by Katherine Moore (@RunningIntoYoga)

As runners, we’re told time and time again that yoga is great for our tight muscles. So why don’t we practice yoga more frequently if the benefits are innumerable? From the physical benefits, to the mental aspects, and becoming more in-tune with one’s body, it’s hard to belief more athletes don’t have it as part of their structured workout plan.

The more mileage a training program has, the higher the risk of injury.  Pounding the pavement isn’t forgiving, so it’s good to give your body a little TLC to help the muscles recover and relax. Especially if you’re prone to injury.  Quite often, time is a limiting factor.  Compared to quickly lacing up your running shoes and bolting out the door for a run, it takes time to get to a studio, complete your practice, and head home.  However, you don’t have to go to a scheduled class.  If you’re new to yoga it might be worth hopping into a class, just so you understand/experience the different poses.  After that, it’s easy to do some key poses at home that are great for runners and still reap the benefits yoga classes provide.

With the following poses, keep these five general principles in mind:

  1. You should always be able to breathe evenly. Challenge yourself to find your edge but don’t go past it! Allow your body to open up and adjust over the space of about eight to ten breaths in each pose.
  2. Keep your core muscles active throughout the poses, but still remember to breathe.
  3. Keep a neutral spine; try to keep your back flat and don’t over arch your back.
  4. Twisting happens at the waist, not at the shoulders.
  5. Hinge forward from the hips, not your back (remember, neutral spine!).

 

Thunderbolt Pose (toes tucked under)

 

Begin in a tabletop position. Bring feet together and tuck toes under. Slowly lean hips back until you can sit comfortably on heels. Eventually you want to sit with a tall spine, lengthening your tailbone up through your spine. Keep the abdomen toned and hands resting on the thighs. Hold for 8-10 breaths, 2-3 sets. Release slowly and repeat.

 

Opens toes and feet. Strengthens ankles. Start out slowly if feet are tight.

02-11-downwardDownward Dog 

 

From Thunderbolt inhale and lean forward to tabletop pose. Press your hips up and back to form inverted V from the side. Spread your fingers and ground down from the forearms into the fingertips. Outwardly rotate the upper arms broadening the collarbones. Engage the quadriceps strongly to take weight off the arms. Keep a bend in the knees to continue to lengthen the spine.

Opens the entire body fingertips to toes. Opens the hamstrings, shoulders, and strengthens the core, upper body and quadriceps. Hold for 8-10 breaths.

02-11-lungeHigh/ Low Lunge

 

From Downward Dog step your right foot to your right hand and bring your left knee to the floor. Stack your right knee over your right heel. Press your fingers into the floor to lengthen the spine. Roll your shoulders down your back and lengthen your chest forward. Straighten the back of your knee up towards the ceiling (or keep it on the floor for low lunge). Relax and breathe into your hips. Once you feel balanced stretch your arms overhead and spread your fingers wide.

This pose opens the hips, lengthens the spine and stretches the groin and legs. Hold for 8- 10 breaths.

02-11-pigeonPigeon Pose 

 

From Downward Dog, lift your right leg up and place your right knee to the outside of your right hand. Release your left leg to the floor with the toes tucked under. Square your hips. Use padding or a block under your right hip or knee as necessary to bring your hips square. Keep both feet active and begin to lengthen your spine forward and down towards the floor.

Stretches the thigh, glutes, groin, psoas muscle and lengthens the spine. Hold for 8- 10 breaths.

Camel Pose

 

Stand on your knees hip width apart. Place your hands on your lower back for support. Hug your legs towards each other with energy. Inhale lift and expand your chest. Draw your chin in to lengthen the back of your neck, throat back slowly head back. Eventually reaching for your heels. Keep your hips stacked over your knees. Breathe evenly and slowly. To come out of the pose bring your hands back on your lower back lead with your chest head comes out last.

Opens hips and hip flexors, lengthens and improves flexibility of the spine, opens the chest and shoulders improving respiratory, complements overall health and well being.

Savasana – Corpse Pose

 

Complete this series by lying on your back, relax your legs, arms palms face up and close your eyes for 5-15 minutes. This is complete relaxation of all muscle tension and relaxes the mind completely. Never skip Savasana!

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