How much have we all been loving the sunny weather the past few days? With summer on the horizon, many of us will start to head out for a run in the outdoors. While there's nothing like the feeling of the wind in your hair, the high impact on your joints can often cause problems. Runners often complain of bad backs and knees, tight hamstrings and sore feet, and while running is an excellent cardiovascular exercise, it does put a lot of stress on the body. This increase in stress can exacerbate any imbalances that are already in the body, which is where Yoga comes in.
Yoga helps us to become more effective at using and conserving strength by practicing Sthiram and Sukham (effort and ease). Balancing the opposing movements of the tightening and shortening of the muscles with elongating and stretching the muscles with yoga postures (Asana) is the best way to ensure you are running freely, with minimal stress on your body.
Pranayama & Meditation
The practice of Pranayama (breath control) in yoga can also help the runner to bring their focus internally. Coordinate your breath with each subtle movement and build the internal fire from the inside out creating prana (otherwise known as your energy or qi in Chinese Medicine)
By bringing this focus internally it will make you as a runner, more in-tune with your body’s natural ebs and flows and help you to understand your own limitations, when to back off and perhaps when to push yourself a little harder.
Perhaps also try and bring the meditative aspect of Yoga into your runs. Become aware of every sensation in your body as your body moves with your breath. If your mind has a tendency to race, and you are always caught up in your thoughts, use your runs as an opportunity to bring your awareness back to the present moment. Focus on your breath, on your stride, run outside in nature and really be present. Your run will become a way to balance your body and mind and you will feel more at ease, refreshed and invigorated post-run.
Top 5 Yoga postures
Physically, all yoga postures help to create the balance, strength and improved range of motion needed for running. But by practicing the below 5 yoga postures, holding for a minimum of 5 slow breaths, you will really start to reap the benefits. If you can combine with two or three complete yoga classes a week, you’ll be well on your way to keeping your body in tip top shape for many more years of running!
Anjayanasana (low lunge) Hip flexors can shorten quite a bit with running, so practice this at the beginning and end of your practice.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) is the most used posture in Yoga for a reason, Down Dog creates an almost full body stretch of your shoulders, back, hamstring, calf muscles and feet, as well as strengthening the arms and shoulders.
Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana (one legged king pidgeon pose). Runners often get piriformis syndrome and tight glutes. If you have sore knees from running, come to your back and take ‘thread the needle’ which will target the same muscles.
Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide legged forward fold)
Any posture that increases the strength and flexibility in hamstrings is going to be a winner for running!
Khumbakasana and Chataranga (plank to half push up)
Often imbalances can occur in runners when the core is not strong enough, hold high plank for 5 breaths and work up to 10, engage your core and slightly engage mula bandha (your pelvic floor).
Written by Polly Wilson.
The Yoga Social Team