Be a Better Runner and Athlete with 7 Basic Yoga Stretches
Hitting the pavement running through streets, trails or treadmill sure is one of the best ways to tone and supercharge your body and muscles! Science shows that it is one of the best exercises people can do for a full body workout, but running can also be hard on the body, and too much of a good thing may end up leaving your joints a little tender. People who chose to run on asphalt can testify that the body needs a little tender loving care after a good jaunt.
Stretching is great for the body, but sometimes not enough. That is why the practice of yoga, blending flexibility, stretching, and the breath together into one is my choice of “recovery” after and in between runs. Your muscles, ligaments, and tendons rebound faster so there’s less chance of injury, less soreness, and speedier recovery. Yoga poses also simultaneously strengthen muscles in the core, back, and arms to improve posture, helping you to run more efficiently. Try dedicating 15 to 20 minutes on these poses after a run when muscles are warm, or practice them on your off days. The best is to sign up for weekly yoga classes for a deeper, total-body stretch.
So let’s talk about the breath, because most people don’t realize that the breath is just as important as the physical bending of the body, and the breath is the foundation of the concept yoga. A small portion of yoga (the philosophy) involves Asana (posture) and Pranayama (breath control). Although there are many benefits to the philosophy of yoga, these two (postures and breath control) are the main focus of yoga for cross-training runners.
The breath is a remarkable tool for calming. By paying attention to and practicing the ujjayi breathing (see our article on ujjayi breath) from your diaphragm, people start to enter that semi-meditative and healing state of being. To properly breath with the ujjayi breath, gently constrict the throat, creating a little resistance to the airflow and producing a soothing sound when you inhale and exhale. Some compare it to the “ocean” sound you hear in a seashell; others call it “Darth Vader breath.” Either way, fill your belly with gentle healing, deep breaths.
Yoga has many other benefits as well, including improved body flexibility, performance, stress reduction, attainment of inner peace, and self-realization.
I have noticed that with my yoga practice, my hip flexors are not as tight after running. Hips are often a huge problem area for runners and simple yoga exercises that help to increase hip flexibility include sitting on the floor more often. The hip joint is capable of an enormous range of movement, none of which is encouraged by chairs. Sitting on the ground, grass or sand helps to “ground” us as well, ridding our bodies of negative electromagnetivity. Just sitting crossed-legged rotates the thigh bones, stretches the inner thighs, and flexes the knees. For beginners uncomfortable on the floor at first, sit on the edge of firmly bolded blankets or on a cushion and let the outsides of the knees sink freely down to the ground.
The following are my favorite yoga stretches that benefit runners
(and most athletes, for that matter) and parts of their bodies that impact running and may, not only make you a stronger and a more efficient runner, it could possibly make you more agile and align your body better.
1. Standing forward bend, or fold with “ragdoll” arms, or wide leg standing forward bend
2. Butterfly/cobbler stretch
3. Downward facing dog or downward facing dog with leg lift
4. Runners stretch
6. Lunge with Quad Stretch
7. Child’s Pose