You Run Because You Can
Whether you're a marathon runner, sprinter, or an occasional jogger, running is an endurance sport and can take a lot out of you. It takes a lot of time and discipline to become a good runner. If you're a long distance runner, you know it takes a lot of hard miles hitting the pavement to build up endurance and strength. But what about after those long training sessions and races? How should you as a runner restore your body?
1. Why Yoga for Runners?
1.1 Flexibility & Yoga
Hatha yoga styles generally have your body in motion. You move into specialized yoga postures that can be geared toward gaining flexibility in tight muscles. Any yoga class that focuses on movement like Power Vinyasa Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga will feature poses that will help you become more flexible.
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1.2 Build Strength / Toning Muscles
What's unique about a yoga class for a runner is that you are doing functional movements that are different from the general mechanics of a runner. Because running is a particular stride and a repetitive motion throughout the body, your body becomes accustomed to this standard method of movement. Yoga provides physical movement that is different from your running postures.
1.3 Let’s not forget to breathe!
Yoga classes help you tune into your breathing. There are certain styles of breathing, called Pranayama, that teach you to breathe properly, to condition your heart and lungs, to de-stress, to decrease moods like depression and anxiety. Being a runner, you want to develop a good rhythm and cadence with your breath as well as with your running stride. Pranayama techniques can teach you steady, controlled breathing that can be helpful in your running regimen.
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1.4 Ligaments & Joints
A particular style of yoga that is recommended for runners is Yin Yoga. One feature of Yin Yoga is that it works to release fascia and connective tissue in the body. Having a running practice can stiffen the body and put added pressure on the joints and ligaments. Yin Yoga is designed to relieve these sensations.
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2. 9 Yoga Postures to Enhance Your Running
If you're a runner, and you want to enhance your sport, then you may want to add yoga to your training routine. Yoga can improve your running skills if you practice some specific postures. The following will take a look at postures that can help your flexibility, core strength, hip mobility, stride in your legs, and range of motion in your shoulders.
2.1 Seated Forward Fold
A good place to start if you want to lengthen and gently stretch your hamstrings. Start the pose by sitting on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you. Inhale to raise your arms into the air. As you exhale, slowly hinge at your hips to fold forward over your legs. As you move, you will begin to feel a light stretch in your hamstrings. Lower your arms to your legs. Hold the posture when you begin to feel the desired stretch. It is perfectly fine to bend your knees in this pose. Further, you can also round your back; this will provide some lengthening through your back muscles. Hold the pose for 10 to 20 breaths.
2.2 Downward Facing Dog
Start the pose by coming to your hands and knees. To move into the yoga posture, lift your knees off the floor and raise your hips into the air. You will create an inverted V-shape with your body. You'll end up on your toes, but you can create a stretch in your calves by alternately pressing one heel to the floor. As one heel presses down, the other heel will lift creating a stretch in your toes. Continue to pedal the feet until you feel the desired stretch in your calves. And because you are on your hands in this pose, you will also gain upper body strength while opening up the chest, back, and shoulders.
2.3 Boat Pose
Boat Pose is a stabilizing core strengthener that all runners should practice. Sit on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you to begin this yoga position. Bend you knees to 90 degrees and flex your feet. Hold onto the bend in your knees with your hands in order to fully lengthen your spine. Slowly lean back until you're able to lift your feet off the floor. Inhale to maintain a straight spine. Exhale to engage your abdominal muscles. Continue this active breathing as you hold this posture. By holding this pose, you will be strengthening your entire torso with a focus on your rectus abdominis muscles, your transverse abdominis muscles, and the lower erector muscles that support your back. Hold the posture for 5 to 10 breaths. Rest for a minute and repeat the posture two more times.
2.4 Side Plank
Side Plank is another core stabilizer that emphasizes your obliques, the side muscles of your abdominal system. To get into this pose, start in a high push-up position. While keeping your right hand on the floor, raise your left arm into the air until your body is sideways and you are facing the left wall. As you're able, stack your legs and feet, one on top of the other. To keep your legs straight and strong, flex your feet; that will engage your leg muscles so you can hold the position. If your hips sink toward the floor, raise your left hip up toward the ceiling. By holding this posture, you will strengthen your side-body muscles. Your obliques ultimately help you to rotate your torso. By keeping these muscles strong, you will see and overall improvement in your posture while running. be sure to practice this pose on the other side.
2.5 Seated Bound Angle Pose
A posture that helps to stretch and release tight hips is called Seated Bound Angle Pose. It is a standard hip opening posture in yoga. Start in a seated position on the floor. Bend your knees so you can touch the soles of your feet together. Hold onto your shins and sit up tall. Simply hold this posture to allow your hips to release.
2.6 Pigeon Pose
Pigeon Pose hits several parts of the hip and leg system. Start the posture by coming to your hands and knees. Slide your right knee forward until it rests behind your right wrist. Swing your right foot over toward your left hand; it will create and an angle in the leg which will start the stretch through your right hip and outer glute area. Lengthen your left leg behind you until you're able to lay your torso over your bent right leg. This will stretch the hip flexor of this limb: an area of the leg that tends to get tight for runners. Do your best to hold the posture for 10 to 20 breaths. When complete, performance the posture on the other side.
2.7 Wide Legged Standing Forward Bend
Another good leg stretch that targets the inner and outer limbs is a Wide Legged Standing Forward Bend. Stand with your feet very wide. With a slight bend in your knees, fold at the hips until you're able to touch the floor. Hold this posture for 10 to 20 breaths. You will notice a nice lengthening effect along the outer legs in the shin and calf area. The posture also effectively stretches your inner legs.
2.8 A Deep Runner's Lunge
A Deep Runner's Lunge is a common stretch for runners, but is also practiced in yoga. It helps to lengthen the hip flexors and the lower ab region. You can start this posture in a standing position. Step your left foot back and slowly lower your knee to the floor. This will create the lunge position which you can hold for at least 20 breaths. Practice the lunge on the other side to effectively stretch your hips and hip flexors.
2.9 Extended Mountain Pose
A simple posture you can practice is Extended Mountain Pose. Stand tall with your arms down by your side. Take a full inhale and slowly raise your arms overhead. As you exhale, bring your arms down by your side. Do this 5 times. It is an effective way to warm and limber up your shoulder joints.
The front deltoid muscles can get pretty tight sometimes. In yoga, you can practice a pose that releases this part of the shoulder system as well as opens and stretches the pectoral muscles. Practice Extended Mountain Pose again, but as you exhale, bring your arms down and behind you. As you're able, interlace your fingers. This will draw your arms and shoulders back which releases those tight front-body areas. Hold for at least 10 breaths before releasing.
These are some postures you can practice in addition to your regular training routines to enhance your abilities as an athletic runner. Adding a yoga practice to your training regimen is ideal if you want to become an exceptional runner. Consider adding these restorative tools, and watch your sport of running improve greatly.
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