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Yoga for Runners

March 15, 2015 by Rishin Paonaskar 

By Rishin Paonaskar Considering that it is free, can be done pretty much anywhere and offers great health benefits, it is not a surprise that running is one of the most popular forms of exercise out there but at the same time, runners are also amongst the most injury prone athletes out there (certainly as far as recreational non contact sports are concerned). Common injuries that runners suffer from are runners knee, achilles tendinitis and stress fractures. Additionally, runners do also suffer from tight hamstrings, shin splints, plantar fasciitis and very tight hips which if not addressed, can lead to long terminjury. As a recreational runner and triathlete I have suffered from a number of these conditions myself and if you have been a long term runner theres a good chance that you too will have experienced some of these! The causes of these injuries can vary but broadly speaking can be attributed to muscular instability (eg weak adductors), tightening of muscles (eg hip flexors, calves and hamstrings), poor technique and overuse. Overuse of course is best treated by easing off your training volume and technique can be addressed by by working with a running coach but a structured yoga sequence can deal with muscular instability (by strengthening underused muscles) and tight muscles (by stretching commonly used muscles) and as such can become an effective component of any runners training program. The benefits of yoga however go far beyond injury prevention and include: 1. Improved cardiovascular efficiency 2. Faster recovery 3. Improved overall strength 4. Greater flexibility 5. Core strength Here are five poses that I believe all runners can benefit from. You dont need to be an experienced yogi or contortionist to do these poses and Tom who has demonstrated the poses in the below videos is a personal trainer at Robinson Fitness with limited yoga experience!

1. Core Work

A strong core stabilises the hips and upper body while running which in turn makes you a better runner. Using a block in this pose also strengthens the inner thighs which are often weak in runners and a common cause of knee injuries. This can be done just before a run. How to do it: Lie on your back with a block squeezed between your thighs. Extend the legs towards the ceiling and with the toes pointing towards your head. Inhale to raise the hips just off the floor, exhale to raise the shoulders off the floor, inhale to raise hips and head even more, exhale to lower the hips and head simultaneously. Repeat 5 times.

2. Downward dog

Stretches hamstrings, ankles, back and calves How to do it: From a forward fold, lower the hands to the floor and walk your feet back to form an inverted "V" shape. Keep the hands shoulder width apart and the feet hip width apart and bend the knees as much as required to keep the spine from rounding. Hold for 5 breaths.

3. Crescent Lunge:

This pose stretches and strengthens the quads and helps develop a stronger connection between the foot and ground which can help with running. How to do it: from downward dog, step the right foot forward and drop the left knee down to the floor. Ensure the shoulders are directly above the hips and knee is above the ankle. For beginners place both hands on front knee and move back and forth. If you feel stable, you can raise the back knee off the floor. You should feel a deep stretch in the rear leg hip flexor and at the same time feel the muscles of the front leg working to stabilise you.

4. Warrior 3

This pose is great for developing core and general leg strength as well as stability in the ankle and knee. How to do it: From crescent lunge, lean forward and move most of your weight onto the front foot. Engage the core as you lift the foot off the floor and raise the leg towards parallel to the floor. Ensure that the toes of the standing leg are pointing forward to avoid externally rotating the foot which will strain the knee. Engage the muscles of the back leg and keep the back foot flexed.

5. Half Pigeon Pose

If you have tight hips, you will probably hate this pose to begin with, but if you stick with it, you'll enjoy a deep release in the hips! How to do it: From downward dog, raise your right leg and then bring it forward to align the shin roughly parallel to the front of your mat. Place your hands shoulder width apart. This maybe strong enough a pose for you but if you'd like to come deeper into, inhale to lengthen the spine and exhale to fold from the hips while walking your hands forward. Focus on maintaining the length in your spine and keeping the weight evenly distributed between the left and right side of your hips. It is also possible to combine some of these poses into a sequence as demonstrated in the below video. This sequence will develop leg and core strength, improve balance, joint stability and coordination and increase flexibility in the calves, hips, hamstrings and quadriceps Join Rishin for a yoga for runners class every Sunday at I-Human Fitness in St Johns Wood at 4pm!