Yoga for Runners (Part 2 of 2)

Last week we left off with descriptions of the Squat Pose and Low Lunge.  Today we break down 3 additional poses selected with the specific needs of runners in mind.

Standing Wide Angle Forward Bend: Many people enjoy this pose for no reason other than because it just feels good!  While it stretches the hamstrings, it should be modified or avoided if you have severe low back issues.

  1. Stand with feet parallel and about 3 feet apart. (Place feet farther apart if your hamstrings are very tight!)
  2. Hinge at the hips and, keeping the back long and straight, place hands on the floor beneath the shoulders.  Figure 1.
  3. Hold until a comfortable stretch has been achieved.  To come out of the pose, bend the knees, round the back and slowly roll up to a standing position.

Notes:  The goal of this pose is not to reach the floor with your hands; it’s more important to keep the back long and straight.  If the back rounds while hinging forward, place hands on a block, step or stool to more easily allow the back to remain straight.  Figure 2.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Reclined Leg Stretch:  This pose stretches hamstrings and calves and, for most of us, requires the use a strap or a towel.  Because the variation presented here is done on the floor with the spine in a neutral position, the stretch focuses on the legs without challenging either the back or balance.

  1. Begin by lying on your back with the soles of the feet against the wall.
  2. Bending the right knee toward the chest, place the middle of the strap or towel around the sole of the foot.  Figure 3.  (The blue block in this photo is standing in for a wall.)
  3. Holding the strap in both hands, gently extend the right leg.  Hold the strap with both hands as close as possible to the foot to allow the arms to remain straight, thereby taking the “work” out of the biceps.  Relax shoulders onto the floor.  Keep the right foot strongly flexed.  Figure 4.
  4. Press the left foot into the wall, keeping toes pointed straight to the ceiling while steadily drawing the straight right leg a little closer to the torso.
  5. When ready to release the stretch, bend the right knee slightly and gently lower the leg to the floor.  Take a moment to observe how “long” the leg feels, and then repeat on the other side.

Notes:  If the hamstrings are tight, lower the leg a bit and/or bend the knee.  If the neck arches away from the floor during this stretch, stop and place a folded towel under the head and neck before continuing. Figure 5.

Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 5

Hip Stretch: Just as the name implies, this pose stretches the hips.  Because this variation is done while lying on the back, the back remains uninvolved in the hip stretch and the forces on the knee are well controlled.

  1. Lie down on the back and cross the right ankle over the left thigh.
  2. Lift the torso just enough to clasp both hands behind the left thigh (thread your right hand between the thighs).
  3. Keeping the right foot strongly flexed (i.e., not letting the foot relax and roll over on top of the thigh), gradually continue to draw the left thigh closer to the torso as the right elbow gently applies pressure to the right knee to stretch the right hip.  Figure 6.
  4. When ready, gently release the stretch and repeat on the other side.

Figure 6

In yoga, you just may find the perfect complement to the rigors of your running program.  NBA legend, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, had this to say about yoga’s benefits:

“Basketball is an endurance sport, and you have to learn to control your breath; that’s the essence of yoga, too.  So, I consciously began using yoga techniques in my practice and playing.  I think yoga helped reduce the number and severity of injuries I suffered.  As preventative medicine, it’s unequaled.”

© Cathy Larripa and KissWorkouts Blog, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cathy Larripa and KissWorkouts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Filed under Health, Running, Training, Yoga

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