Over the past few years I’ve vacillated between running and climbing, but I always seem to hit a plateau that prevents me from making gains in either sport. I’ve watched my friends improve their flexibility and strength by incorporating yoga into their training routines. The benefits to yoga are numerous and include reduced stress, increased flexibility, and protection from injury. I can’t touch my toes without bending my knees, but if yoga will improve my performance, I was determined to try it. I have to admit, taking twenty minutes to stretch out your muscles the day after a hard run feels pretty good. With that in mind, here a five beginner yoga poses for runners (or climbers) that will increase your flexibility and strengthen your leg muscles.
- Downward Facing Dog with Leg Raise – This pose helps to prevent shin splints by strengthening your leg muscles. It can also alleviate pain by stretching your hamstrings and loosening up your calves. Start on your hands and knees. Walk your hands forwards about two paces while keeping your arms straight. Straighten your legs and press your toes into the ground and your hips back and towards the ceiling. If you feel comfortable, raise one leg towards the ceiling. If you have shin splints, you should feel relief in the raised leg as the blood rushes away from your knee.
- Warrior I Pose – The Warrior I Pose will stretch your hip flexors, quads, and hamstrings. From a standing position bring your right leg forward and bend your right knee until it is aligned with your ankle. Keep your left leg straight with your toes at a 45 degree angle and raise your palms towards the ceiling while arching your back slightly.
- Lizard – This pose is a variation of a lunge. Like the previous two poses, lizard pose will also stretch your hip flexors and thigh muscles. For this pose you want to begin in downward facing dog. Step your right leg forward, next to your right hand, and lower your left knee to the ground. Your right leg should be at a 90 degree angle and your left leg should be straight. Press your hips down towards the ground. For a deeper stretch you can rest your forearms on the ground.
- Reclining Bound Angle Pose – This pose will stretch your knee and thigh muscles and will open up your hips. For this pose you will want to begin by sitting on the ground with your legs out in front of you. Bend your knees and rotate your legs until your thighs are touching the ground (or as close as you can get). The soles of your feet should also be touching each other. Use your hands to support you as you slowly recline backwards until you’re lying on the ground. Make sure you keep your hips open to fully benefit from this stretch.
- Corpse Pose – I don’t know that this pose has any specific benefits for runners, but as far as I’m concerned, you can’t end a yoga session without this pose. For Corpse Pose you’ll want to lie flat on the ground with your legs straight and your hands by your sides with the palms turned upwards. Concentrate on your breathing. You should be feeling pretty relaxed at this point. Now that you’ve completed these stretches, feel free to reward yourself with a well-deserved nap. //