Yoga Poses for Runners – Part 2

With all of the great feedback we received from out post a while back (Yoga Poses for runners #1) sharing some of our favourite yoga poses that we thought runners everywhere should try, we thought it was time for round two.  This time we’re focusing on the upper legs and hips for the first three, then going to turn a bit of attention to your shoulders and back muscles, which so many of us accidentally neglect from time to time.  So whether you run 5k’s all year and can’t get enough of them, or you’re taking on an ultra marathon of unimaginable difficulty, these could help you stay loose and free from injury!

***Before you get cracking though, always remember WHEN and HOW you stretch is important.  Make sure you’re muscles are a bit warm (couple sun salutations or 10 minute jog can always help with that!) and try to avoid static stretches before any kind of workout.***

 

#1 – Gomukasana – Cow Face Pose

Gomukasana yoga for runners cow faceAbsolutely no idea where that name came from, but this one can be magic for some people.  Start from a seated position with legs outstretched, cross your right foot over your left leg and tuck it back near your left butt cheek.  Sitting up nice and tall, allow your knee to fall forward.  This may be enough for you (it was when we started doing it;)) or you can go a bit further.  Keeping your right leg where it is, draw your left foot towards your right butt cheek and allow the left knee to lay on the floor.  Check in to make sure your right knee is stacking right over the left AND that both of your sitting bones are on the ground. (If one is lifting off the ground try sitting on a block)

cow face pose for runnersThis is the basic posture, but feel free to play from this position to suit your needs; folding forward, fanning your feet out to the side away from your body, whatever feels right!  This is great for people with tight hips and people prone to pains along their IT bands.  Make sure to do both sides, and sit in this one for as long as you can comfortably, these muscle groups take a while to let go.

 

 

#2 – Ananda Balasana – Happy Baby

Happy baby, how can this pose NOT feel amazing!:)  So start off laying on your back and draw your knees up to your chest.  Spread your knees apart and reach your arms IN BETWEEN your knees to take hold of your feet along the inside of the foot, the outside of the foot, or the big toe. Now rise your feet up to shine the soles of your feet to the sky.  Maybe you get there, maybe not, thats just where we’re moving towards.

happy baby yoga pose

Alignment check in –> Has your lower back lifted off the ground?  Try to press it back down and keep the whole spine long and in contact with the ground.  If your feet are facing up to the sky, then next step is to draw your knees down towards your armpits.  For runners, you might always want to take some time to try straightening one leg at a time, your hamstrings will likely have a love/hate relationship with you during this one so take it slow;)

#3 – …quadasana? … alright this isn’t exactly a yoga pose, but you’ll still love it!hip stretch yoga for running

Find an empty space on a wall or in front of a chair/couch (if you know your quads are super tight the ladder tends to be a little gentler).  Start on your hands and knees and slide back towards the wall as close as you can.  Draw your right heel up to your butt and slide the right knee closer to the wall (eventually we want the knee touching the wall, but start about 6 inches away and move closer from there).  Next step, step your left foot forward so its flat on the floor just outside your left hand. (ps. don’t worry we aren’t graceful making that move either;))  You might be feeling this in your quad or hip already, if so take some time here to let things lengthen.  If you want a little more then bring your hands onto your left knee and slowly rise the chest to end up in a lunge looking position.

quad stretch for runnersOnce you’re this far, you have two options to focus this stretch a bit more.  A) Pressing your hips and shoulders back towards the wall behind you will target the stretch along the quad.  B) Allowing the hips to draw forward and down to the floor will target the stretch deep into the hip flexors.  Some people might even get more into the hip by keeping their hands on the floor and sinking the hips low.

 

 

 

#4 – Garudasana – Eagle Arms

**If you want full Garudasana, google it, we’re only focusing on the arms**

Anyone out there where a pack? Ever feel like a 70 year old getting out of bed when you take that thing off after a long run? How about stage racers, how heavy was your pack last race?  I think you’re getting the point, runners’ shoulders can get pretty tight and we rarely pay attention to them.  Truth is, tight muscles in and around the shoulders, chest and back can restrict the expansion of your ribs and therefore your breath as well.

 eagle arm preparation yoga for runners eagle arms yoga pose for runners eagle arm variation yoga

 

 

Eagle arms can be done standing up straight, sitting up straight, in a wide legged forward fold, and even at your desk or in your car!!!

