May 16, 2010

Yoga and Running: Part 1

Yesterday was a great day! I ran the Healthy Kidney 10K Race in Central Park and had a PR of 1:00:36! Considering the fact that I've been really frustrated with my running progress lately, I was so happy to have shaved more than 3 minutes off my time from my last 10K just 6 weeks ago. You may remember from a post last week, I've really been struggling with my running lately. My legs have felt heavy and my breathing difficult. So I set some goals to help me push through these challenges, one of which was to re-dedicate myself to my yoga practice. I'm amazed at how much lighter my legs already feel after adding instructed classes in addition to my daily home practice back to my schedule.

I began practicing yoga long before I started running. For the past eleven years, yoga has been my way of dealing with stress, of facing my fears, and of building outer as well as inner strength. I practice yoga just as much for the active poses, as I do for the relaxing moments and the deep meditation. Once I began running years later, I also found it to be a crucial part of my training for so many reasons, all of which I can't cover in one post.

So, today's post focuses on two of my favorite poses that just happen to help my running. These poses focus on the hips, inner thighs, quads and hamstrings. They lengthen, stretch and strengthen these muscles, allowing for not only greater running performance, but also protecting against potential injury.

It is important to keep your muscles active during these poses to get their full benefits. Even while standing in Tadasana (mountain pose), with your legs hip distance apart and your arms at your sides, your legs should be strong and grounded, with your muscles engaged. During these poses, I often imagine that there are roots growing out of the bottom of my feet and into the ground. You arms should be just as active and engaged throughout the poses.

Prasarita Padottanasana
(Wide-Legged Forward Bend)
I love this pose because it's a calm and relaxed way to get a deep stretch in my inner thighs and hamstrings. Aside from practicing it during yoga class, I almost always do it before and after a run.
  1. Stand in Tadasana (mountain pose), with your legs hip distance apart and your arms at your sides.
  2. Gently hop, or step, your legs wide apart and rest your hands on your hips. Your feet should be parallel.
  3. Inhale and as you begin to bend forward from your hips, keep your chest lifted.
  4. Continue extending your torso as you bend forward until your chest is parallel to the floor.
  5. Lower your hands and press your fingertips to the floor, maintaining your extended torso and your back slightly concave.
  6. Continue to maintain the concavity of your back as you walk your fingertips between your feet.
  7. Inhale and on your next exhale, bend your elbows and lower your torso and head into a complete forward bend.
  8. Rest your head on the floor if possible.
  9. To come back up, place your hands back on your hips and slowly rise from your hips with your chest leading the way.

Ardha Chandrasana
(Half Moon Pose)
I feel incredible pride each time I arrive in Ardha Chandrasana. It takes great focus and is so rewarding. This pose stretches and strengthens your thighs, strengthens your ankles, and opens your hips.
  1. Stand in Tadasana (mountain pose), with your legs hip distance apart and your arms at your sides.
  2. Step your right leg back, keeping your feet parallel and your hips square.
  3. Bend forward from the hip and bend your front knee (left)
  4. Reach your left hand to the ground and press it firmly into the ground.
  5. Place your right hand on your hip
  6. As you straighten your front leg, lift your back leg off the ground.
  7. Flex your back foot, extending actively through the heel
  8. Rotate your upper torso towards your right, opening your right hip and pushing your left hip slightly forward. **If you are new to the pose, you may choose to stop here, keeping your hand on your hip and gazing forward**
  9. Rotate your right shoulder onto your back, opening the shoulder and lifting your right arms straight up. Extend actively through your arm
  10. Gaze upwards towards your right hand
  11. Repeat on the other side
Prasarita Padottanasana and Ardha Chandrasana are just two of my favorite poses that also happen to help my running performance. Stay tuned in the coming days for Yoga and Running parts 2, 3 and however many parts I ended up writing ;)

Thanks to my wonderful friend Jessica for taking these pics of me in my poses! Love you!

Do you practice yoga or are you interested in starting a practice? Any favorite poses? I'd love to hear your thoughts, questions or any suggestions you might have so leave a comment and let me know you were here.

Namaste and Happy Running!

5 comments :

  1. How beautiful was that run yesterday? It was a perfect day for it. I just couldn't get over all the people that came out to run it. It was SO packed! I love yoga too. I have been running for awhile, but I just started yoga in Jan. I really feel like yoga has helped strengthen me and make me faster.

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  2. Congrats on the run! Awesome job.

    I also love Prasarita Padottanasana! It's one of my favorites. It can be so calming and relaxing but give you such a good stretch at the same time.

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  3. Congrats!! It looked like an amazing day for a race.

    Not sure why but every time I do a half moon pose I ALWAYS feel so SICK, like I'm going to throw-up sick. It's very strange.

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  4. Nicole- it was so perfect and your time was amazing!

    Katie- thanks! Totally agree :)

    Claudia- thanks! Interesting... does Triangle Pose make you feel the same way?

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  5. I love yoga! I just don't get to do it as often as I'd like. I used to take a class at my old gym so, I remember many of the poses but could use some assistance. I would love to find a yoga DVD that could help me going again. Any recommendations?? Thanks! Oh, and great pictures!

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