"I tried your yoga class because my left hip was so incredibly stiff that I was taking six Advil before I ran each day," said yoga student, Helene Cohen. "I'd tried the chiropractor with zero results. After years of high-impact activity, primarily running on a daily basis, I found that I was doing more damage than good. I am by nature extremely driven, focused, and time-conscious. Yoga has allowed me to continue running (Advil-free), take a deep breath and truly enjoy my workouts. The first time I did pigeon in your class I cried. I counted the breaths and couldn't wait to be done. I've come a long way!"
Cohen's experience is not uncommon. Runners often suffer from overuse injuries because of the repetitive nature of the movement in one plane of motion. Over time, this process causes imbalances in the muscles and joints. For instance, tight hamstrings and hip flexors will cause the body to recruit from other joints, joints not intended for bearing extra loads. Running tightens and shortens the muscles and joints without corresponding lengthening and flexibility.
Common running injuries include those involving the illiotibial band (ITB), knees, hamstrings, hip flexors, and shoulders. Often, these injuries are directly linked to lack of flexibility, poor core strength, and misalignment. Yoga is the perfect remedy.
A well-rounded yoga practice includes dynamic flexibility training, core stabilization and strengthening, and balance work. Yoga not only helps you relax tight muscles, but also calm anxious and overstressed minds. By focusing on these vital elements, yoga can help you recover faster after workouts, open up the tight areas that hinder performance, improve range of motion, and develop mental focus and concentration.
A simple way to integrate yoga is to perform your short sessions pre- or post-run. These are three of my favorite poses to open up your hips, hamstrings, and torso. Try them!
Start in Downward Dog. Lift your right leg up and sweep it through to your mat, folding it and placing it on the mat. Keep your right foot flexed to protect the knee. Your left leg is straight behind you with the toes pointed. Keep your hips square and level, with the left hipbone pressing toward your right foot. Inhale and press your hands into the mat, getting as much length in the spine as possible.
Exhale as you walk your hands forward on the mat, coming out to your edge. This might be on the elbows, with the arms extended all the way out or right where you started. Hold this pose for one minute. Remember to breath! Switch sides.
This pose is a rotation of the spine combined with an intense hip flexor stretch on the straight leg and a deep stretch of the outer hip of the bent leg.
Stand in Mountain pose with your feet together. Lunge your right foot forward and make sure that your right knee is directly over your right ankle so that your right shin is perpendicular to the ground. Balancing on the ball of the left foot, press the left leg straight. Draw your hands together at your heart, twist from the waist and hook the left triceps on the outside of your right thigh, rotating to gaze up over your right shoulder. Make sure to keep your spine long and chest lifted off of our thigh. Keep pressing the palms together. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on other side.
This pose is excellent for opening up tight hamstrings, the illiotibial bands and promotes balance.
Stand in Mountain pose with your feet together. Step your left foot back about three feet and angle the back foot out slightly. Keep both hips facing front, squaring the hips. Draw your hands behind your back, bending the arms and clasping the elbows. Inhale as you look up, opening the chest, exhale, hinging from the hips, keeping your spine long as you fold forward over your straight right leg. To modify, slightly bend the front leg, working toward straight. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on second side.
Claire Petretti-Marti has been practicing, studying, and teaching yoga since 1999. Like many fitness enthusiasts, she was initially drawn to yoga for its physical benefits of strength, balance, and flexibility. Once Claire realized that serenity, peace of mind, and a general sense of happiness were predominant results of the practice, she was hooked.
A RYT-500 Yoga Alliance instructor, Claire teaches a dynamic vinyasa flow with the intention of creating a moving meditation. She encourages students to find the lightness and the joy in their own practice, both on and off the mat. She is a certified Pilates instructor, a Reiki Level 2 Practitioner and also holds a NASM-certification for personal training. She has significant experience with spinal injuries and frequently works with students recuperating from injuries. She leads international yoga retreats every year. Mind-body fitness is her passion.
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