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Recovery is an integral part of training and yoga is a great recovery activity for runners. It helps to relive soreness and tension in muscles as well as helps to restore range of motion to your joints, allowing you to run better. In addition, yoga teaches you breath training and that will help you improve your breathing technique and improve both effectiveness and efficiency when you run.
You could do a session following a run and/or during a rest day. These poses may feel a little uncomfortable in the beginning especially those new to yoga so go easy and do not push to the point of pain.
1. Downward Dog
Why: Stretches and opens up hamstrings, calves and foot arches as well as the arms and upper back.
Who: Especially helpful for runners with ITB syndrome and plantar fasciitis.
How: Begin with hands and knees on the mat with your wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Slowly lift your knees, straighten your legs and raise your hip straight towards the ceiling into an inverted “V”. Breathe deeply for 10 seconds and as your muscle loosen, continue to straighten your legs and push your heels into the mat.
2. Upward Dog
Why: Strengthens the core, arms, upper body and spine.
Who: Great for all runners as runners tend to focus too much on their legs but neglect their core and arms. Weak upper bodies may hurt their performances.
How: Begin by lying face-down with legs extended behind, a few inches apart. The ridge of your feet should be resting on the mat and your hands should be alongside your body, next to your lower ribs. Take a deep breath as you straighten your arms and lift your body and legs a few inches off the mat. Press down firmly through the tops of your feet and engage your leg muscles to keep your thighs off the ground. Lift your chest towards the ceiling, draw your shoulders back and tilt your head to the top to achieve the backbend for the Upward Dog position for 10 breaths.
3. Reclining Pigeon
Why: Releases tension and tightness in the hips as well as help open up the joints
Who: Especially helpful for runners with knee problems and ITB syndrome
How: Lie on your back with your knees bent with your thighs parallel and hip-distance apart. Cross your left ankle over your right thigh and reach your left arm through the space between your thighs and right arm around the outside of your right thigh. Clasp your arm and gently pull your legs toward you for a stretch in your left glute and hamstring. Hold for 10 breaths and repeat on the other side.
4. Low Lunge
Why: Stretches the hip flexors as well as strengthens the hamstrings and quads
Who: Great for all runners as this pose helps to keep the body engaged as well as train balance which is critical for runners
How: Starting from Downward Dog position, step your right foot forward between your hands. Lower your left knee while keeping your right knee in place by sliding your left foot back. Flip your foot onto the ridge and lift your torso upright. Swing your arms out to the side and overhead. Drop your tailbone towards the ground and look up. Hold for 10 breaths, release and repeat on the opposite side.
5. Reclining Spinal Twist
Why: Relaxes the lower back and stretches the glutes while lengthening and realigning the spine
Who: Great for all runners especially after a long run or huge volume week
How: Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat. As you exhale, draw both knees to your chest and clasp your hands around them. Extend your left leg along the ground while keeping the right knee close to your chest. Extend your right arm along the floor at shoulder height with palm facing down. As you exhale, drop your right knee over the left side of your body with your left hand resting gently on the right knee. Turn your head to the right and relax for 10 breaths. Thereafter, inhale as you come back to the center, bringing both knees back to your chest. Repeat for the other side.
Do seek the experts at yoga studios for assistance in achieving the right postures as your practice advances. In the meantime have fun incorporating these in your training program!