I was initially drawn to yoga because I thought it would help me become a better runner and counter act some of the damage that running was having on my body. It did both of those things,…and so much more! Yoga helped me realize, eventually, that I was very attached to running and sought out races and medals to feed my ego (I blogged a little about that here). I am still working on finding a healthy balance with my running.
However, yoga truly did help me with my running, particularly with working through injuries I was experiencing.
Some of the best poses I have found helpful as a runner are below. Please understand, I nearly despise ALL these poses. They are confrontational and uncomfortable, mostly because these are the parts of my body that hurt the most. However, I know it is important not to shy away from poses that make you confront those scared parts of yourself. I work in these poses to BREATHE and calm my mind, to sit through the discomfort and modify as needed.
1) Foot stretch: This pose helped me so much with plantar fasciatis. It’s done by curling your toes under and sitting back on your ankles. It looks easy enough, but pretty soon it starts to become pretty intense! I used to have to come out of it after a few breaths, but have been able to hold it much longer, lately. I try to remember to do this pose before and after each run.
2) Ankle stretch: Similar to the previous pose, this is a small movement that looks easy, but quickly catches up with you. It gives a nice stretch to the front of the feet and shins, an area that does not often get stretched. A big thank-you to one of my favorite teachers, Lisa, for introducing me to this pose!
Place the feet completely flat on the mat and sit back on the ankles. Slowly, lift up the knees.
3) Dragon pose: This is typically a pose done in yin class, that is held for 5-8 minutes, on each side. Anytime it is cued, I audibly groan and have to psyche myself up for it. I am working on having a better attitude towards this pose.
This pose is a DEEP hip opener and reminds me how tight my hips and lower back are. I utilize lots of props in this pose to help me out. A good description of this pose can be found here.
I always place a folded blanket under my planted knee, since I have so much knee sensitivity. I also bring my elbows to blocks, since I cannot sink low enough to plant my forearms on the mat.
As much as I hate to admit it, this pose really helps me out after a run, to avoid lower back and hip pain.
4) Pigeon pose: I find people love or hate this pose, and I fall into the latter category. It’s another one that makes me face my tight hips and try to slowly stretch them. I try to hold this pose for about 5 minutes after I run, to stretch out any tension that may have developed.
Your leg is bent and attempting lay parallel with the front of your mat (mine is not quite there yet). Working to keep your hips level, you begin to sink into the appropriate depth to find a good stretch, but not hate your life.
I take advantage of all props in this pose, as well. I use the blanket under my knee and sometimes, a block under my thigh, if it feels like I can use the extra support (I do not always take this option, it depends on the day and the side, my right is a little more flexible than my left). I also use a bolster to prop myself up, since I am still working on the flexibility to get all the way to the floor.