Yin Yoga for Runners by Paula Hines
The days are longer and the new season often encourages more of us to lace up our trainers and venture outdoors. Yoga is a great complement to running with just a few of the benefits being improved strength, flexibility and balance as well as injury prevention.
The repetitive action of running can cause ingrained patterns around the muscles, and the fascia (the body’s connective tissues and cling-film like ‘wrapping’ around the muscles) to tighten – consequently leading to chances of poor running posture and injury. Yin yoga can be of benefit to runners in particular because of its capacity to help release this constriction of the fascia.
I’m certainly no Usain Bolt but I do enjoy a jog round the park and I have found incorporating yin yoga into my routine over the past several years incredibly helpful. Whether you’re a casual runner like me, signing up for your first 5k or training for your next big event why not give yin yoga a try? When I ran the Brighton Half Marathon a couple of years ago I practised this yin sequence afterwards and had no soreness the next day.
Not sure what yin yoga is? Read here – ‘What is Yin Yoga?’
Eye of the Needle
This is a great stretch for the outer hip, which also targets the glutes and lower back.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, soles of the feet resting on the floor.
- Rest your right ankle on top your left thigh, keeping the right foot flexed.
- Draw your left leg toward your chest, reaching your left hand around the outside of your left leg and threading your right hand between your legs to interlace your fingers around the back of the left thigh.
- Take an inhale. As you exhale ease the left leg a little closer toward your chest to the point where you feel a stretch in the hip and glute area.
A variation of this pose is to practice it with your left foot on a wall rather than interlacing the fingers behind the thigh. Repeat on the other side.
This is a good pose for stretching out the side of the body including the IT (iliotibial) band.
- Lie flat on your back with legs out straight and reach arms above your head, or clasp opposite elbows.
- Reach your arms and upper body over to the right and then walk your legs over to the right to create a curved “banana” shape. Keep your hips and shoulders on the floor.
You can create a deeper stretch into the left IT band by crossing the left ankle over the right. Stay here for 3-5 minutes then switch sides.
Reclined Leg Stretch with Strap
This pose will stretch along the backs of the calves and the hamstrings.
- Loop a long yoga belt and place it around your torso at your upper ribs. (If you do not have a long enough belt, then loop the strap onto your foot and hold the strap with each hand instead).
- Slip your right foot into the strap and straighten your leg. Press your right heel upwards.
- Rest for 2-3 minutes with your leg in this position. Then take your right leg out to the right to stretch the inside of your leg for 2-3 minutes.
- Then bring your right leg across your body and over to the left until you can feel a stretch along your outer right leg, IT band and hip.
- Stay here for 2-3 minutes before repeating this sequence with your left leg.
This pose provides a good way to stretch the lower back without the need of loose hamstrings.
- From sitting bring the soles of the feet together and allow your knees to fall out to the sides.
- Slide your feet away from you and allow your back to round as you fold forward. The further your feet are from the hips, the more you will be stretching into the hamstrings.
The closer your feet are to the hips, the more you will be stretching into the adductors. If your knees need support you can place a yoga block under each leg, or use two rolled up blankets.
If your lower back does not like this, try elevating your hips by sitting on a cushion or yoga block. Alternatively, you can practise the reclining variation by coming into Legs Up the Wall (as below) and sliding your feet down the wall to bring your legs into the butterfly position.
Legs Up the Wall
This is great to do post-run. As well as stretching the backs of the legs and lower back this pose helps to recirculate blood and fluids from your feet and lower legs.
- Sit alongside a wall, then roll over onto your back and flip your legs up the wall. If your hamstrings feel particularly tight it’s fine to move your hips away from the wall.
- Rest here for 5 minutes, or longer if you like!
To experience yin yoga poses in a class setting, come along to Flow & Restore (Sundays 6-7.15pm), which combines a steady strength-building yoga flow practice with floor-based yin yoga to stretch deeply and release chronic tightness and tension.
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