There's no denying, for us yoga is our favourite full body work out, not only do we get to stretch-out and strengthen-up, yoga helps us calm our minds. While there certainly is an option to amp up our practice, yoga is never quite the same as the cardio intensity of running. So for all our fellow runners out there, whether you're a veteran pacer, just trying to start a new routine, or have signed up for an upcoming race, here are our favourite asanas for helping out our stride.
Yoga helps runners prevent injury and improve performance through strength and flexibility. This sequence is just the tip of the iceberg, all yoga is great for running really, but if you're really feeling tight in your legs try out Healthy & Happy Hips Sequence, or nourish your lower back with our 5 Yoga Poses For Lower Back Pain blog.
Start out by warming up with a few rounds of soft Syura Namaskara (sun salutations), for a long deep stretch we recommend repeating each pose 3-5 times holding them for 5 breaths, for a dynamic warm-up you can speed up the sequence in time with your breaths, but don't go so fast that you no longer receive the benefits of the postures. Feel free to play around with the postures and the sequence, there are always variations that can be made based on injury, pain, or increasing the challenge.
1. Crane Pose - Utkatasana
From your Syura Namaskara, come to Tadasana (Mountain Pose), taking a deep breath center yourself, prepare for Utkatasana (Chair Pose). Inhale, swing your arms forward and to the sky, engage your core, bend your knees and push your hips back like you're going to sit on a chair. Try to create a right angle from your torso to the tops of your thighs, keep your thighs parallel to each other, push down into your heels for stability.
2. High Lunge, Crescent Variation
A variation on the Warrior Pose, this is a good transition into the full Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I), If you're comfortable with Virabhadrasana I, go for it, otherwise, stick with this one.
From Utkatasana, straighten up, and stretch back into Adho Mmukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog). Step your leading foot forward between your hands. Keeping your knee directly over your ankle, aim to form a right angle at your knee. Keeping your back leg straight and engaged, pressing down on the ball of your foot for stability. Straightening up your torso, lift your arms out to the side, palms up. Try to join your palms, whilst keeping your shoulders down. Don't push your ribs out in front. If you can't get your hand to touch, or your leading knee to 90 degrees, don't stress, just work with what you have and breath deep and steadily into the posture.
3. Warrior II - Virabhadra II
Come from either Adho Mmukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog) or Tadasana (Mountain Pose), step your back leg back, line up the arch of your back foot with the heel of your front foot. Your front foot should be aiming straight ahead, while your back foot is angled toes facing out to the edge of the mat. Lift your arms to extend straight out in front and behind you, keep them in-line with your shoulders, turning your torso to assist the movement. Keep your shoulders down. Bend your front knee as close to 90 degrees as you can. For a strong pose with a deep stretch, you may need to slide your back leg out a little more. Don't let your front knee go over the ankle. To engage the back leg, activate the thigh muscles, push down through the whole foot and gently rotate the thigh out from the hip.
4. Extended Triangle Pose - Utthita Trikonasana
You can transition to this pose from Virbhadra II (Warrior II), or come to Adho Mmukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog) or Tadasana (Mountain Pose) in between. Take a similar leg position to Virbhdadra II, only this time keep your front leg straight and your heels in line. Again, raise your arms straight out in front and behind you, keeping them in-line with your shoulders, and turning your torso. Exhale and reach forward with your torso, don't bend your back, move from the hips. Stay in line with your front leg. Ground your back leg, and twist your torso up so as to create a flat plane in line with your legs. Slowly bend over the front leg more, you may need a block on the back-side of your front leg, or you can put your front hand on your shin. Gently turn your head to look towards the sky.
5. Low Lunge - Anjaneyasana
From Adho Mmukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog), bring one leg forward, bend the knee, aligning the knee over the ankle. Lower the back knee to the ground. Place your hands on the inside of your front leg, slide your back leg until you feel a groin stretch. You can stay here, push your hips further towards the ground, or rise into a Crescent variation. To do the Cresent variation, raise your arms to the side, palms up and bring them together above your head, gently bend back, pushing your hips forward slightly. If the initial posture is too strong, try placing some blocks under your hands.
6. Goddess Pose - Utkata Konasana
Starting in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) at the top of your mat, take a large step back. Turn to the side of your mat, aim to have your feet just wider than hip-width, turn your toes out 45 degrees. Bend your knees deeply, bringing your hips down evenly between your knees to the height of your knees (or as low as you can go). Don't stick your butt out. Keeping a straight back, pull your tailbone down. Bring your palms together in front of your face, with your elbows at 90 degrees, you can keep them here, or interlace your forearms.
7. Side Lunge - Skandasana
Don't be taken aback, Skandasana is a relatively simple pose that can be adjusted to all levels of flexibility. Set up the posture like you did with Utkata Konasana, standing legs apart facing the side of your mat. You will want to open your legs further this time though. Trying to maintain a straight back, bend into Prasarita Padottanasana, a wide-legged forward bend. Bend one knee, move your weight to that side. Keeping the other leg straight, flex the straight leg's foot so you can roll over onto your heel and into a deep stretch. You can do pretty much any arm posture variation which you find comfortable, you can put them to the ground for stability, bring your palms together at your chest, or push your hand out. Slide from one side to the other, beyond the stretch, the challenge lies in keeping your butt down as you slide from side to side.
For variations on these poses as well as many more poses to help your running performance just ask Salt Power Yoga. This August we're proud to be providing the warm-up and cool-down exercises for Gladstone's Botanic to Bridge fun run. Register Now!