6 YOGA POSES FOR RUNNERS
BY YOGA INSTRUCTOR MARIA KELLY
6 simple yoga poses to help runners.
Inspired by my husband’s recent marathon achievement I thought I’d offer a few simple postures to incorporate into your training schedule. Yoga when practiced regularly and with the correct breathing techniques can improve postures, flexibility and circulation. The deep breathing can help to focus the mind when releasing muscular tension leading to not only a deeper stretch but also a greater sense of body awareness. Deepening the inhale and lengthening the exhale can also help relax our central nervous system, which in turn calms the mind helping us to focus and think more clearly.
In recent years there has been a growing trend away from stretching before sporting activity, with the suggestion that longer held poses can reduce performance and increase the risk of injury. However, the evidence behind this is far from conclusive and leading Strength and Conditioning experts such as Mike Boyle suggest that stretching followed by dynamic mobility exercises will reduce injury risk and prepare the body effectively for sporting performance. Whether you perform stretching before, after or at separate times to sporting activity, the key really is to practice regularly.
The yoga poses below have been chosen as they can help to stretch and strengthen the legs, hips, shoulders, chest and core. Hold each posture for between 5 and 10 Breaths always noticing your alignment and where you might be holding tension which can vary from day to day.
1) Mountain Pose
Stand with your feet parallel and close your eyes or soften your gaze. Bring your hands to prayer and lightly press the palms together to lift the chest. Relax the face and connect to your breathing. Breathing gently but deeply in and out through the nose.
Start to lengthen the inhale. Breathe in for a count of 3, exhaling also for 3. Keep this going perhaps increasing the count eventually up to 6. Repeat again adding the movement of the arms. Inhale and reach the arms up extending over the head and alongside the ears. Exhale and lower the arms down resting hands by the side of your body. Repeat 5 times.
Stand tall when you finish and feel the weight evenly spread between the feet, becoming aware of the sensation of the floor beneath you. Feel the support of the floor as you stand tall lengthening the spine by pointing the tail bone down (do not tuck under) and lifting upwards through the crown of the head. Draw your navel to spine, chest remains lifted and notice how open the chest feels and how you naturally want to deepen the breath.
2) Chair Pose
Bend the knees and lower the hips as if you were about to sit on a chair. Inhale and reach the arms up by the ears and exhale as you begin to deepen and sit back even further. Feel more weight into the heels, and a strengthening sensation around the glutes and thighs. Lift the lower belly, navel to spine and keep the chest open with arms extended over the head, although the arms are reaching up avoid tensing the shoulders. Hold for 5 breaths.
3) Downward Dog
Come onto your hands and knees and tuck the toes under, draw the navel to spine. Inhale coming off the knees and lifting the hips up high, reach the hips back and heels down to the floor as you exhale. Keep the fingers spread wide as you press the hand on the mat push your weight back (do not lock the elbows here) feel strong through the core – navel to spine and thighs lifted to release further into the hamstrings.
Hold for 5 – 10 breaths. Remember to breath deeply keeping the gaze at your knees to release the back of the neck.
4) Lunge knee down
From downward dog step the right foot forward between the hands, keeping the knee above the ankle. Place the back knee on the floor and reach the arms up over the head (keeping the shoulders down) lifting the lower belly and chest.
A variation here to stretch the arms and chest would be to clasp the hands at the lower back and lift. Stay here for between 5-10 breaths then switch to the left side.
5) Half Split
From Lunge straighten the right leg keeping the left knee under the hip. Inhale lifting the chest as you keep your hands either side of the right leg for support. Exhale and extend your upper body towards your straight leg.
For a deeper stretch try flexing the foot (toes draw toward the shin). Beginners modification – use blocks under hands. Stay here for between 5-10 breaths then switch to the left side
6) Boat Pose
Begin seated with knees bent and hands resting on the floor. Inhale and lift the chest, exhale and draw naval to spine lifting pelvic floor muscles. Take another inhale here and lift either one foot at a time or both feet together off the floor. As you exhale keep engaging core and pelvic floor muscles finding balance by staying on your sitting bones.
Optional to straighten legs keeping them parallel and being careful to not round the lower back. You can also extend the arms at shoulder height, make sure the chest stays lifted and the shoulders do not round. Stay here for between 5-10 breaths.
Maria Kelly teaches Yoga around the Manchester & Cheshire area visit www.mariayoga.co.uk for more info.