How Many Runners Practice Yoga Today?
According to the 2016 Yoga in America Study (conducted by the Yoga Journal, Yoga Alliance and Ipsos Public Affairs) there are 36.7 million people practicing yoga and 79% of those people also engage in running, cycling or weight lifting. Why? Yoga is just flat out good for you, it can increase flexibility, strength, athletic performance and decreases stress. Check out the report for more information regarding how Americans view yoga and what motivates them to practice this ancient technique.
Seven Yoga Poses to Benefit Runners
Yoga is beneficial to runners because its fluid and soft movements combined with stretching counteract the strain running puts on the body. Running is repetitive and involves your feet and ankles receiving 2-3x your bodyweight with every stride. This continuous impact can affect hamstrings, the back, hip flexors, calves, knees, quadriceps and the stabilizing outer hip/thigh – the iliotibial (IT) band. Yoga poses can assist with preventing overuse injuries by lengthening tight muscles, strengthening the core, feet and ankles, and enhance posture. While there are many poses to choose from, here are 7 poses that runners can practice to help restore and recover.
Take note: hold each pose for 5-10 long breaths. The poses can also be done away from the wall for more balance gains.
1. Extended Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
Benefits: This is a must-have pose for runners that can be done away from or
against a wall. It stretches the legs, muscles around the knee, ankle joints, hips, groin, hamstrings, calves, shoulders, chest and spine. It can also add strength to all of the above and can increase balance benefits when performed away from the wall.
How To: Starting with the right side, stand in front of the wall facing away with arms and feet extended, align the right foot under the right hand (wide stance). Turn the right foot parallel to the wall (the right knee should be in the same direction as the right foot) and keep the left heel touching the wall. Place your left hand on your left hip and begin to extend your torso over your right leg, allowing your hand to touch the floor, your shin or a yoga block. Keep your body weight evenly distributed and don’t overload on the front leg. Create length by reaching the left arm high and take care not to crunch your right side body. Gaze toward the left fingertips or keep a neutral spine. Switch sides and repeat. Tip: Tuck your right glute toward your left big toe and draw your shoulders back. Align your body over the front leg. Breathe. Inhale and come up slowly, adjust your feet, and switch sides.
2. Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana)
Benefits: Also known as “Intense Stretch” this pose stretches the spine and lengthens hamstrings. Strengthens legs and calms the brain.
How To: Stand with your right side toward the wall with the right shoulder touching the wall. Step your left foot back about 3-4 feet. Align your front and back heels, keep your right kneecap in line with your right foot. Square the hips (right hip might touch the wall) and begin to hinge and fold forward. Arch your upper torso slightly, tuck the navel to the spine then lower the head toward the knee or shin. Reach your arms behind you and interlace the fingers if possible, reach for opposite elbows or just bring the arms behind you. Utilize 1-2 blocks, placing them under your shoulders if this is too intense. Maintain space between your shoulders and your ears. Breathe and keep your legs firm as you lengthen and let go. To come out of the pose, microbend the right knee and inhale up to center releasing the arms. Switch sides and repeat.
3. Wide Legged Forward Bend Pose (Prasarita Padottanasana)
Benefits: Strengthens and stretches the inner and back legs and spine. Calms the mind.
Tip: If lower back or low blood pressure issues exist: do not fold all the way to the floor, use a chair or brick to place your hands or forearms. Emphasize the length the front of the torso.
Hot To: Stand and face away from the wall. Place your hands on your hips and take your feet as wide as you comfortably can (about 4-5 feet apart). Keep your feet parallel and facing forward. Press into the big toes and outer heels, while engaging your thighs. Inhale and lift your chest, exhale and begin to fold forward as you press your thighs back and up to enhance the stretch. Tip: Your glutes should ride up the wall as you bring the weight toward your toes. Stop at your edge and grab opposite forearms. Let your head hang (nod it “yes”) and breathe. Draw your elbows toward the wall to take your shoulders away from your ears for a neck/shoulder stretch.
4. Runner’s Lunge Pose against the wall for “intense quad stretch” (Modified Anjaneyasana)
Benefits: Stretches front leg, hips, glutes and back leg quadriceps, ankle and hip flexors.
How To: Beginning with the right side, face away from the wall and get into a tabletop position (knees and hands on the floor). Slowly bend your right leg (moving your foot off the floor) and try to place the top of your foot on the wall. Comfort tip: Place a towel or mat under the right knee. Slowly move your hands from the floor to your left knee and on an inhale raise your torso up. Stop when you feel the quadricep stretch in the back right leg and breathe. Rest your hands on a block to decrease intensity. Lengthen your spine, pull your chest and heart forward, tuck your tailbone down, and sink your front, left hip toward the floor. Exhale the hands to the floor and switch sides.
5. Reclining Hand to Big Toe Pose (Supta Padangustasana)
Benefits: Stretches hips, thighs, hamstrings groin and calves.
How To: Begin by lying supine and place your left heel against the wall. Use a strap (or towel) around the arch of your right foot and hold the ends with your right hand. Keep your shoulders and hips on the ground as you begin to gently pull the right leg toward you, maintaining a straight leg. Press through the heel and lengthen your tailbone toward the wall. To open the hip allow your right leg to fall to the right, gazing neutrally or over the left arm. Externally rotate your right leg and allow to fall toward the shoulder or head for a deeper stretch. Inhale bringing the leg back to center and switch legs.
6. Reclined Pigeon Pose (Supta Kapotasana)
Benefits: A passive hip opener as well as a great stretch to the hip flexors, piriformis and glutes.
How To: Sitting about 4-6 inches away from the wall, lay down and swing your legs up the wall. Bending the left knee place the sole of the foot on the wall. Bend the right knee and place the right ankle over the left thigh, flexing the right toes. Slide the left leg down the wall, which allows the right leg to come closer to your chest. Stop when you feel the stretch and breathe. Keep your hips and shoulders down and relaxed and use your right hand to gently press your right knee toward the wall, for a deeper hip opening. (Tip: If your hips remain up, move a little further from the wall). On an exhale slowly release the right leg and switch sides.
7. Supine Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
Benefits: Stretches your inner thigh and groin muscles. Runner bonus: Strengthens the bladder.
How To: Lie facing the wall about finger tips away and swing your legs up the wall. Let your feet slide down and place the soles of your feet together. Relax your shoulders down. Use your hands to gently press your thighs toward the wall. Allow gravity to let your feet sink toward the floor. Relax and breathe. Extend your legs straight up and together. Relax. Bring your knees to your chest and roll to your right side to finish.
Steady Rhythm, Steady Breath, Steady, Strong, Stride
These seven poses are just a start to add to your weekly routine. Running and yoga can be done anywhere, anytime and allows for a mind-body connection; like a runner’s high or bliss found in a moving meditation in a yoga flow. Both practices can give energy to lead life fully and with enjoyment!
Want a bit more? Download the free app Daily Yoga and be led through a practice.
There are many great choices for any skill level. Above all, yoga teaches us how to breathe better, and train our mind to focus positively, especially during times such as a rigorous race when every thought can be diminishing. Consider this mantra, “Steady rhythm, steady breath, steady, strong, stride.” Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. If you would like to try a yoga class led by an instructor at the Village, check out our schedule. We would be more than happy to have you!
Tess DeBlander, MS in Exercise Science, Certified in Yoga, Personal Training and Group Exercise. Boston Marathon time at 3:47. Adjunct Faculty for University of Phoenix and Paradise Valley Community College in Health and Exercise Sciences.