21 July 2009

Yoga for runners

Yoga can be extremely beneficial to anyone who runs on a regular basis. There are a number of reason why this is the case. Firstly, runners often develop injuries especially when they are training for an event, increase their distance or come to running later in life; which makes finding the correct footwear essential. This is also applicable to practising yoga, as any problems in the feet (fallen arches, high insteps, etc...) will have an effect on the alignment of the body, thus affecting postures.

Secondly, If you develop knee, back, ankle, hip or shin pain, it is advisable to look into your style of running early on, rather than to continue running with pain, as is sometimes suggested. Most runners pronate or supinate in varying degrees, and this can often be rectified by the use of appropriate training shoes and/or orthotics.

Some of the common injuries associated with running are:

  • Runner's knee
  • Shin splints
  • Achilles tendonopathy
  • Iliotibial band syndrome (ITB)
  • Lower back pain
  • Hamstring injuries

The breathing patterns of runners can sometimes affect the upper limbs. The upper back (thoracic spine) can become tight and shoulders may experience restricted movement.

Yoga poses help to bring balance to the body. Often, when in standing poses, you are asked to lift the inner arches of the feet and push into the outside edge of the foot. This strengthens both the foot and the ankle, thus engaging the inner thigh (adductor muscle). Students are encouraged to feel all four corners of the foot (something that runners do not generally do). By working on alignment, yoga poses can help to alleviate muscle imbalances.

Also, poses can be modified with props to accommodate injuries, thus allowing you to continue practising yoga while your injuries heal. Muscles are lengthened and strengthened in a yoga practice, and joints have an increased range of motion, therefore decreasing the likelihood of further injuries.

Poses that bring balance and stability to the knees, ankles and stretch the upper back and shoulders are:

  • Virabhadrasana I and II (Warrior one and two)
  • Vrksasana (Tree pose)
  • Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Downward facing dog)
  • Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining hand to foot pose)
  • Sukhasana (Easy seated pose)
  • Utthita Balasana (Extended child’s pose)
  • Virasana (Hero Pose)
  • Trianga mukhaikpada paschimottanasana (One-legged folded forward bend)
  • Bharadvajasana (Sage twist)
  • Jatara Parivartanasana (Reclining twist)

As someone who has run a marathon, half marathons and many 5km fun runs, being a yoga teacher and using these poses has enabled me to continue running relatively pain free.

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