Yoga and Running: The Perfect Match
"Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity." - John F. Kennedy
At first glance, running and yoga might not seem to go hand in hand. But actually, they are a perfect match. Yoga can help to alleviate the sore backs, knees, hips, tight hamstrings, and achy feet that runners often complain of, while also teaching better body alignment to make it so that the running stance can be improved in the future. Running can help build a yogi’s strength and cardiovascular capacity, and every difficult run offers an opportunity to keep focused and positive, while breathing deeply and efficiently.
Also very important is that yoga teaches the cultivation of body wisdom, full body awareness. As you develop a better understanding of the body and how it works, you become able to listen and respond to messages the body sends you. The body produces a lot of endorphins while running – these double as nature's painkillers, which can mask pain and the onset of injury. Yoga can help develop your body intuition, so it will be less likely that you'll ignore any red flags that your body sends out at the beginning stages of injury. Yogi’s are also in general better at honoring their personal limitations any given day, instead of powering through mindlessly.
Great Yoga Poses for Runners:
Works on tight hamstrings and a constricted spine. From all fours, keeping the knees bent slightly, lift the buttocks up toward the ceiling. Lengthen the spine, slowly straighten the knees, and push the heels toward the floor without forcing. Keep your arms engages, insides of the elbows facing one another, and do not allow your armpits to sag lazily to the floor. Keep your abs firm, lengthen your neck so that it is not constricted, and BREATHE!
Helps open hips, hamstrings. Stand with your feet further than hip distance apart – about 3 feet or so apart. Turn your left foot in slightly and your right foot out 90 degrees, making sure that your right heel is lined up with the arch of your left foot. Spread your arms out like wings, inhale deeply. Exhale and move your pelvis toward the left as you extend your torso to the side and over your right leg. Place your right hand down on your shin, or fingertips to the floor if you can, and reach your left arm vertically overhead, palm forward. Turn your head to gaze softly at your left thumb, making sure to not let your neck tighten here. Breathe. Slowly come back to standing and work on the other side.
Good for practicing deep, calm breathing under pressure, also good to work on standing foot awareness which helps you see more clearly how your foot strikes the ground in running. Standing with feet parallel and hip distance apart, bend your right knee and place your right foot as high as possible on your left inner thigh, toes pointing toward the floor. Exert equal pressure – foot to inner thigh, and inner thigh pressing back on your foot. Press your palms together in prayer position, breathe. Keep awareness of your standing foot – where do you put the weight? Can you distribute the weight more evenly throughout the foot? Release and practice on the opposite side.
Opens hips, lengthens tight inner thigh muscles. Sitting straight and tall, bend your knees out to the sides and place the soles of your feet together with your feet as close to your body as possible – like a ballerina butterfly stretch. Inhale deeply, then exhale, soften and release the groins until your legs begin to release more toward the floor. Sit quietly, breathing incredibly deeply, keeping the feet active and pressing together, while continuing to further release the groins.
A great resource on efficient, correct body alignment and running is Chi Running.
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