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Yoga and running are considered two very different activities but when practiced together they can power the ultimate human machine to achieve optimum performance. If you want pain free running, you must have increased strength and flexibility. If you want to prevent injuries you need good posture and body awareness.
For many, running equates to meditation in motion. The body is set on a repetitive cycle that allows the mind to tune into the present moment through the senses. The warm air brushing up against the skin, the visual of sunlight peaking through the trees, the smells of new life, or even the sound of silence. As our senses are heightened, our awareness begins to shift from the head and into the body. We start to become embodied. This expression of embodiment can be a key component in calming anxiety, reducing stress and capturing a moment in the present.
The use of yoga has recently gained popularity in preparing athletes for competition. Yoga is an important and often times missing piece in many individuals workout routine but especially a runner’s world. Research shows that yoga positively effects flexibility, ventilation, breathing regulation and relaxation.
The Problem With Short Duration Stretching
The reason a quick stretch session after a run isn’t enough is because the muscles need to learn how to lengthen and that isn’t possible when you hold a stretch for only 20 seconds. When a muscle is lengthened, nerve signals increase to the brain. The brain sends a signal back, causing muscle fibers to contract and resist the stretch. This is a protective mechanism to prevent a muscle from being pulled. When holding a pose for 3-5 minutes the brain understands that the stretch is intentional and safe. The muscles can then relax and the body can deepen into a pose.
Below are a few yoga poses that strengthen and lengthen specific muscles that attain to runners. One hour of yoga a week can improve the quality of your runs significantly (but the more the better!)
While Standing, slide right foot 3-4 feet back. Turn right foot 30-90 degrees right.
Place left hand on shin or the ground. Keep thighs firm, buttocks relaxed and knees soft.
Reach right arm forwards, then up.
Extend spine on inhales, rotate spine on exhales
Take 6-10 breaths, then switch sides.
Standing Forward Fold
Place feet 6-12 inches apart, keep feet parallel and knees slightly bent. Hang over the legs.
Extend hands for the ground and relax the neck by tucking the chin.
Inhale the chest away from the belly towards the knees. Extend the spine.
Exhale and hang. Keep big toes, pinky toes and heels down.
Hand for 6-10 slow, long breaths.
From Downward Dog or plank move left knee to left wrist and right leg back as far as possible.
Move left heel towards right hip. Rest left shin on floor then lower hip.
Place forearms on the ground with elbows under the shoulders. Move hips gently left and right to release hips and rear end.
Raise upper body by pressing down through palms. Relax the elbows and settle hands and shoulders.
Maintain for 6-10 breaths, then switch sides.