 

 

 

This one is simple, take your right arm and swing it under your left (imagine stacking the centre of your humorous bones), and interlace your forearms as your point them up to the sky.  You may only be able to connect the backs of your hands together, or you might have no problem bringing your palms to touch.  Where ever your are, keep the elbows lifted to shoulder height, and when that begins to feel comfortable, try pressing your forearms away from your face.  Hold this one for 30 seconds to a minute, and repeat on your other side!

 

If you have any questions or comments on these postures feel free to comment below, or send us an email at [email protected]  If you’ve found these postures helpful, we’d love for you to share them with your run groups!!:)

 

Run Free and never let tight muscles hold you back;)

Mel’n’Jon

Key Yoga postures for runners!

Having spent the past year or so working hard to not only complete  our Yoga Teacher Training, but complement our intense training regime with an effective yoga practice to speed up recovery and build mental strength.  We thought we would begin to share some of our favourite yoga poses that we spend a ton of time in post workouts, on rest days and even while at work! 😛

yoga for runners mel meditation

Whether it’s a group runs, running talks, or at our races, we hear so many people throw out the all to common phrases such as “all runners have tight hamstrings”, “plantar fascitis is something you can’t do anything about” or one of our favourites “I used to be able to touch my toes, but then I started running!”  What we want to get people thinking is that these RULES aren’t concrete, you can break through these social stereotypes, and all it takes is a little bit of work each day.  So here are 4 places to start, we find that these poses will address some of the most common tight or problematic areas runners tend to have.

jon yoga pose for run stretch#1Runners Lunge

There are a number of variations of runners lunge out there, depending on what studio you attend. However, this version will target not only your hamstring, but also your glutes and IT band.

Start by stepping back into a short lunge stance, feet hip width apart. With a flat back, fold forward over your front leg, allowing the front knee to take a slight bend.  Note: You should not be feeling a stretch in the front hamstring…YET, so take a bend to the knee.  Now slide your back foot across and behind your front foot, resting the knife edge of your foot on the ground.  NOW, begin to straighen your front leg and say “HELLO hamstring!”

Variations –>  Placing your hands on blocks will help if you’re have trouble rooting your hands to the ground when folding.

run yoga pose lunge mel#2Lizard Lunge

This is a simple posture that can target your adductors, hip flexors, or even your quads, all depending on how you move in the pose.  Once you’ve found your alignment in this one, feel free to make subtle movements to explore and find your body’s sticking points.

From down dog or from standing, find your way to a deep lunge.  Drop your back knee to the ground and place both hands on the ground inside of your front knee (might have to heel/toe that foot out a tad).  Square your hips to the front and choose between OPTION A: lower your chest to the ground, coming down to your elbows or fully outstretching your arms and bringing your chin to the floor.  This option will stretch deep into your hips, but be sure to not let your front knee fall out.  OPTION B: bend your back knee and reach your opposite arm back to grab a hold of your back ankle.  This will bring a deep stretch to your back quad.

lizard lunge yoga pose runner

 

#3Kneeling Arch Stretch

foot stretch for running yogaThis one is so simple yet extremely important.  Many runners don’t notice any foot or arch issues until they have set in and it’s often too late.  We’d suggest to most people find a daily routine that you can sit back into this, such things that would work great would be while eating breakfast, while brushing your teeth, or simply reading for a few minutes before tucking into bed.

arch stretch runners yogaBend your knees and sit back onto your heels.  Curl your toes under so the bottoms of your feet are stretched out (making sure EACH toe is curled under…that includes you baby toe!).  That’s it!!! Your toes may begin to hurt a bit, allow yourself to go to the point of intense sensation, but never to the feeling of pain.  Place a folded towel under your shins if your ankles are uncomfortable, or under your buttocks if your knees are feeling strained.  Whether you can only last 15 seconds, or sit for a comfortable 15 minutes, simply try to stick with it and go longer than you went yesterday.

 

proud pigeon yoga for runners#4Sleeping Pigeon and King Pigeon

Piriformus is something every runner has heard about, and most of us have likely felt its wrath when it gets overworked.  Well this is a great posture to passively and safely stretch and relax it.

From down dog, bring your R knee forward and place it on the ground behind your R wrist.  Place your ankle on the ground wherever comfortable (the more parallel your shin is to the top edge of your mat, the more intense this stretch will be).  Check back and make sure your left leg is outstretched directly behind you and not swaying to one side. Focus on drawing your R hip back and your L hip forward and to the ground.  At this point press your legs down into the ground and find stability in your hips.  Now choose one of the below options;

sleeping pigeon yoga for running

 

 

Sleeping Pigeon

–> Walk your hands forward and lower your chest to the ground. If comfortable in this position, feel free to explore a bit by drawing your chest to either side, changing the angle of the hip stretch.

