I often get asked when I fell in love with yoga and knew I wanted to teach it. It’s a pretty straight answer. I was training for my first half marathon. Looking back, like most of us can to our early days of running, I did everything wrong. I didn’t get the right fit, the right apparel, or the proper training plan; but, even with all that, I felt infinitely better the days I ran than the days I did not.
Working at an opera management agency full time and a running shop part time, I had to squeeze in miles at non ideal times, usually my lunch break. I often complained about the pain I was in. I wasn’t cross training or taking recovery days and the idea of stretching for more than two mins seemed like a time I could be logging miles. One day, my friend and colleague finally convinced me to take a lunch yoga class instead of my mid day run. And it was that class, that day, that I fell in love with yoga and knew I wanted one day to teach it.
Yoga does what running often takes away from runners. It puts you back in your body. Instead of checking the watch, the ground for potholes and everything else that comes along on the run with you, you can take time to see where you go and where you don’t go. To adjust and educate yourself about yourself and to take that into your running.
Running is still something I do most days. It is a part of my life and God willing, it always will be. And yoga is too. My love for the practice turned into passion and passion turned into a career, but more importantly, yoga gives me the tools and techniques to put into my running, my life and my doing.
Here are some great tools for your toolbox. Yoga poses for runners that you can incorporate in just a few minutes that will help you gain insight on your body. To better your run and maybe more.
For this sequence of poses, all you will need is a wall, a thick blanket or towel. Optional: one yoga block and one bolster.
How: Place two fists between your feet to measure your hips width distance. After this, bring a blanket underneath your heels so you are on a downhill slope. Bend your knees A LOT. Let your torso make good contact to your thighs. The arms can dangle or you can grab opposite elbows behind your knees. Keep your butt bones at the wall and perhaps, in time, the butt bones can slide a little bit up the wall. But keep the torso on the thighs!
*Level up: tie a yoga strap (or long tie) around your back and and behind the thighs*
Why: Hamstrings, baby! We keep the torso on the thighs to ensure we are not overstretching the hamstrings and behind the knee joint. If you need to bend your needs a lot, GOOD. If you don’t need to bend much, FINE! Once your torso leaves the thighs you are entering risky territory. And you know how much we runners love hamstring injuries…
(Kidding, next to plantar facisitis, it’s the worst.)
How: Start in a plank pose with your feet at the wall. All four corners of your feet should meet the baseboard with the toes tucked; wrists will be under the shoulders. Press your hips up and back and bend your knees, again, A LOT. Embody a dog and stick your butt bones up to the sky. Externally rotate your shoulders and if you are really bendy, keep a tiny bend in your elbow. Instead of thinking about pushing your hands in the ground, think about pushing down to lift off, sending your hips towards the ceiling. Keep your head between your arms.
Why: Dog pose is often used to relieve the hamstrings. Doing a dog this way, frees up your back. This is excellent for runners who deal shoulder, neck pain. And remember, downward facing dog is an inversion, it can be so nice to flip yourself upside down after a run.
How: Just like the previous pose, start in a plank pose with your feet at the wall. Come into downdog at the wall. Look forward and lunge your right foot forward. Keep your back foot at a 90 degree angle. Make sure your front leg is at a 90 degree angle with the knee stacking above the ankle. Bend the knee and make sure you are at max bend, the knee will stay stacked over the ankle. Bring your arms up and let your head be right between your arms. Feel your left hip shift ever so slightly to the left so that you are not sitting in your right hip. Use the foot in the wall to encourage the left hip forward.
Why: This pose gives you a backbend and opens up the hip flexors. The opposite elbow hold gives you the space to open up across the collar bones.
How: Sit so that your right hip is six inches or so close to the wall. As you shift your hips to the left, let your legs swing up the wall. Bring the legs straight up the wall or even in the knees bent out for Badda Konasana legs. Do not keep your legs flat against the wall. Keep yourself at an angle so that you avoid overstretching.
*Level up: bring bolster or stack of blankets under your sacrum.*
Why: Another inversion to change the direction of blood flow from feet towards the heart. It is a wonderful grounding posture to end your practice. Bring your arms to a cactus to bring more breath in.