Yoga for runners… The perfect blend
by Tony Bishop, E-RYT
So many elite athletes use it as a staple in their training regimens. Its popularity is at an all-time high worldwide. All ages, all genders, all cultures and all nationalities include it as one of their favorite daily activities.
Running. It’s fun, invigorating, challenging, strengthening, and great cardio. It includes many positive effects for every athlete including, well, runners. You may have already discovered the joy of running and its many benefits, not the least of which is a common thread of camaraderie among groups of running enthusiasts from walkers and joggers to competitive racing participants. It’s an outstanding exercise that also connects one to the outdoors and to many encouraging friends who will help push you along the way when you reach a plateau. It doesn’t get much better.
As running improves our lung function and builds endurance as well as burning calories quickly, what do we supplement with this awesome workout to be as healthy and complete as we possibly can?
The answer comes from another activity which world-class athletes are also using daily, and which is at a popularity pinnacle worldwide as well. Yoga.
Yes, as more of us push our bodies with high impact activities such as running, basketball, baseball and softball, soccer, martial arts, cross-training programs, tennis, and sports which challenge our core and shoulder fitness like golf, we have rediscovered yoga as the one true all-inclusive regimen to bring everything together physically and mentally to give us that extra edge we need to keep progressing. Yoga is more than 5,000 years old and predates practically any other organized, planned physical routine. So as many magazines and other reference sources reveal (including Runners World), yoga is the perfect complement to running.
Yoga is a healing, relaxing, stress reducing, strengthening (you’ll be amazed!), lung challenging (oh, yes!), flexibility inducing, lengthening (better than anything), and recovering art. Yoga is what all other regimens want to be when they grow up. This is why you see yoga included in everything from weight lifting to stretching routines, dance, Pilates and boot camps, to the latest trendy exercises. It all goes back to the basics of body alignment, breathing, and proper use of our physiology for optimal health and performance. It strengthens everything, including the all-important core! That’s what yoga does and has done for thousands of years.
The best thing about yoga is that it’s an all-inclusive practice that will do amazingly positive things for you regardless of anything
else you choose to enjoy. Just give it a try for 90 days… three months of dedication, daily or nearly daily, not just occasionally. Run. To yoga. As a runner, here are some great techniques with which to start:
Remember that practicing yoga helps your muscles, tendons and ligaments to rebound faster and stay naturally more supple and resilient, thus creating the perfect blend with running. It improves breathing and circulation to aid in healing injuries and preventing future injuries. Concentrate on strengthening the core, the muscles and fascia around the knees, the ankles, and stretch to maximize your health of the hips and glutes. This is yoga.
Seated position, back straight. Slide feet inward toward the groin and place soles of the feet together at center of your body. Grip the ankles with corresponding hands, place elbows out laterally with knees to the side and pull gently forward with the hands as you press elbows out and down into the legs. Glide the head toward the feet and eventually taking the nose to the toes and knees outwardly to the floor. Allow body weight to dictate the depth of the pose and hold for 21 breaths or 2 to 3 minutes.
All fours, “four points” position. Right knee moves to right wrist. Ease the right foot across to the left, past the outside of the left knee. Slowly walk the hands out straight in front of you, floating the torso downward to the floor and resting your forehead on your mat, carpet or towel, sliding the left foot back behind you to lengthen left leg as much as possible. Relax into the position, and when this feels comfortable, inhale deeply and on the exhale, consciously allow your body weight to take you deeper and flatter to the floor. Relax and hold for 21 breaths or 2 to 3 minutes and repeat other side.
Begin with plank position, perfect alignment (wrists under shoulders and body perfectly straight). Concentrate, bringing awareness to the abdominals, gluteals, obliques, quadriceps, calves, chest and shoulders. Navel should be pulling in deeply as you contract the abdominals, as if you’re displaying your “six pack.” Elbows straight back, inhale, and on the exhale lower the body toward the floor as the arms slide alongside your torso. Upper arms should be in a straight line with the back, with elbows at 90-degree bend or slightly less. Hold the position with all muscles engaged and breathe smoothly with upper body about 2 inches from the floor. Hold for 21 breaths (if you dare), or work to that as a goal, starting with 4 or 5 breaths.
Ujjayi Breathing (victorious breath)
The original basic yogic breath, now called “athletes’ breath” by many trainers. Simply practice locking the throat muscles, and inhaling and exhaling through the nose while slowing the breath… as if breathing through a straw in the throat. Make the breath slow and very, very deep as you allow the belly to extend outward and fill every inch of the lungs — front, back, top, bottom and into the sacrum. This breathing practice is amazing at improving lung function, calming the mind and when combined with abdominal engagement during running, increasing endurance and stamina.
As runners, our passion is to run. But remember, even when training for a long distance competition, yoga is that factor which gives you the competitive edge and the ability to recover quicker and perform more efficiently!
And now, here it is… our July 2017 “Pause for a Pose” – The Yin Yoga Dragon
The Dragon may just be the “Granddaddy” of all yoga postures for runners. It’s actually known as the “runners’ lunge” by many enthusiasts. Try this awesome stretching/lengthening/strengthening position softly and lightly before a run, and then deeper and longer directly after a run or hard workout.
Begin on all fours. Step your left foot up between your palms and ease your right knee back until you feel a stretch at the front of the thigh and groin. Lift your torso upright and rest your hands on your left thigh for balance. Allow your right thigh to descend toward the floor, stimulating the stomach and spleen meridians at the front of the thigh. You may also feel this pose in the groin of the left leg, stimulating the kidney and liver meridians. You can experiment with challenging the ankle and Achilles tendon by bending the front leg more deeply. Now walk the hands out in front of your body and try to slide the elbows and forearms out while floating your head and upper body to the floor. Once you’ve found a position you want to explore, remain still for 1-5 minutes. Be aware of any pain and back off when needed, or advance by holding longer or by engaging muscular flexion once in the pose. In the Yin Yoga tradition, you may allow your body weight to dictate the depth of your stretch and stay in the pose for at least 4 minutes or more. Repeat on the other side. Enjoy this pose all month… and we’ll see you this week at Hot Yoga BG. God bless and namaste’!
About the Author:
Tony Bishop, E-RYT/RYT/CYT is director and chief instructor with Hot Yoga Bowling Green, Kentucky. He is certified in Hatha Yoga instruction, is a Yoga Teacher trainer (having trained some 70 new teachers), Yoga Coach, Yoga Personal Trainer, certified in PowerHouse™ Pilates instruction, Spinning™/Indoor Cycling instruction, Sil lum Kung Fu, Self-defense training, Tai Chi Exercise, varied boot camp programs, core conditioning, and many other physical trainings. He is registered with Yoga Alliance and has more than 5,000 hours of teaching experience in yoga alone. He is the founder of “Hot Start™” Yoga Teacher Training. Contact Tony: Hot Yoga, 730 Fairview Ave, Suite C2, Bowling Green KY. Website: www.hotyogabg.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone (270) 793-0011.