Flexibility and being in the moment can help your running.
A lot of runners intend to make it to yoga class with regularity, but track intervals and strength work always seem to take precedence. However, there are plenty of reasons runners should make room for the time-honored discipline. Not only does it help develop flexibility, balance and whole-body strength, but it can also lead to better running form, greater running efficiency and more running power. Plus, yoga’s attention to concentration and awareness of breathing can improve mental focus and mental endurance, which can be a big asset during a long training session or race.
If you’re someone who never quite makes it to yoga class as much as you intend, add these few simple yoga moves to your training routine. “It will build their strength, flexibility and focus,” says Sage Rountree, author of The Runner’s Guide to Yoga. “It can help to correct some imbalances too, which can lead to injuries.”
Plus, says Ashlee Willaman, a yoga instructor in New York City, yoga can be relaxing and help with recovery. All those things mean your body will hold up better under stress, and you’ll be able to maintain your running form even when fatigued. The fact that it’s fun doesn’t hurt, either.
The most common critique Willaman gives in her yoga classes is to pull back and not push too hard. “If you’re holding your breath, you’ve gone too far,” she says. You don’t necessarily have to feel a stretch in order to be getting the benefits of the moves.
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Rountree and Willaman suggest adding these few moves to your workouts. Remember to take your time and maintain good form. At the end, try simply resting with both of your legs straight up a wall. That’s a yoga move too—even if it just feels like resting.
Reclining Big-Toe Sequence
Lie flat on your back, with your arms on the ground, forming a “T” with your body. Use one or both of your hands to put your right foot in a strap (if you don’t have a yoga strap, you can use a cloth belt or even a towel that’s long enough).
Pull your leg straight up with the strap so that your foot is above your hip or chest, depending on your flexibility; this move should stretch your calf, hamstring and glute. The further you pull your foot toward your head, the greater the stretch you’ll achieve, but be sure to keep your left leg flat on the ground.
For the second move in the sequence, drop your leg to the outside, holding both ends of the strap with your right hand and create a 90-degree angle (ideally) between your leg and your body. This should open up your hip. Leave your left arm flat on the ground in the “T” position to keep your chest open.
For the last move, pull your leg in the strap across your body with your left hand to the other side, opposite of the second move. This should stretch the outside of your hip, back and IT band.
TIP: Do not overstretch, and only go as far as is comfortable.
Repeat for your left leg.
Start in downward dog. Bring your right leg forward into a lunge.
Place your right knee next to your right hand and let your right foot relax toward your left hand. At the same time, collapse your left leg so that it’s flat on the ground.
This should leave you with your right shin on the ground, close to your body—as much as your flexibility allows—and your left leg stretched out behind you. This will stretch the front of your left hip flexor and the outside of your right hip.
Use padding under your butt as necessary, depending on your flexibility, to give yourself a less aggressive stretch.
You can keep your body straight up, with the top of your head toward the sky, or you can lay your arms flat on the ground in front of you. Try both.
Repeat for your left leg.
TIP: Hold pigeon pose for a half-dozen deep breaths on each side.
Start on your hands and knees, with your legs about hip-width apart and your arms under your shoulders.
Push your butt up and straighten your legs, pushing back with your arms so that your body creates a triangle with the floor.
The goal is to have your back and arms in a straight line, without a rounded back. If your legs are too tight to accomplish this, start by bending your knees slightly.
TIP: Bend your knees slightly in downward dog until you can achieve the Full Pose.
About the book: In The Runner’s Guide to Yoga, veteran runner and yoga instructor Sage Rountree explains the many specific benefits that yoga can bring to running. With hundreds of crisp, inviting color photographs featuring more than 100 poses and routines, this 224-page paperback can guide runners to becoming stronger and more resistant to injury with as little as 10 minutes of yoga per day. velopress.com