 

 

King pigeon yoga for runners

King Pigeon

–>  Bend your back knee up and grab hold of this foot with one hand or if your balance is there, with both hands.  Pushing down into your front leg for stability, kick your lifted foot back which will pull your chest open.  Once your at this stage, one at a time bring your hand forward and up overhead and grab a hold of your foot.  **If your can’t quite reach your foot this way, sling a strap around your lifted ankle and slowly with time you’ll find the strap gets shorter and shorter until your grabbing your foot.

 

 

Give these 4 postures a try, let us know how it went, feel free to ask us any questions and if you find any variations that really hit a tight spot for you, please share with everyone!  More to come in the near future :)

Hari Om

Mel and Jon

 

Psst – be sure to check out our version 2 of Yoga Poses for Runners

Mel’s Yogi Adventures: Weekend 6

We are now coming to the end of our YTT with only one more week left at Prana Yoga Studio. Hopefully from these posts so far you got a bit of a taste of the numerous benefits yoga can offer. Not only did it help personal growth but also my running performance too. Obviously yoga is great for stretching, increasing mobilization and strength but I want to touch on some of the elements that yoga has enhanced for my performance besides the obvious physical ones…

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1) Chest opening:

By strengthening the back muscles more and mobilizing the shoulders through practices, my shoulders have began to release from the common falling forward position. Instead they have been drawn back more, opening up the clavicle region and hence allowing more room in the rib cage to expand for the lungs. More expansion of the lungs more room for full inhale and exhales which makes all the difference during a grinding interval workout or at the top of a hill after a sprint.

2) Breath:

I touched on this a bit before in previous posts by I think this one is huge. Whether it be elongating, deepening, or holding the breath…yoga has shocked me on how much it has allowed me to begin to control my breath. Nostril breathing is an essential part of yoga and this is fantastic for endurance athletes as it teaches you to be able to keep breathing as you’re eating on a run, bike, or whatever, while not having to huff and puff between bites. All of these breaths also play a key role in lowering the heart rate and easing a busy mind.

3) Meditation:

We were lucky enough in our YTT to be taught meditation. I won’t touch much on this since I already did here: How to Create a Positive Mind for a Positive Performance. Pretty much, like the ever growing research about meditation is saying…it’s pretty awesome.  The benefits can be astounding no matter where you are in life.

4) Alignment:

After every YTT weekend it feels as almost I had an intensive appointment at my chiropractor’s office. All the twisting, bending, folding, etc. and verbal cues have started to stack my body in the appropriate places. This has positively affected my gait for running. Having the head drawn back a bit so to stacked on top of neck, makes it feel weightless. Having the hips become more open, makes my knees stay in better alignment while running. The list can go on and on!
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5) Ahimsa or Non-harming:

Ahimsa, meaning non-harming, is the first of the yoga Yamas (principles to live by). This was one of the hardest aspects I had to learn from YTT. To know when to relax and surrender versus strive and push was a difficult part for me. Not only in training did I always want to push myself to my maxes, but even in yoga before I would strive to hit every advanced physical posture option given. There’s a time and a place for that but there also needs to be a time for relaxing or focusing on something else besides the physical all the time so as not to harm your body by pushing it to it’s limits in everything. My recovery after learning to incorporate this sense of ease and surrender has improved significantly.

Hopefully this kind of gives you an overview on some more areas, besides the obvious physical, that yoga can help enhance for an athlete.

Namaste!! – Mel

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Mel’s Yogi Adventures: Teacher Training Weekend 3 & 4

yoga teacher training tree of lifeWith this post comes a close to another two amazing weekends at Prana Yoga Studio Teacher Training. Jon and I hit a milestone by finishing our 1st teaching practicums which is making me realize that we are approaching the end of this training very fast with just 3 weekends left. These last two weekends were used to explore ayurveda, chakra, connective tissue, anatomy, and the nervous system . The complexity of yoga never ceases to amaze me and the copious amount of subliminal benefits it has to offer.

What really hit me this week was how unaware I really was of my body. Being an athlete, I thought I was pretty switched on when it comes to body awareness. However, after these trainings it came a lot more apparent that I am not nearly as body conscious as l I though to be.

Right now scan your posture by asking yourself these questions…

– Are your shoulders slightly hunched forward or are they drawn back into a straight alignment with your clavicle?

– Do your shoulder blades fall relaxed down your back or are they lifted up towards your ears?

– Is your spine rounding forward or aligned perfectly?

