If you challenge my authority on speaking about running: I will not challenge you back.
Anyone who knows me even a little, knows also about my fascination with running and admiration for runners. They also know very well that this is as far as I dare to go in the direction of running.
I truly and genuinely look up to those who find the fire, stamina and determination to face the treadmill daily, weekly, or regularly in any way, or brave the British weather and go running.
Being surrounded by friends who are either glowing from their permanent and dedicated exposure to the cardiovascular exertion, or even those who really miss this type of exercise after their long and passionate affair with it, and have had to stop due to health related circumstances, makes me feel a little……well…….weak.
I guess it’s not all that bad, really.
In 2012 I was blessed with a glimpse of the adrenaline-fuelled satisfaction that running brings to an exercise regime. Yes, I did run and I loved it! And then my hard work of implementing cardio, incline walks and pranayama was rewarded with reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro.
The last run (which became a bit of a furious and desperate gallop) that I remember was from the Gillman’s Point (18,638 ft) to Kibo Hut camp. I survived, but have never really run since.
Back then, while training, I should have invented what is now one of many offshoots of yoga: troga. It would have been a hugely profitable move and it would have been featured in some popular sitcoms (Modern Family) and it would possibly set me up well on the firmament of curiosities, somewhere between Hula Hoop Yoga and Voga (Vogueing and Yoga)
Instead I did running and practiced yoga. Separately.
And this is my offering:
You do not have to be flexible to practice yoga, because regular practice improves flexibility.
Yoga for Runners
Yoga complements running as it helps to prevent injuries, enhances your lungs’ capacity and eases aches and pains as you recover from long runs.
- Standing Pigeon… or any Pigeon indeed
Stretches the IT band, thighs, gluteals, piriformis muscles and challenges your balance, if you choose.
a) Standing with both knees bent.
b) Lower the sit bones into Chair Pose.
c) Place your right outer ankle on top of your left thigh (standing leg still bent).
d) Begin to bend the standing knee further while lowering your sit bones as you extend the breastbone away from the belly button.
e)Let the gravity take over the right knee, or gently encourage it to flare outwards opening the thigh and the hip space.
Tip: Extending the arms up and standing away from a phone box/petrol pump/hydrant optional.
Reclined pigeon (variation also above)
Offers you the support of the ground beneath you and makes the posture a lot less fierce.
a) Starting with your knees bent and feet on the floor, place the right outer ankle on top of your left thigh.
b) Interlace your hands at the belly of the left leg’s hamstring (you may have to lift your upper body off the floor to do that, but then release it back down on the ground and soften the shoulders.
c) Keep drawing the left leg towards the chest while drawing the right knee out to the side.
- Warrior.. a slightly awkward one
This modification of the Warrior pose delivers a substantial stretch to the calves and it is quite demanding for the lower back. Keep the core engaged and strong to maintain alignment and feel free to deepen the angle of the pose making sure that the front knee stays in line with the ankle.
a) Starting from the Mountain Pose, take a step back with your right leg.
b) Stay on the ball of the foot for a moment and then draw the back of the heel to the floor.
c) Toes of the back foot pointing forwards, rather than out to the side.
d) Initially stay with the torso is upright, which is great as the hip flexor stretch.
e) On the exhalation fold forwards from the hips just a few degrees to deepen the stretch of the back calf.
Tip: Go a little further forward and a little deeper for a greater calf stretch. With the core engaged, extend one arm at a time diagonally to work on expanding the lungs’ capacity.
- Downward Facing Dog
This version of Downward Dog is the preliminary stage for the full pose for when your hamstrings and calves are lengthened and ready to be straightened without curving the spine.
a) Starting at all fours with the toes tucked under and sit bones by the heels, push the ground away from you with your extended arms.
b) Begin sending the taibone upwards while you draw the hips away from the wrists.
c) Pause when your knees are still bent, heels are away from the floor and the spine is long.
d) Walk the Dog by pressing one heel at a time to the floor, yet keeping the pelvis level. Working through the hamstrings, calves and Achilles tendon one at a time to lengthen and set them free.
- Ninja Plank
For a lot fiercer IT band and calf stretch, try this version of Plank Pose. Starting with Downward Facing Dog, thread your right leg to the left, well beyond the mat and as far forward as possible.
a) The leg must be straight and the foot is connected with the ground through the pinky’s edge.
b) Begin lowering the hips so you are coming into Plank Pose by pressing into the hands, lift the chest and send the left heel away from the sit bones to create the length across the back of the leg.
Tip: Lower the hips and the chest into Ninja Chaturranga, your triceps will love it!
5. Supine Spinal Twist.. with a twist
Your lower back and your IT band may be suffering from running as well as variety of exercises or even from a nine-to-five desk job. This simple spinal twist has an immense ability to release both.
a) Begin lying on the mat with your knees bent, feet on the floor and arms in T-shape with palms up.
b) With your legs together, working as one unit, draw your knees to the right.
c) Allow the left side of the pelvis and the lower back to lift and stretch.
d) Deepen the experience of the pose with a slow and steady breath.
e) For additional IT band stretch, place the left foot just above the right thigh, on the floor.
f) Keep the left knee as upright as possible flaring it gently away from the body.
- Cobbler’s Pose
a) Begin with sitting.
b)Bring your feet together and draw the knees out to the sides.
c) Place the sit bones as close to your heels as possible.
d) This brings a substantial stretch the groin, hips and inner thighs.
e) Sit tall and focus on the flow of the breath allowing the knees to grow heavy.
Tip 1: Leaning forward and surrendering the weight of the torso over the folded legs also stretches the back.
Tip 2: For reclined, restorative version of this pose prop up your knees with blocks or folded blankets (so your adductors can release rather than overstretch), then lie down on your back.
Hold each posture for five to ten steady breaths and repeat on the other side.
If you are fit enough to run, you may be fit enough to practice the above yoga postures. However, if you are suffering from any diagnosed condition related to your lungs, spine or heart, please consult your doctor before adapting any of the postures above into your exercise routine.
You never know, you may end up on the summit of Kilimanjaro some time soon!
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