Let’s face it, whether you opt for a gentle jog or a hardcore run, your body usually requires some tender loving care after a run. As a runner and yoga practitioner myself, I have found that the two practices go hand in hand. The post run fatigue can, however, be reduced with a little TLC before you hit the stride. Putting aside the natural meditative state running calls for, the way the physical body responds to the marriage of these two disciplines can enhance your experience and your performance.
Stretching with asana can be therapeutic both before and after a run. Prep your muscles before you don your running shoes and you’ll avoid tightening up too much. When you warm up before jolting out the door you prepare your physical body by gently raising your heart rate, core temperature and the increased blood flow to your muscles begins gently. This reduces the stress induced on your body by running. When your motivation levels are low and you just want to go before you chicken out; a pre-run yoga stretch could scare off your inner G.I Jane. This could be a potential problem since that’s the very presence you are relying on to get out into the open road. In this case, start off with a short stretch – even ten minutes will suffice (and if you are still unsure drop down into plank and hold for 30 seconds, you won’t mind stretching after that).
The following ten(ish) minute routine could help you prime both your body and mind for a run where you push past your personal best and feel great while you do it.
Focus on prepping your core, glutes and hamstrings. Your physical body does this naturally during the postures however applying mental focus here will assist as the generated heat starts activating these key components. It is optimal to practice the sequence in a dynamic flow, starting with one side and then repeating it on the other. Try alternating sides for five, ten, or even fifteen rounds – but follow your feeling and listen to what your body says.
Begin the sequence by standing tall and feel your chin drawing in (like a soldier at attention). With an inhalation, roll the shoulders up to the ears. Exhale and roll them back and down, opening up the chest cavity. Your shoulders should be sitting over the hips with the spine feeling as if it has been ironed out. Check that your hips, knees and feet are aligned.
Find a point to focus your eyes. Feel yourself drawing all your senses towards that point as you inhale, lifting both arms directly overhead and float your left leg up with a bent knee. Lift until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Engage your foot by lifting the toes and dropping the heel. Now draw in your core by pulling your belly button towards your spine.
Talk to your hips
With an exhalation step the raised leg back, stretching it out as your right leg now bends at the knee. Keep the core feeling engaged as you lower your torso, bringing your hands to rest on either side of your front foot (if your hips start screaming at you stay resting on your fingertips). Raise the top of your head and look straight ahead of you. Keep your gaze focused.
Become a warrior
Inhale and reach forward with straight arms as you rise up, engage your core and slowly straighten your spine until you have rolled up and have your arms reaching up to the sky. Keep your gaze focused ahead of you. Your hips may start telling you to get lost at this point but silence them with an influx of prana i.e. take a deep breath and as you exhale feel the tightness becoming more bearable. Release your arms from above your head and bring your extended leg forward; towards the bent leg. Straighten the bent knee and raise the left leg back into a leg lift as you straighten back up into mountain pose.
Drop the lifted leg back to the floor as you settle back into the focused comfort of mountain pose.
Now, feeling focused and fresh, get out there and get your run on! After this routine both your mental and physical body will feel thoroughly recharged and ready for action. And remember, the key to a successful run is to actually enjoy each moment, bringing yourself to the awareness of the present with the rhythmic pulse of your feet and the earth connecting.