Friday, 19 July 2013

Yoga Poses for Runners

Alvin Heng in action during the Yogathon

After the Yogathon

Basic Yoga Stretching

How do we begin?

Truth be told we shouldn't have a Yogathon to remind us how useful stretching is in everyday life.  For the runner it is imperative that there is stretching involved before and after a run.  It is not enough to walk slow and then start to run on the road or on the treadmill.  Before we begin to even walk we must stretch to warm our muscles up.  Yours truly has seen many a would-be runner on the treadmill go from zero to 10kph without any sort of warm-up at all.  That is the joy of being young and having legs that can go at the drop of a running cap.  However what it does is open up a host of chances for getting injured.  If running is truly your joy you definitely do not want to be on the sidelines too long watching your friends racing each other.  Also once our legs start getting injured there is a big chance of them getting injured again.

I am not saying that yoga is the only way to stretch.  There are various stretching methods commonly in use.  These have be honed throughout the years explicitly for the athlete.  Yoga is more of a lifestyle workout of body and mind.  It emphasizes many things, and is just not about the poses.  Breathing plays a very important part too.  By nature I am a very tense person.  Yoga helps me relax even if I have trouble touching my toes.  That blame lies in my belly that keeps that joy from happening just yet.  Whenever I do yoga I employ blocks to help me keep in contact with the ground.  Trust me if I didn't, the one making the loudest noise in yoga class will be me, and it won't be of the "oops!" variety.  Knowing what I know now, how I wish I had started yoga earlier in life.  What I do try to do nowadays is catch a yoga class whenever it doesn't conflict with my training schedule.  Sadly this doesn't happen a lot.

To begin the yoga stretches for runners it is best to do a basic warm-up.  This is where those Sun Salutations from the Yogathon come in.  If you refer to that post of mine you will see my friend Alvin Heng doing the complete Sun Salutation "A" for the camera.  It is broken down into 12 moves so that everyone can easily follow it.  Suffice to say these are basic yoga moves, but for the beginner it is a good way to start.  Then maybe later they can get into Sun Salutation "B" which is a bit tougher.  Now that the muscles are warm and the blood is flowing we are ready for some runner-friendly yoga poses!

The Five Yoga Poses

1. Pigeon Pose. 

What this pose does is stretches the thighs, groins, abdomen, chest, shoulders and neck. It's a great yoga pose to open the hips and improve flexibility. 

Yikru Ng, my yoga instructor, executing the Pigeon Pose

The Extended Pigeon Pose
For those who are flexible enough, they can walk their hands slowly into the Extended Pigeon Pose, which offers an even better stretch.  Please note that you need to keep your hips as square as possible.  If you hips a tendency to one side use a yoga block or a towel to cushion and align the hips.  It is best to hold this pose for two minutes.

2. Downward Facing Dog.

What this pose does is it helps with tight leg muscles, especially in the calves, while also strengthening the arms. Downward facing dog is also therapeutic for flat feet.

The Downward Facing Dog
It is important to spread your fingers wide to distribute the weight.  Yikru calls them gecko hands.  Your feet must be slightly pointed inwards. Also keep them hip width apart.  Try your best to keep the whole of your heels down to the floor.

3. Extended Triangle Pose. 

What the Triangle pose does is it stretches the sides of the body and hamstrings and helps improve digestion and relieve back pain.

Extended Triangle Pose
Use your index and middle finger to grab hold of your big toe and step on it to use that as resistance when your stretch into the pose.  Spread your hands and lift up so your energy should be going upwards and try to get your shoulders stacked over each other so your chest is open to the side.

4. Forward Fold.

What the Forward Fold does is it helps stretch out the hamstrings, calves and hips, improves digestion, reduces fatigue and is said to be beneficial for those with asthma.

Forward Fold
 For those who cannot touch the ground yoga blocks can be used.

5. Chair Pose.  

The chair pose is a bit difficult. It helps build the core, glutes, legs and arms and strengthens the ankles and spine.

Chair Pose
To hold the Chair Pose make sure your feet are flat on the ground.  Your hips must be lowered as low as you can.  Try to round your tailbone to the floor.  Which is to say your butt does stick out.  Palms must be together, shoulders relaxed and reach upwards.  The thighs must also be squeezed together.

After the run


Let's be honest, running can take a toll on our body. Whether we're training for our fifth marathon or just starting with the sport, recovery is imperative in order to improve our running performance.  Running focuses on specific muscle groups and in order to restore balance, cross training, like I mentioned in my RPM post, is important. How do we recover after a very long run? We can soak our feet in ice.  We can wear compression socks that have been specially made for recovery.  We can take a whole host of foods.  I like taking Vitamin C and ingesting protein shakes.  It all depends on what works for you best.  It is one of those trial and error things.  Yoga also can be used as part of that recovery process.  The moves shown above look simple enough but does need proper training to be done right.  If you want to do them it is best to contact a qualified yoga instructor to get them done correctly.

Many thanks to Yikru Ng, my yoga instructor at Level Up Fitness gym,  for taking timeout to pose for this moves for me.  Hopefully in the future we can come up with even more yoga moves that may help runners to recover and run better and faster and avoid injuries.  It's been a blast learning new things through yoga about my bodies' capabilities.  All I need now is to find a way to get rid of that pesky tummy of mine that gets in the way of many a yoga move.  The loud thump heard in class is usually me.  Please don't laugh if you hear me say, "I'm stuck!" Namaste!  

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