– Does your head reach forward or is it placed weightlessly on top of your spine?

mel and jon yoga teachers prana

Making my posture better though shouldn’t be a huge challenge to do as I personally think it just comes down to, well laziness for lack of a better word. When you have a chair back behind you why not just slant up against that to support yourself instead of engaging your back muscles to hold your own body up? Yup I’ve been completely guilty of this and it has become quite obvious through these YTT* weekends. Being seated on the floor cross-legged for a couple hours a day, you become aware pretty quick just how reliant you are on all of your back muscles when you have no chair/wall behind you to lean on. From day one till now of this YTT, I can honestly say I have notice improved posture and a substantial amount of more strength in my back. And no, I don’t believe you have to do yoga 18.5 hours of yoga every second weekend to see these benefits. In each yoga class, you’re constantly reminded to “draw the shoulders blades back”, “elongate the spine”, “slightly tuck your chin”, “tilt your pelvis under you”, etc. So whether you do a class once or 7 days a week, you are cued to pay attention to the alignment of your body.

Yoga teaches us to draw our attention to the sensations in our physical body. Yoga helps up to begin to dial into how you feel from the tissue level all the way till the cellular level of our bodies. We start to become sensitive to the sensations our breath creates in the fibres of our body with every inhale.  This is the beauty of yoga. We become increasingly conscious and begin to open up and notice things we once ignored. 

NAMASTE!

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Mel’s Yogi Adventures: Weekend 2 & 3

Prana Yoga Studio Teacher Training

Due to a hectic few weeks, weekend 2&3 yoga recap had to be combined. I could sum those two full weekends up with one word though: shock. The extent that I have been changing physically, mentally, emotionally, etc. in such a short period of time is shocking…and rather nerve racking at the same time.

yoga teacher training class prana yoga studio

Coming into this YTT I knew I would become more knowledgeable about yoga and its philosophies/history but honestly wasn’t sure if I would be able to fully submerge in it and take it to heart… I proved myself wrong. The history behind this 1000s of year old practices is unreal and makes you realize yoga is not just about the physical postures you can twist your body into. Whether it be the breath, meditation, or chanting, there is much more to yoga than trying to get a nice toosh.

As I mentioned earlier, after just three weekends I am already noticing a physiological change. However, this change isn’t external and cannot be seen by the naked eye. Sure, throughout this training I might start seeing more tone to my muscles and better posture but those aren’t apparent right now. Instead, this  change is happening internally, more to the level of my nervous system. I know what you’re thinking, “How on earth do you know if your nervous system is physically changing?”and I always asked myself the exact same question when someone declared yoga has the capability to transform one’s nervous system. But know, that statement doesn’t seem so crazy after all and I know think I know the answer. My answer: because I started to cry…out of NO WHERE. This freaked me out haha. I like to think myself as not a very emotional person (except maybe on the last mile of my 100 miler race) so me starting to cry out of no where after class one day was absolutely absurd to me! There was nothing I was sad, mad, angry, or even overly happy about but after stepping into my car, low and behold tears started running down my face. For a “tough athlete” this is something pretty hard to admit/share.

yoga training course mel and jon

After going home and doing some research after my little episode, I realized I wasn’t so coocoo after all. Yoga has been found in research to open up the autonomic nervous system, the system responsible for all those subconscious duties: heart and resp rate, perspiration, digestion, sexual arousal, etc.

Purification of the nervous system is possible through an improved mental attitude, relaxation  and the postures that help adjust the spine and its  components (ie. the nervous system). Furthermore, it has been shown that through the vibrations of chanting (which we have done quite a bit of so far) the nervous system can be opened and begin to release any tensions or stressors someone subconsciously may have been holding onto. Well, it seems mine nervous system door flung wide open like a dam gate instead of gradually creaking open haha. With this though I have been feeling lighter, more energized and more positive. Relating this to my athletics, I have seen huge positive impacts during work outs. No stressors have been popping up anymore and the constant to-do list I sometimes ramble off in my head while running the trails has quieted down; allowing me to stay focus on my body and breath that much more and stay grounded in the present.

melissa jonathan yoga teachers edmonton

This  recap may be a little on the heavier side but I definitely think it is something worth sharing, especially to those who think like I once did…”yoga is purely a physical practice”. The little stuff that come with yoga that I was a little skeptical of before such as meditation, chanting, and mental reflection can provide so many benefits alone. My advice: next time you go into yoga, go in open-minded. Let yourself absorb all the components of it and you may just surprise yourself on what arises :)

 

Many thanks to the wonderful people at Prana Yoga Studio for helping me discover all of this!

 

Namaste :)

 

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