Work it out: Yoga for runners (column) | SummitDaily.com

Work it out: Yoga for runners (column)

Pinna Gallant
Guest Column

Runners know the impact that miles and miles on the road have on your body. Plantar fasciitis; fatigued hamstrings, quads and calves; tight hip flexors; sore joints and aching lower back are all conditions which many runners endure. Runners with a regular yoga practice will find that these discomforts will reduce and some may even disappear as yoga builds strength, flexibility and balance. In addition, yoga offers athletes of all types an opportunity to increase mental focus and discipline. Yoga will also enhance your ability to connect with, understand and ultimately train your body to move in harmony with your mind (even when your body is adamant that it doesn't want to do what you're asking it to do).

TOE POSE

When asked about pain/discomfort that runners endure, the first condition that Vertical Runner owner Dean Eastham mentioned is plantar fasciitis. An equal-opportunity condition for both road and trail runners, this inflammation in the ligament that runs from your heel to your toes ranges from minor to crippling and can last for days or even years. How to avoid it? "Properly fitting shoes are an important part of plantar fasciitis prevention and recovery," said Eastham. In addition to the right shoes, toe pose can help. Toe pose provides a deep stretch across the bottom of the foot and into the toes, helping prevent the worst symptoms. As with any injury, seek medical attention for any acute or chronic discomfort before adopting a treatment plan.

Kneel on a folded blanket or towel.

Bring your hands in front of your knees and lean forward.

Lift your feet off the floor and tuck your toes under (you might need to use your hands to tuck the pinkie toes).

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Sit on your heels.

Hold for 5-10 breaths.

ANKLE STRETCH

A complementary posture to follow Toe Pose, this posture will open the tops of your feet, ankles and shins.

From Toe Pose:

Lean forward onto your hands and uncurl your toes.

Sit on your heels.

Place your hands behind you.

Lean back onto your hands, lifting your knees and shins off the floor.

Hold for 5-10 breaths.

CRESCENT MOON

As active as we are in Summit County, many of us still sit for large amounts of time every day, creating short and tight hip flexors. The demanding nature of running will place even more stress on hip flexors, creating dense tight muscles which can ultimately create discomfort in hips and lower back. Try Crescent Moon to relax hips and thighs. If you find kneeling uncomfortable, put a folded blanket or towel under your back knee.

Start with your hands and knees on the floor, hips directly over your knees.

Bring your right foot between your hands.

Bring your hands to your right thigh.

Let your hips sink down and forward until you feel a stretch through your back thigh and hip.

Your knee can bend out in front of your ankle, but it shouldn't go right or left.

If you feel comfortable and want to go further, lift your arms overhead and add a back bend, but keep your core engaged to protect your low back.

Hold for 5-10 breaths.

Relax and repeat on opposite side.

HALF SPLITS

Hamstrings and glutes — the muscles opposite your hip flexors — also suffer from the seated nature of daily life as well as the demands of running. Take some time to lengthen these muscles and the connective tissue around them.

From Crescent Moon:

Straighten your right leg and flex your right foot.

Keeping your right heel firmly on the mat, encourage your right hip crease backward until you feel a strech through the back of your right leg.

Hold for 5-10 breaths.

Relax and repeat on opposite side.

Adding a twist will allow an acute release through the IT band:

Place a support under your left hand. This can be a block or a book.

Keeping your right leg straight, reach your right hand up.

Hold for 5-10 breaths.

Relax and repeat on opposite side.

DRAGON

This posture is more organic than many — feel free to sink into it and move in whatever way your hips need to release tension and increase range of motion. To protect your knees, keep your front knee pointing the same direction as your front foot.

Start on hands and knees. Bring your right foot to the outside of your right hand.

Slide your left knee back until you feel a good stretch through your left thigh and hip flexor.

Sink your hips down and forward. (To intensify the posture, curl your left toes under and lift up your left knee. This will build strength in quads and glutes while putting additional pressure on hip flexors.)

Hold for 5-10 breaths.

Relax and repeat on opposite side.

Option to add a quad stretch:

With the back knee resting on the mat, reach backward with the opposite hand and capture the foot of your back leg.

Gently pull your heel toward your seat.

Let your hips sink down and forward throughout.

If your back foot is out of reach, use a towel or strap to hook the foot and encourage it closer to your glute.

Hold for 5-10 breaths.

Relax and repeat on opposite side.

RECLINING HAND TO FOOT

A great stretch for the entire back side of your leg, you may feel this posture in low back, glutes, hamstrings, calves or even the soles of your feet. For another IT band stretch, keep both hips on the floor as you bring the elevated leg across your body.

Step one (for hamstrings)

Lay on the floor with both legs extended.

Bring your right knee into your chest and wrap a strap around the ball of the right foot (you can also use a tie, a belt or a T-shirt).

Extend the right foot up to the ceiling.

Slide your hands down the straps until your elbows, triceps and shoulders can relax on the floor.

Press your left hamstring down and press the back of your right knee forward.

Take 5 to 10 breaths.

Step two (for IT band)

Cross the stretching leg to the left at a diagonal until you feel a stretch on the outside of your right leg. Keep both hips grounded down — if you cross too far, your right hip will pop up off the floor.

Hold here 5 to 10 more breaths.

Repeat both variations on the opposite side.

LEGS UP THE WALL

A classic posture to release tension in the lower body, legs up the wall is a simple posture which is comfortable for most people. It promotes the flow of blood away from your legs, which then of course means that fresh, oxygen-filled blood comes in right after it to nourish your muscles. If you've been doing anything that brings significant amounts of blood to your legs (like running) or if blood flow to/from your feet has been constricted (like in ski boots), this is a great option for you. I also suggest trying this when under stress, having a tough time sleeping or after any long travel, especially flying.

Take a fetal position on your right hip, with your knees close to your chest and your hips a few inches from the wall.

Roll onto your back and extend your legs up the wall.

If your hips are not completely resting on the floor, back away from the wall a few inches until they are.

Hold for two or three minutes.

Add a deep stretch for glutes and hip rotators by crossing one ankle over the other knee.

Cross your right ankle over your left knee and flex your right foot.

Slide your left foot down the wall and press your right thigh forward until you feel a stretch in your right glute/hip.

Relax your head and shoulders to the ground.

Hold for 5-10 breaths.

Repeat on the opposite side.

Pinna Gallant is the owner of Peak Yoga, Dillon's only dedicated yoga studio. An alignment-based yoga studio, Peak Yoga offers classes to nourish your body, mind and spirit. You can find out more about Peak Yoga at PeakYogaStudio.com.

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