By Gemma Seager |
Dedicated runners know the importance of cross training. Other activities like swimming, cycling and strength training make use of muscles that running doesn’t and help keep your body in balance.
But have you considered including Yoga as part of your cross training?
Yoga is great for runners as it promotes flexibility, balance and core strength. It can help reduce the risk of injury as well as providing stress relief and relaxation when you’re not pounding the pavements training. It can also help with mental preparation and focus if preparing for a tough race as well as improving your breathing technique.
Here are 5 yoga poses that every runner should try. With all yoga poses be gentle with your body, and never force yourself into a position that is uncomfortable. The aim is progression, not perfection!
#1 Downward Dog
Downward Dog position stretches your hamstrings and calves that can get very tight from running as well as stretching your upper body and spine.
Start on your hands and knees with your toes tucked under. Raise your hips and lift your knees off the floor, straightening your legs.
Try and press your heels down into the floor as much as you can and pull your hips back, lengthening your torso.
Engage your quads by pulling your kneecaps up. Hold this position for 10 slow breaths before gently lowering back to the floor.
#2 Upward Facing Dog
Upward Facing Dog stretches your hip flexors and opens your chest and shoulders which can help breathing.
Lie face down with your elbows bent and your hands by your rib cage. Push down into your hands, straightening your elbows and lifting your rib cage away from the floor, pulling your chest towards the ceiling and looking up.
Your hips and thighs will probably start to come off of the floor, but keep your hips down as low as you can without putting too much pressure on your lower back.
Hold for a 5 slow breaths and then gently roll back to the floor.
#3 Cobbler Pose
Cobbler pose is a great stretch for the inner thighs and helps open up your hips. If you lean forward in this pose it also stretches the lower back.
Sit on the floor and pull the soles of your feet together so they are touching and your knees fall open. Interlace your fingers and clasp your toes together.
Stretch your spine up as tall as you can. For a more intense stretch lean forward, keeping your spine straight.
You can also use your elbows to push your thighs open for a more intense stretch. If you are very inflexible try placing yoga blocks under your knees to support them off of the floor.
#4 Lizard Pose
The Lizard pose helps open up the gait, therefore stretching your hips and pushing your flexibility!
Begin in a lunge and drop both hands to the inside of your foot, releasing your elbows to the floor as well.
Lower to your hamstrings as much as possible (this will get easier once your flexibility increases). Hold the gaze ahead and try and squeeze as much as possible.
Modify the Lizard pose by dropping your back knee to touch the floor.
#5 Half Lord of the Fishes
This pose opens the shoulders, neck and hips, which are all common areas of tension in runners. It also stretches the IT band.
Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Bend your right leg and cross it over your left leg so it is outside your left thigh.
Gently bend your left knee to move your left foot towards your right hip, or for beginners you can keep this leg straight. Twist your body gently and place your right hand on the floor behind your tail bone.
Inhale and raise your left hand to the sky to lengthen your spine. As you exhale twist and bring your left elbow to the outside of the right knee. Look back over your right shoulder and focus on lengthening the spine, and then rotation.
Take Home Message
Done properly, Yoga can be great for runners. Helping to counteract the repetitive movements and the pressure on the joints that come from running.
These poses are a great starting point for any runner to feel the benefits of Yoga as a post run stretch and to open up the hips and release tension in the lower back.
Images: Yoga Teacher Marley Hague @ Vida Yoga