Posted on September 1st, 2011
Question: Hi, I was hoping to receive a suggestion for the best yoga practices prior to running. I am at a beginning yoga level (and an intermediate runner) who usually does a series of stretches before and after a run. Thanks so much for your help.
Answer: When we look at running and other repetitive, endurance style activities, we want to address how we can maximize efficiency and improve on energy consumption. If the joints involved in producing a locomotor activity have muscle tissues that are restricting via excessive tension and tightness, the muscles have to utilize extra energy to generate the motion at those joints. For example, if the hamstrings are tight, each time the hip flexors engage to flex the hip, the hip flexors have to work harder to counter the resistance of the hamstrings. Therefore, by creating more freedom and flexibility around the joints, one will see improved performance and energy conservation.
Yoga acts as a great tool for athletes in offering renewed balance of strength and flexibility. Additional benefits to doing Yoga for runners and athletes:
*improved focus and concentration especially through breathing patterns
*improved core and body awareness for improved action mechanics
*improved recover time through quicker removal of lactic acid and improved sleep
*injury prevention by maintaining better range of motion of the joints
*improved mental performance through enhanced visualization skills and stress reduction tools
In terms of doing a yoga practice prior to running, I recommend that you do practices of shorter duration that focus on spine, core, and pelvic warming. Avoid practices that are vigorous, especially for the legs so energy is conserved for your running. Enjoy practices that lightly expand the limbs and the dominant muscles involved in running: calf muscles (gastronemius and soleus), hamstrings, hip flexors, quadriceps, gluteal muscles, and external rotators.
Shorter, light practices will warm the body without fatiguing key muscle groups for running later. The slow, internalizing approach will deepen your awareness in creating efficient breathing patterns. With the final relaxations, please take extra attention to remain awake and present; practice your sense of connection, visualizing your body relaxing and filling with energy - falling asleep will make running more lagging and lacking in energy.
I recommend that you follow-up your running with ample extended yoga flows to target the hamstrings, external rotators, gluts, quadriceps, and calf muscles. You may not be able to practice the same day which is okay, but take full advantage of longer practices to flush out lactic acid, to build core strength, and to rebalance any unwanted dominance of tight tissues. You will find all of the Beginner, Gentle and many All Levels classes offer this full body re-harmonization. Also try exploring the Yin Yoga classes - the stillness offered in these classes will be a great meditative tool for connecting in your running practice.
Postures that I particularly recommend for runners:
*seated One Leg Forward Bend (Janu Sirsasana) - great for isolating one set of hamstrings at a time
*Half Twist, Pigeon pose and Cow Face Pose - great for targeting the outer hip, gluteal, and external rotators
*Warrior 1 pose, Low lunge/crescent pose - gets right into the hip flexors especially when the abdominal muscles are locked
*Downward facing dog pose - ease into the calf muscles...feels great to walk the heels up and down one at a time to massage out tension from the calf and hamstring muscles
I also strongly recommend that you try some of the breathing meditations that will help improve tapping into your aerobic energy system and lung capacity.
Expert Q & A provided by My Yoga Online teacher and Co-Founder, Kreg Weiss.
Tags: Yoga Tips, Yoga, Kreg Weiss, yoga and athletes, flexibility, performance, recovery, yoga expert, running tips, yoga for runners, lactic acid
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