We all know that yoga is a good way to stretch and recover in between your training sessions. But which exercises in particular work best for runners? We asked yoga teacher and triathlete Sarah Odell. For all postures, aim to hold for a minimum of 30 seconds or five deep breaths.
The Butterfly is really good for opening up the hips. It stretches the inner thighs and brings release to the lower back, particularly if you have tight hamstrings. If you find it difficult to keep your back straight, sit on a cushion, block or book to raise your hips so they’re higher than your knees. In the image below I’m sitting on a block.
Banarasana: the lunge (variation 1)
This is great for tight hip flexors and hamstrings. Make sure the front knee is directly over the ankle and also that it’s not rolling inwards. The knee should be in line with the second toe. If you’re on a hard surface, place a towel or cushion under your back knee. To increase the stretch, place your hands on the inside of your front foot, and to go deeper still, bring your elbows down as well.
Banarasana: the lunge (variation 2)
Here you’re getting an intense stretch into the quadricep muscles at the front of the thigh. It’s important to keep your hip bones facing forwards. Start with one arm and then try to catch your foot with both. It’s also great for the front of the chest. Push your foot away from your hands to increase the stretch.
Malasana: the squat
The is a great stretch for the ankles, groin and back. If your heels don’t touch the ground you can place a folded mat or blanket underneath, as I am in the image, for better balance to hold the posture longer. By placing the elbows against the knees you are stretching the inner thighs. Think about lengthening the tail bone towards the ground, keeping your back long and your chest open.
Viparita Karani: legs up wall
Swing your legs up, making sure you’re flat against the wall. If you have tight hamstrings, place a folded blanket underneath your buttocks and lower back to lift your hips. Let the legs fall out to the side and relax your upper body. If you have just come back from a run, this is very restorative, helps to flush the legs, relax the back and let the blood flow freely back to the heart. Combined with some deep breathing it’s also a great way to relax before going to bed. Vary this pose with the legs together or bend your knees, bringing the soles of the feet together, as in the Butterfly (see top).
Sarah Odell is a former adventure racer and ironman athlete. She teaches yoga and pilates at various health clubs and retreats.
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