I have been running for over 18 months and am increasing my training to compete in ultra marathons, so far I have completed the Keswick 50k and will soon embark on a 52 mile race around Dartmoor. All this training coupled with my strenuous job as an Arborist left me feeling tight and often getting niggles. I looked for an enjoyable way to help myself and came across Carol Snape aka The Yoga Body. I have been attending her classes for over 6 months and have noticed a huge difference in my flexibility, core strength, recovery time and suffer less with pains and little injuries less often. I wanted to write a blog about the benefits of yoga for runners, but I thought Carol would do I far better job then I would so I asked her to contribute the words and pictures below. So thank you Carol for your insight and i’ll see you on the mat.
Yoga is the perfect activity to complement running. Not only does it loosen up tight muscles (from the repetitive movement), it also strengthens the core, improves breath control and calms the mind. Recovery time decreases as the muscles are stretched increasing bloody supply and oxygen, range of movement expands and the posture improves. Its a no brainer!
Below are 5 top postures for stretching out tight, overworked muscles which will see your running performance advance and leaving you feeling great! Give them a go and notice the difference.
Downward facing dog
This is a deep stretch for the hamstrings, shoulders, calves, hands and spine and builds strength in your shoulders, arms and legs.
From tabletop position (on hands and knees), begin to lift the knees and come over the toes to bring the feet down towards the mat. Your hamstrings are going to feel tight so feel free to pedal out the feet, bend the knees and get comfortable in the pose. Keep the hands shoulder width apart and spread all ten fingers into the mat, distributing the weight evenly. Push the seat bones high and towards the back of the mat, like an upside down V. We’re not in a plank position so make sure you’re not resting all of your weight into your arms and hands. Micro-bend the elbows and open up the shoulders. Aim to ground the heels down towards the floor, but don’t worry if they don’t reach, this takes practice and flexibility which will come in time.
This is a fantastic posture for opening up tight hips and lengthening the hip flexors.
From downward facing dog, take the right knee towards the chest and then let the leg come down onto the ground with the aim to plant the shin parallel with the front of the mat (this takes time so don’t worry if it’s not completely parallel). From here, sit down into your hip and allow the left leg to shuffle back to lie flat onto the mat. Try to keep the hips even and in line, do not fall to one side even if you are far off the ground. If this is the case, use a block or blanket underneath the right buttock to bridge the gap. If this is comfortable, feel free to walk the hands in front and come onto the forearms to sink deeper into the posture. Stay here for 5 deep breaths before swapping sides.
Another great hip opener, this posture is a great stretch for the hip flexors, the hamstrings and the quadriceps. By incorporating this posture into your stretches you can help improve the flexibility of your hip ligaments and strengthen the muscles in your legs.
From downward facing dog, take the right foot all the way to the front of the mat, outside of your right hand. From here you can drop the left knee and come over the left foot. Sink into the hip from here and if its comfortable, come down onto the forearms. To incorporate muscle strengthening in the left leg, come over the foot and lift the knee off the floor.
Don’t worry if you cannot come onto the forearms in this position. This will come in time. Just allow the breath to guide you deeper into the posture and enjoy the deep hip stretching sensations!
Lizard pose – with a quad stretch variation
Staying with the posture above, dropping the left knee onto the mat. Gently guide the right hip open with the hand so that the foot rolls over slightly. From here, bend the left knee so that the foot is facing up towards the sky. Reach around with the right hand for the foot and carefully pull the foot towards you. This allows for a deep quadricep stretch with an even deeper opening of the hip. Hold for 5 breaths before repeating on the other leg.
Big toe pose
One final and extremely effective way to lengthen your hamstrings, which allows you to deepen into the pose on each exhale and use the resistance against the toes to draw the belly closer to the legs.
From a standing position, take the feet to around hip width apart. Keeping the legs straight, fold over and reach for the big toes with your index and middle fingers (If you need to bend the knees to do this, go for it). From here, with the elbows bent and facing outwards, pull onto the toes to feel the stretch down the backs of your legs. Aim to keep the chest open and try not to round the back. Take 5 long deep breaths here, focusing on getting deeper with each exhale and then release. You’ll soon notice the difference!
So there you have it! Invite these stretches into your post run cool down and you’ll soon notice the benefits not only in your performance, but in your recovery.
You can see more from Carol at www.theyogabody.co.uk Facebook @theyogabody Instagram @the.yoga.body. She holds classes in the South Hams of Devon and her social media is a constant inspiration for passionate yogi’s.
Pictures taken by the talented Brahma Studios