Chocolate and peanut butter. Thunder and Lightning. Mulder and Scully. Some things just go together. Much like, as I'm continually learning: yoga and running. And as it's marathon training season, it's a good time to start incorporating yoga into your weekly training schedule (if you're not already).
**These poses are also beneficial, of course, even if you're not currently training to run 26.2 miles!**
I am a Jersey City-based personal trainer who fell madly in love with running over ten years ago. Since then, I've run five half-marathons and two full marathons. I love running through Liberty State Park and exploring the running paths and nature walks. I have also practiced yoga (on and off) since the age of twelve. I think that yoga and running are more alike than people give them credit for. They are both an ongoing practice. While you can become a better runner or a more proficient yogi, you will never reach perfection (whatever that means). They are also both forms of moving meditation. Yoga teaches us to be present in our body - to be a non-attached observer of what's going on in our body and to connect to our breath; that ever-important life force contained within. We too can bring this inner focus to our running practice. Sure, many of us run with headphones in or work out life's challenges whilst running. But, if we bring the awareness to our breath and our body, not only do our runs become more meditative, but they can also alert us to super-important running components like pacing, breath, and any aches and pains we may be oblivious to when we're jamming out to AC/DC.
I've always known the importance of stretching post-run, but my recent yoga teacher certification at FlorYoga located in Jersey City has given me a more thorough understanding of precisely the right asanas to stretch and relieve tightness in the muscles most used while running.
Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
The repetitive foot striking that occurs during running can cause tight hip flexors, including the psoas, the muscle that connects the torso to the leg. Be sure to engage your lower core in this pose to protect the low back. Hands can either be placed on the floor on either sides of the foot, on blocks, or stretched towards the sky for a more powerful variation.
Triangle pose provides a terrific stretch to the adductors (inner thighs), as well as the groin muscles, hamstrings, and back. It's a real gem of a pose! Stretch the upper hand up towards the sky, and place the lower hand on the shin, floor, or a block for support. I like to hang out here for 30 seconds or more after a long run.
Cross-legged forward bend (Uttanasana variation)
I had been dealing with some lower back pain during and after running and a visit to my chiropractor revealed that the cause were my super-tight IT bands, the muscles that runs from the hip, along the outer leg and connect at the knee. IT band syndrome is common amongst runners and this variation of the classic forward bend targets the IT intensely. I cannot recommend the importance of this asana enough. Hold for 30+ seconds to relieve tightness.
Legs-up-the-wall (Viparita Karani)
This restorative pose is pure heaven for most people and probably more so for runners. Being on your feet for an extended period of time can lead to swollen and painful ankles and legs. Propping them up against a wall drains blood and fluid build up. As a side-note, this is also a super handy pose post-flight when you've been squeezed into a tiny airplane seat for hours.Try to get your glutes as close to the wall as possible for maximum effect.
Ah, yes; no list of "yoga poses for running" would be complete without the inclusion of pigeon pose. This super-pose is the king of the hip openers, and stretches and provides blood to the hamstring, psoas, glutes, groin, and abs. You can keep the torso upright, or relax it down on the mat for a deeper stretch.
Try these five poses after your next run and bask in the delight of a painless recovery.
Photos provided by: Steve Wall