There are more similarities between yoga and running than you might think. Both disciplines cultivate a meditative state of mind – where you can go inward, find space to unwind and get completely lost in the present moment. They both relieve stress and anxiety, help with symptoms of depression, strengthen your bones, and are very beneficial for healthy lung capacity and oxygen absorption.
While there are some similarities, the elements that make them very different disciplines are what makes them mutually beneficial to each other. They complement each other in a yin and yang relationship and are the perfect combination for balance and wellness. Running boosts cardiovascular fitness and yoga helps you stay injury free and improves your strength, stability, flexibility and endurance. The movement skills in yoga loosens tight spots, stabilises weak spots, increases range of motion and improve your running posture. It gives you the opportunity to connect to your body and help you move with a fluid, reactive running cadence. It also cultivates a focused and calm mindset on and off the mat, and helps prepare you for long endurance runs.
WHAT A RUNNER NEEDS
Runners need strong, stable, flexible and responsive muscles. The feet in particular need to be strong enough to weather the repeated pounding and the changing terrain for off road running. Stability of the ankle and knee will help you go the distance injury free, and as with everything in life, prevention is better than cure. Strong, stable and flexible hip flexors, quads, calves and hamstrings are important for building performance levels, and a strong and supple core will protects the back as the body twists from side to side to project the legs forward with each stride.
EXPLORING RUNNERS FLOW IN YOUR PRACTICE
Contrary to popular belief yoga is not just about stretching, it is about equal amounts of stretching and strengthening for a strong, flexible and balanced body. This sequence is not your traditional ‘yoga for runners’ sequence. It offers different way of looking at runners needs beyond a hamstring stretch with lots of ways to find strong, stable and flexible muscles and the supporting muscles around the joints. Pay particular attention to your transitions from pose to pose, they are just as important as the poses themselves and are sometimes a safer way to stretch a tight muscle rather than in a static hold. They will also give you the chance to work on your mobility and stability of the joints.
There is no single peak pose in the sequence. Each pose is there for a specific reason related to a runners needs. The single leg standing poses will build stability in your feet, ankle and knee joint; the standing poses will build strength, stability and flexibility in the hip flexors, quads, calves and hamstrings; the reclined core work and leg lifts will work build a strong and supple core; and the steaded poses will stretch out any build up of tension in the hips, inner groins. You’ll notice there is not mention of intense hamstring stretches. For most runner hamstring stretches are a frustrating endeavour that needs to be approached from a different angle. Pulling at tight muscles is the fastest way to cause injury to the connective tissues. As you flow and move the hamstring are gradually being lengthened in a more dynamic way than labouring through a sequence filled with forward folds. Here are some tips to help you navigate your way through the sequence:
Move slowly through your warm up poses in row one. Circle each joints, remember to go both directions and notice any areas that feel tighter.
In Adho Mukha Svanasana/Downward Dog pause for a few breaths on each side with one knee deeply bent and the other leg straight as you press the heel down towards the ground. Feel the stretch through the whole of the back of the leg.
Flow through you toe taps and leg lifts mini flow in row two as slow as possible and notice the ankle of the standing leg working hard to find your balance.
In Ashta Chandrasana/Eight Crescent Moon press out through your left heel, lift your thigh up and firm your back leg. Squeeze the glute of your left leg to strengthen the hamstring and open the left hip flexor. Hug your outer hips strongly to the midline for balance.
Spend at least 5-10 minutes in Savasana/Corpse Pose after you have finished the final pose a spinal twist.
Not sure what the poses is? Click on the links to bring you to the poses. To save the images on your phone click and hold down image until the ‘save image’ option appears; on Mac hold down ‘control’ and click the image to get the option box; on PC right click on the image to get the option box. Scroll down in the ‘option box’ and click ‘save image’.
Ruth Delahunty Yogaru