Yoga for Runners
I have had a number of requests for hand outs, resources and specific yoga asana to help with different sports and conditions, so I thought I would share some of my responses. Iam going to attempt to make some video tutorials, but anyone who knows me knows I'm not one to be in front of the camera so it might take a while! The first is a request for information on yoga for runners...
Yoga and running complement each other well; whilst running helps to strengthen muscles yoga helps to stretch them out. The breathing exercises (pranayama) in yoga, and even the long, deep breath throughout a yoga practice, help improve breathing when running. For me, running is a way to feel a sense of freedom - from my surroundings, my thoughts - I have constant itchy feet and it's a way to feel like I'm moving even when I'm staying still! Since running more I have altered my yoga practice, especially post run, to complement the running and minimise aches and injury. Below are just a few of my favourites:
Half splits is a great pose to stretch out the hamstrings and calves. Come into a lunge with your back knee down, and place your hands on the floor or on blocks. Point your front foot up and start to sink backwards almost so that you are sitting on your heel, but not quite (too far and you loose the stretch!). Keep your back straight, drawing your chest towards your chin.
Upward Facing Dog (Urdvha mukha svanasana) helps to lengthen the front of the body and open up the chest. (You can come down into a Cobra but simply bending your elbows and lowering your body if this is too much for your back.) This area is often overlooked for runners, but can get tight as you work your core and hold your arms up! Keep your shoulders over your wrists and draw your shoulder blades together on your back, rolling the head of the arm bones back. Press into your toes and, if you can, lift your thighs, all the time engaging your core by drawing your belly back to your spine.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho mukha svanasana) helps to stretch out the back and backs of the legs. Ground through the base of your fingers, soften through your chest as if you were trying to get your chest to touch your thighs, and draw your navel back towards your spine. Then lift your sitting bones up, firm your thighs and press the backs of the knees towards the back of the room. If your heels touch the ground great, but if not don't worry.
Parsvottanasana is another great stretch for the backs of the legs and the back. Square your hips to the front of the mat, turning your back foot in deeply. bring your hands to the ground (you can also bring them to a block, or bring them behind your back to hold your elbows/reverse prayer to open the chest and shoulders). Inhale to lengthen your spine and exhale, folding in towards your leg. Focus on your foot, keeping your back and neck long.
Virasana helps to stretch out the quadriceps and hips. You can sit up on a pillow or block if you find it hard to sit all the way down. For an even deeper pose, slowly lower yourself into Hero (supta virasana) with your back on the ground. Keep lengthening your tailbone towards your heels, trying not to over arch your lower back. If you feel any pain (especially in the knees) come out of the pose gently.
Supta padangusthasana helps to lengthen the hamstrings. Lying on your back, place a strap around the ball of your raised foot keeping your arms straight. Draw the toes towards you whilst extending through the heel. As you breath out, gently draw the raised leg towards you trying to keep it straight. Repeat on the other side.
Viparita karani is the most relaxing way to end a practice. Simply shuffle yourself towards the wall and lie with your legs up, supported by the wall. You can place a cushion under your head for comfort, or you can place one under your hips helping to elevate them slightly.