If you run and don’t do yoga, then you’re missing out. Why? Because yoga is one of the most complementary disciplines to the repetitive pavement pounding you're doing out there on the streets. As we all know, running as a discipline is one of the most widely participated exercise activities in the world. It’s something that we've all done, or can do, every day. We all know the mechanics of running, though we may not do it all the time. The best part about it is, you don’t need fancy clothes, kit or shoes, you just need to start.
Running is for everyone. And guess what, so is yoga.
If you’re a serious runner, it’s likely there are certain things that are going well for you physically. Your stamina is probably pretty good, your muscle tone is lean and long, and your front to back movements in the sagittal plane are likely to be strong and articulate. You're likely a great example of physical fitness, but some experts would call this directional fitness, which means the movements of the body are suited only for a specific set of directional actions, regardless of the high level of execution.
So how can we balance it out?
Uttanasana / Standing Forward Bend
Here are 5 poses to do before your run
A simple forward bend allows the hamstrings to soften and lengthen. It’s likely your muscles will be cold and tight before the run, so the weight of the torso and head are enough to lengthen the back body. Using the breath, inhale to lengthen, and exhale to deepen. Take 10 breaths.
Chair pose / Utkatasana
You need your glutes to run as they are the biggest and strongest muscles in your body, so it’s good to warm them up and get the engagement going before you set off. Chair pose, when activated dynamically, will ignite the muscle fiber and increase blood flow and muscular activation. Starting from a forward bend (above) using the breath, inhale to chair pose, and exhale to release. Repeat 10 times.
A crescent lunge is a great way to activate the hamstrings and glutes while engaging knee, ankle and feet stability - all the things you need for your run. Starting from standing, step the right foot forward into the lunge. Using the inhale, extend the arms up and elongate the spine while the lower half engages and grounds down to the floor. Repeat 10 times.
Malasana / Yogi Squat
You never know what the road ahead has in store, and oftentimes there are bumps that may throw you off course. So, you need to make sure the hips are warm enough to deal with anything that comes your way. From a forward bend, step your feet hip width apart and turn the feet out 45 degrees. Bend the knees, drop the bum toward the floor and let the hips and inner thighs open. Using the inhale, lift the chest and draw the shoulders down the back and on the exhale let the hips sink deeper to the floor. It may not be the most comfortable, but the benefits are undeniable. Stay here for 10-15 breaths.
Eagle Arms / Garudasana
Running requires the whole body to work together, however our sedentary lifestyles can result in bad posture and hunched shoulders which affect our running. Before any run, make sure you take time to warm up and relax the shoulders with this stretch. From standing, wrap the right arm under the left arm, bending at the elbows and bringing the palms together. Lift the elbows up to create a 90 degree angle with the arms as you draw the shoulders down the back. Stay here for 10 breaths and then balance it out by swapping to the other side.
Here are 4 poses for after the run
You’ve done the deed, you’ve put in the strides and now you’re done. But don’t hit the pub just yet! Make sure you take time to cool down. Your muscles are the most responsive and appreciative when they're warm, awake and aware. Now is the time when the progress happens.
Seated Forward Bend / Paschimottanasana
A seated forward bend is one of the best post-run stretches as it lengthens the line of the whole back body all at once. Sitting on the floor with your legs extended, keep the knees bent slightly and the toes flexing towards the knees. Using the breath, lengthen the spine in a seated upright position first to make space for the forward bend. Then, using the exhale with the knees still bent, fold forward to connect the chest to thighs, not the nose to toes. Stay for 20 breaths.
Bound Angle Pose / Baddha Koṇāsana
This pose is all about opening you back up. As a runner, things are tight and compact. Your strides may be long, but you’ve been tense and focused throughout your journey. Bound Angle is a great way to reopen the body. Start seated and bring the soles of the feet together, letting the knees fall out to either side. Wiggle the feet as close to yourself as comfortable and sit up nice and tall. On the inhale, lengthen the torso tall and on the the exhale lean forward from the chest, not the forehead. The aim is to keep the spine long and straight, not rounding through the upper spine. Stay for 10-20 breaths.
Half Pigeon Pose / Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
The hips and hamstrings will feel the benefit from this pose from the first breath you take once you’re in. This pose will really isolate the lateral mobility in the hip and it’s a great way to open it up and soften the muscles used to support it. From a downward facing down, step your right leg forward placing the right knee to the back of the right wrist and move the right ankle toward the left wrist. Place the right leg onto the floor, then place the left knee down and untuck the toes. Slide the left leg back to deepen the stretch and use the hands to support and lengthen the torse away from the hips.
Finally you can soften the chest down onto the elbows or even bring it all the way down to the floor. Use the inhale to lengthen the spine long, use the exhale to deepen the stretch. Stay for 20 breaths.
Easy Pose / Sukhasana
Sitting with a bit of stillness is never a bad idea, especially after a run. You’ve spent the last 30-45mins (or even longer) running and moving quickly, the best way to balance the activity is to add stillness. Sit into an easy cross legged position, close the eyes and just breathe. Stay for 3-5mins.
By adding yoga and dynamic stretches into your pre and post running routine, you’ll be able to take your running game to the next level. In the practice of yoga we aim for strength, stability and mobility and by incorporating it into your running, we can shift from directional fitness to functional.
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