Running is the Marmite of fitness; people seem to either love it or hate it. Typically, most yogis aren't runners, usually for the flack that running has received regarding damage to the knees (and we yogis take our knees very seriously). But there are many, many yogis and non-yogis alike who do run and love it. We recently talked to avid runner, Thalia Staikos, a Philadelphia-based lawyer and general busy-body about running and yoga.
"I've been regularly running 5-7km several times a week for a few years now," Thalia tells us. "I love running, physically and psychologically. It's true that you get a runner's high when you finish a run; your blood is pumping and you breathe deeper into your chest. The only problem is the stiffness that accompanies running a few hours later. In particular, my hip flexors get very stiff and even ache when I walk. This hinders consecutive running days. The first few minutes of a run can be rather painful. Additionally, I have a weak lower back that is prone to muscle spasms and stiffness after runs which hinders my running and even my walking. I've never tried yoga but heard that it could help with soreness and make my runs more pleasant by removing discomfort from the previous run." We looked into the matter and found the following 12 best yoga steps for runners who face the same difficulties, which can be equally as effective and beneficial if done before or after a run.
Before doing any sort of exercise, it's best to start off with a little warm-up. Five sun salutations will do the trick nicely.
A great pose to stretch the side of the body, twisting to increase mobility in the spine and lengthening the hamstrings, preparing them for the run or stretching them out afterwards.
The name says it all really; this pose intensely stretches the hamstrings (which are imperative to running). Don't overdo this stretch; fold forward until you feel the pull, and hold the pose there. (Alternative arms can be hands holding either elbow.)
Another pose for the hamstrings, but this time focusing more on the inside of the legs. This forward bend is also great for the back if you make sure to fold from the waist and avoid rounding the back.
A yummy stretch for the spine and hamstrings alike, this can be performed with bent knees or with a strap for those who can't reach the feet. Check out our Paschimottanasana post for more details.
This pose is as effective as Paschimottanasana (point 5 above), but has the added benefit of isolating one leg at a time for a more focused exercise.
A great pose for the hip flexors which also aims to increase flexibility to the inner thighs, groin and knees.
Another pose for the hip flexors, which can also be incredibly relaxing if you close your eyes and let gravity do the work, gently drawing the leg in towards the chest.
Now we're talking! Legs up the wall is one of the more relaxing yoga poses and is great for runners as it gets the blood flowing the opposite way, reduced water retention, swelling and soreness.
Lie back in Reclining Cobbler's Pose and let the legs flop open with the soles of the feet together. Without pressuring the knees to open up, allow their own weight to pull them down towards the floor.
Finally, getting into a nice Child's Pose feels awesome after a run, stretching the back and spine and letting the body relax. Close your eyes and enjoy.
Our lovely guinea pig, Thalia, tried and tested the above poses and we are glad to report, found that they helped her. "After my run on Friday, I tried the suggested yoga poses and they made me feel looser and lighter," says Thalia. " I didn't realise just how stiff and achy my back had become from not stretching properly after running. After repeating the poses, however, I felt a major release in the tension in the lower sides of my back and there was a noticeable release in tension in my lower back, which made the following run on Saturday much easier and less painful right from the start." Although very different, it has often been suggested that yoga and running can actually work quite well together, like yin and yang. If you love running, give these yoga poses a try and let us know how they affect your running. Here's to bringing these two much loved activities together. Do you have any other yoga for runners tips/tricks that we have missed out? Please let us know. We would love to hear from you. Featured image courtesy of yogastorynwa, original photograph by smallbutfierceyogaandfitness.