By Faye Martins
Although running and Yoga may seem like activities that are on opposite ends of the exercise spectrum, they are complementary practices that work beautifully together. Running is a great way to aerobically exercise your whole body, at a relatively high level of intensity. One of the primary benefits to running is great cardiovascular health and muscular strength, particularly throughout your legs. Running, however, can be stressful to your joints, ligaments and muscles.
It is estimated that with each mile, your feet will strike the ground a thousand times, and this is only over a distance of one mile. If you run twenty miles a week, each foot will strike the ground twenty thousand times. This repetitive impact affects your legs, hips and feet, which can lead to stress fractures, pain, and stiffness on a regular basis. In order to counteract the stressful affects of running and maximize the positive benefits, practicing Yoga poses before and/or after your run will help you to stay limber, flexible, balanced, and less prone to injury.
Basic Sun Salutation Series
This is the best Yoga exercise for runners and an excellent series of poses. The Suns Salutations are a great way to warm up all of the major muscle groups in your body.
Stand tall with hands in namaste mudra, while your feet are hips width apart from each other, and your elbows are flared to your sides. Take three, deep complete breaths. On your fourth breath inhale and raise your arms over your head with your hands in prayer position. Look up at your hands and feel the stretch all along the sides of your torso, arms and shoulders. With your exhale, bring your hands down past your hips and forward to touch your toes. If your hamstrings are tight, you may need to bend your knees a little. Hold for ten seconds while breathing evenly.
Now, move into a suspended push-up position, this position is called Plank position because you maintain the straightness of your body like a board. Hold for five to ten seconds. The holding will build upper body strength very quickly. With an exhale, come down onto your mat and inhale up into a gentle cobra pose with your hands next to your chest, elbows in, and palms flat on the floor. Only come up to where you are comfortable. Hold for ten seconds stretching out the front of your chest, throat and shoulders.
Slowly come down and push back into an inverted “V” shape. This pose is called Downward Facing Dog, just like the pose a dog does when he or she wakes up from a nap. Keep your hands shoulder distance apart, fingers spread out, elbows slightly cracked (not locked), and your upper arms gently rotated a little bit inwards towards your chest. This pose will stretch out your hamstrings, Achilles tendons, back, shoulders and arms. Hold for five breaths.
Slowly bring your feet to the front of your mat and come up to your original standing position with your arms overhead. As you exhale, bring your hands slowly back down to your sides. This is one round of the Basic Sun Salutation. Repeat three to five times. It is a great way to warm up prior to your run.
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