Yoga for Runners – Camel Pose

Featured imageStretches: Pectoral and abdominal muscles, deltoids, biceps, hip flexors, quadriceps.

Strenghtens: Trapezius, serratus and rhomboids muscles, psoas, glutes.

Main Focus: Draw the shoulder blades away from the ears and down your back as you lift your heart.

Our daily lives pull us forward and cause us to hunch: sitting for hours at our desks, driving, texting, etc. From this physical and emotional space, backbends can be uncomfortable and anxiety-provoking. And yet it we gently encourage our bodies through the correct alignment and keep coming back, we discover long-forgotten space in our heart center for joy, love, and happiness.

Camel has become one of my favorite postures as of late. Having my hands on my feet gives me a sense of grounding and calm, even as I reach into tight spaces in my heart, which can feel vulnerable.

Correctly aligned back bends are critical for runners, as hunching over can create poor running biomechanics. Back bends create awareness of posture, and strengthen the postural muscles that help keep us running tall and strong. They also help stretch the front of the body, such as hip flexors, and quads.

Alignment:

  • Kneel on the mat with your knees and feet hip-width apart and the hips over the knees. Press the toenails, feet, and shins into the mat.
  • Tuck the pelvis under slightly (Michael Jackson hips!), pull the belly button to spine and lower ribs down to lengthen the lower back.
  • Shimmy the shoulder blades together and away from the ears. Then place your hands on the back of the pelvic, fingers pointing down. Inhale and lift your heart, while firming the shoulder blades against your back ribs.
  • Lean back while keeping the pelvis over the knees and the lower back long. Rest the hands on your heels or on blocks placed at the feet to make the posture more accessible.
  • Press your hands into your heels (or blocks) with the fingers pointing back towards the toes, and lift the heart. Soften the neck and drop your head back

Modifications:

  • Tucking the toes under or reaching for blocks placed next to the heels will make the pose a little more accessible.

Variations:

  • As you back bend, keep the pelvis over the knees. I find that practicing this posture with my thighs and my pelvis against the wall helps me create the body awareness I need for good alignment.

Yoga for Runners – Tree Pose

SNari Tree Posetrengthens: Feet, ankles, calves. Quadriceps, piriformis, gluteus. Postural muscles. Improves sense of balance.

Stretches: Hip of the lifted leg, groin.

Main Focus: Press the foot of the standing leg into the mat and press the foot of the lifted leg into the standing leg (avoid the knee!). The engagement of both legs will make balancing easier.

As runners, proprioception, our internal sense of our body position and motion, is incredibly important, as we dodge pot holes and puddles, gawking pedestrians in the city, and roots and rocks on the trails. Balance training is a good way of improving one’s proprioception and coordination and preventing injuries, such as ankle sprains.

Tree pose tackles it all: it strengthens the foot, ankle, and calf of the standing leg as well as the postural muscles; it allows you to stretch the groin and the hip of the lifted leg; and it challenges and improves your balance, helping you OM to your PR. Read more for aligment cues and modifications.

Yoga for Runners – Boat Pose

Strengthens: Abdominal muscles, hip flexors, and spine.Nari Navasana

Contraindications: Low back or neck injury. Late term pregnancy.

Main Focus: Balance on the “tripod” of the sitting bones and the tailbone, lifting the torso and the legs up. This will ensure correct alignment, and protect your lower back.

There is one thing runners love to do, and that is running. But to keep doing it for a long time, keep ourselves injury free, and get faster and better, we know we need to cross-train. A strong core is vital for a good running form, healthy biomechanics to prevent overuse injuries, and improvement in performance.

Boat pose gets deep into your core, strengthens the hip flexors, and can be customized to work your obliques as well. Follow my cues below, modify to make this posture more accessible, or consider challenging yourself with Boat Pose Twists, and OM to your PR. Read more for aligment cues and modifications.

Yoga for Runners – Standing Forward Fold

Nari Standing Forward FoldStretches: Mainly hamstrings. Also calves, knee flexors, hips and lower back.

Contraindications: Low back or hamstring injuries. Late term pregnancy. High blood pressure.

Main Focus: Spinal length. The rest of the lengthening through the back body will come with practice.

As runners we get used to a certain degree of soreness, to muscle tightness, we stop noticing minor aches and pains. And while some of the time this is innocuous, small aches can lead to misalignments while we run, which can then lead to major issues. This is why stretching is so critical to us.

Hamstring tightness can cause lower back pain, knee joint inflammation, and even foot injuries. So consider the time you spend on hamstring stretches an investment into your running future. Follow my cues below for Standing Forward Fold, one of the most effective hamstring stretches, and OM to your PR. Read more for aligment cues and modifications.

Yoga for Runners – Downward Facing Dog

Nari Downward Facing DogStretches: Soles of feet and fascia, Achilles tendons, calves, knee flexors, hamstrings, hips and lower back, elbows, shoulders.

Main Focus: Spinal length. The rest of the lengthening through the back body will come with practice.

Downward Facing Dog is a staple posture in any kind of Yoga class, often used as a place to rest and catch your breath. But for runners, it can be all the more meaningful: it can help with many common ailments, such as plantar fasciitis, calf and hamstring tightness, IT band tightness, lower back soreness, etc. It can improve your running form by decompressing the spine and correcting your posture.

But Down Dog can also be a lot more work for runners than for your average bear: while it is an excellent stretch for all of this back body tightness, practicing Down Dog can also be a really uncomfortable experience.

So follow my alignment cues here, modify to make the posture more accessible, practice it consistently, and OM to your PR. Read more for alignment cues and modifications.