One of the most important parts of running is stretching. Most running experts agree that stretching before you run is up to personal preference, but they do suggest that you should definitely stretch afterwards. After some pretty serious knee pain (and serious stress on the home front), I decided to try yoga. It was mostly for helping me to clear my mind and to get a low-impact workout, but little did I know I was in for much more than meditation and a few "Om's".
As I explored yoga and yoga studios I realized it is an excellent workout for runners who need an extra stretch, help building their core and regulating their breathing. It also helps to prevent injury. I had an excellent yoga experience at Prana Yoga Center in Denville, New Jersey. I began with a beginners class and eventually graduated to mixed level. Before each session, the yoga instructor would ask each student if they had any aches and pains and instructed us that we should push our bodies, but know our limits and make adjustments to the yoga poses along the way. After my first yoga class, I felt like I had just completed a total circuit workout. Holding each pose (correctly) while breathing (correctly) is more intense than it sounds. You use muscles you never knew you had and increase your balance, which is great for running!
Some of my favorite (and most beneficial yoga poses) are:
Strengthens legs and improves flexibility of spine
What to do:
1.) From Warrior II bring your rear hand down the back of your rear leg.
2.) Bring the front arm up next to your ear
3.) 3. Keeping the front knee bent and directly over the ankle, reach the rear hand down as you come in to a backbend.
4. Bring your gaze up to the front fingertips.
Opens the hips while stretching the groin, thighs and calves
What to do:
1.) Gradually slide your left foot far back and simultaneously flex your right knee. Your right knee (front knee) should be leveled directly above your ankle bone and not beyond that point.
2.) Position your palms or fingers on the floor in between your right flexed leg (front leg). Slowly press your palms or finger against the floor to help enhance the placement of your upper body and your head.
3.) Lift your head so that you will be looking straight ahead. As you do that, you are also leaning your upper body forward and carefully rolling your shoulders down and gliding it backward to adjust the position of your torso and your back.
4.) Press the ball of your left foot (back foot) gradually on the floor and allow your thigh muscles to contract and press up to maintain your left leg in a straight position. Upon pressing, you will feel a stretch on your left hamstrings (muscles at the back of your thigh) up to your hips and sacrum.
5.) Lengthen your spine by maintaining proper position of your shoulders and your whole upper body.
6.) Carefully extend your arms overhead so that your body will be positioned in an inclined manner from the ball of your back foot to the fingers of your raised arms.
Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
Strengthen the legs, stretches the groins, hamstrings, hips, opens the chest and shoulders