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Low lunge 1

Regular running without sufficient stretching will cause muscular tightness leading to imbalances in body.  The body will then find ways of compensating to address these imbalances, leaving the runner prone to injury.  Incorporating a few yoga postures into your routine will increase your flexibility and strength, helping to safeguard against injuries.  In addition, a regular yoga practice allows one to become more attuned to the body and any warning signals it sends.

Try these few yoga postures after each run (and on non-run days if you can) and your body will thank you for it! Here are a few important guidelines before you begin:

–          Cast aside your trainers and practice in bare feet on a yoga mat if you have one.

–          For the standing poses, pay attention to your feet.  Always keep the inner arches lifted to avoid pronation and press down evenly through the ball joints of the big toe, little toe and the centre of the heels.

–          Stay in each pose for 5 to 10 deep breaths through the nostrils.  If you can’t breathe comfortably, then ease off a little until you can.

–          Keep your core strong by drawing your lower abdominals (below the navel) in towards the spine.

–          Once in a pose, try to draw your awareness inwards by focussing on your breath and feeling what is going on with your body, rather than concentrating on the external form of your body.

–          Never ‘bounce’ your way into a posture – hold steadily and comfortably!

–          Only go as far as is comfortable but whilst feeling the stretch – if you keep practicing regularly you’ll be amazed at the difference.

Setting the foundations – Mountain Pose

Stand with your big toes touching and heels as close together as comfortable and spread your toes.   Have your arms by your sides (middle finger in line with outer side seam of your trousers).  Ground down evenly through the balls and heels of the feet whilst lifting the inner arches.  Engage your quadriceps to stabilise your kneecaps.  The pelvis should be in ‘neutral’ with the lower back neither arched nor flattened.   Draw in the lower abdomen to feel a gentle release in your lumbar spine.  Lift the ribcage away from your pelvis and reach the crown of the head upwards, whilst allowing your shoulders to relax down.  You may feel a little taller!

Mountain pose

Benefits:  teaches correct alignment of the whole body and good preparation for other yoga poses.

Chair pose ‘Utkatasana’

 From Mountain pose, inhale and raise your arms over your head pressing your palms together (if this is uncomfortable, keep hands shoulder distance apart).  Exhale, bend your knees, tracking directly over your toes, coming into a squat as if you are just about to sit into a chair – the torso should lean forwards so it forms a 90 degree angle with your thighs.  To come out, inhale to straighten your legs and exhale lower your arms back to Mountain pose.

–          Keep your heels grounded and your spine in neutral with the back of the neck long

–          Gaze forwards or upwards, encouraging your breastbone to lift without arching your lower back

–          If the palms are pressed together, draw the inner elbows towards each other to broaden the upper back.

Chair pose

Benefits:  Strengthens the ankles, calves and thighs whilst stretching muscles of shoulder and chest.

Warrior III

From Mountain Pose, exhale and fold your torso forwards until it is parallel with the floor whilst simultaneously raising your left leg behind you, so that you form a ‘T’ shape with your body. Reach your arms back by your sides; or out to your sides for more balance.  Gazing forwards may help your balance whilst gazing to the floor will further lengthen your spine. To come out, exhale, lower your leg and arms and stand upright.  Repeat with the opposite leg.

–          Keep the hips square to the floor.  The tendency is to lift the hip of the raised leg, so encourage the thigh to internally rotate to correct this and point all 5 toes down to the floor.

–          If it is too much to be parallel to the floor then you can come to the halfway point, but always keeping your lifted leg in the same line as your torso.

–          Push back through the heel of your lifted leg as if you were pressing the sole of your foot into a wall behind you.

Warrior

Benefits:   a great strengthening pose for both legs and the gluteals, whilst stretching the hamstring of the standing leg.  Also tones the shoulders and strengthens the core and back whilst improving balance and concentration.

