to protect the knee. Your left leg is straight behind you with the toes pointed. Keep your hips square and level, with the left hipbone pressing toward your right foot. Inhale and press your hands into the mat, getting as much length in the spine as possible.
Exhale as you walk your hands forward on the mat, coming out to your edge. This might be on the elbows, with the arms extended all the way out or right where you started. Hold this pose for one minute. Remember to breath! Switch sides.
Seated Forward Fold
This pose stretches everything down from the spine to the hamstrings and has the added bonus of calming the mind.
Sit down with your legs extended out in front of you, heels pushing outward. Extend arms overhead by your ears, inhale and life the ribcage out of your waist drawing length in your spine.
As you exhale, begin to come forward, hinging at the hips, keeping back straight as possible. On each inhale, extend the spine, and on each exhale, come a bit farther into the forward bend. Keep the neck at the natural extension of the spine and do not round the back. Take hold of the ankles or shins, whichever you can reach.
To learn more yoga poses for runners, check out my upcoming fall class Strike a Balance. Using my first hand insights into the physical and emotional demands of running, I will walk students through poses that neutralize the impact running has on the body. This class is the perfect morning workout, offering a thirty-minute group runs followed by a thirty-minute yoga class and is open to all abilities.
Strike a Balance - Running and Yoga Come Together
Wednesdays, 6:15am, 9/4 – 10/23
Pool Lobby, Westwood High School
Register on-line today as space is limited and the class is expected to fill-up fast!!!! E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.