Flank stretch ‘parsvottanasana’

From Mountain pose, Inhale to step your right foot forwards about 2 ½ – 3 feet with the toes pointing forwards, then turn your left foot outwards about 45 degrees (think ‘ten to’ on a clock). You do not want to be standing on an imaginary tightrope with your heels directly aligned, instead imagine you are standing on a narrow railway track so that as you square your pelvis and torso forwards, your sitting bones are aligned with your heels and you feel balanced.  Exhale to take your arms behind your back and hold opposite elbows with your hands, so your forearms are parallel to the floor (or hold your wrists if your shoulders are tight).  Experienced yogis could take ‘reverse prayer’.  Inhale broaden your chest and draw your shoulders together and lengthen your spine.  Exhale fold forwards from your hips over your right leg as far as you can whilst keeping the spine long and both legs straight.  Gaze towards the right foot.  Feel the stretch in your hamstrings. To exit, inhale whilst pressing through your feet to come up and then exhale to release your arms.  Repeat with the left leg forwards.

–          Do not round your back – fold from your hips and lead with your breastbone.

–          Keep your neck in line with your spine. 

–          Avoid collapsing in the chest by keeping your shoulder blades drawing together towards your spine.

–          Keep both legs active – engage your quadriceps to avoid ‘locking’ out your knees. 

–          Press down through the ball joint of your front leg’s big toe and the heel and outside edge of your back foot.

Flank stretch

Benefits:  Strengthens the legs; stretches the spine, shoulders hamstrings and hips.  Opens the chest.

Low lunge

This pose is best done on a mat or at least put some padding, such as a folded towel, under your back knee.  From an all fours position, exhale and step your right foot forwards between your hands with the toes pointing forwards.  Your right knee should be directly over your right ankle, shin vertical.  Then slide your left knee backwards until you feel a stretch in the front of your left hip and thigh.  The top of the left foot should be flat on the floor.  Inhale to lift your torso to an upright position and rest your hands lightly on your right thigh, with your chest lifted and shoulders back and down.   To come out, exhale lower your torso and bring your hand back under your shoulders.  Repeat on the left leg.

–          Press down firmly with your front foot

–          Draw your tailbone down to the floor whilst lifting the pubic bone upwards

–          Keep your lower abdominals engaged and lift through your pelvic floor.

–          To deepen the stretch, if you feel stable:  Inhale and reach your arms overhead, pressing your palms together and lift your gaze towards your thumbs.

Low lunge 1

Low lunge 2

Benefits:  Stretches the quadriceps and hip flexors of the back leg.  Provides a gentle extension for the spine so lengthens the front of the torso and counteracts rounded shoulders.

Boat Pose ‘navasana’

Sit on the floor then bend your legs and clasp the back of your thighs with your hands, drawing them towards your torso.  Lean back with your torso slightly whilst lifting the breastbone, drawing your lower abdominals in and find balance on your sitting bones.  Now lift the feet off the floor as you allow your arms to reach forwards at shoulder height.  Your torso and thighs should form a ‘v’ shape. Try to raise the shins parallel to the floor keeping the feet together.   To release bring your feet back to the floor and arms by your sides.   Repeat 3 – 5 times.

–          Spine should be straight throughout – keep lifting your chest and drawing your shoulder blades back and down.

–          If this is too difficult or you find that your back is rounding, drop your toes to the floor.

–          To deepen the pose, straighten your leg so that your toes are level with your eyes.

Boat pose 1

Boat pose 2

 

Benefits:   strengthens the abdominals, hip flexors and spine.

Hero’s pose

Kneel on the floor, the tops of your feet should be on the floor with the toes pointing straight back (this is very important – if your toes are turned outwards this will strain the inner knee).  Your knees should be very slightly apart and feet a little wider than your hips.  You will probably need a prop to sit on so place a few yoga blocks (if you have them) or a telephone directory or some folded towels between your feet, so as you sit down your buttocks are raised off the floor.  Sit with a tall spine and feel the stretch in your quadriceps and the front of your ankles.

–          Hold for as long as is comfortable – build up gradually, eventually aiming for a few minutes.

–          If you do not feel the stretch then you can lower your prop or perhaps take it away altogether so that you are sitting with buttocks on the floor.

–          Ensure there are no pulling sensations in your knees.  If you find that there is then check the alignment of your feet (toes pointing straight back) or make your prop a little higher.

Heros pose 1

Heros pose 2

Benefits:  lengthens the quadriceps and front of the ankles.

Written by Ginny Haswell, Yoga Instructor. 

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