The practice of yoga, in all its forms, has a number of benefits for the body including an increase in flexibility and strength, development of better posture and breathing, reduction stress, as well as a countless number of other benefits (which are listed below). We first got into yoga about a year ago. It is definitely a change of pace from the hustle and bustle of the other activities that we are used to, such as biking and running…but once we truly gave yoga a chance, we absolutely LOVED IT. Yoga is a means of cross training for runners as it helps prevent injury and strengthen the body.
Health Benefits of Yoga: (source: NJYogaZone)
- Back Pain: yoga is an excellent therapy for healing injured and sore back muscles, speed recovery time from an injury and preventing reinjury.
- Arthritis: yoga poses provide relief to stiff and damaged joints as the controlled movements and gentle pressures reach deep into troubled joints. Controlled stretches combined with deep breathing exercises relax and release muslces that have seized up around the joints to protect them.
- Sleep: sleep quality will improve because of yoga’s beneficial effect on the nervous system, specifically the brain. Certain yoga postures increase the blood supply to the sleep center in the brain, normalizing the sleep cycle.
- Stress: Stress causes a great deal of physical tension in the body. The natural unblocking effects of yoga postures are helpful; when you rest between postures, abdominal tension is released from the body promoting deep breathing. The benefits of yoga postures, breathing, and meditation include increased body awareness, release of muscular tension and increased coordination between mind and body. Yoga helps manage stress, reduce mind chatter, ease migraines and ensures an overall feeling of well being.
- Digestion: yoga improves circulation which helps massage the stomach muscles there by speeding up a sluggish digestion. The postures result in an improved blood and nerve supply to the digestion and eliminative systems, which in time will get them functioning at peak efficiency.
- General Health: relieves fatigue, boosts energy, stimulates glands and functioning of immune system, enhances recovery from illness, reduces the effects of stress, improves focus, concentration and mood, alleviates insomnia, counters obesity and assists in normalization of weight, can support treatment of addictions and eating disorders
When we cannot make it to a class (or cannot afford the classes!) we like to use podcasts on yogadownload.com… particularly Yoga for Runners.
Below you will find some of our favorite yoga poses:
Standing Bow Pulling Pose: Stand on your left leg, knee locked. Bend your right leg at the knee and reach behind you with your right hand, palm turned up facing the ceiling.Grab the foot from the inside around the ankle, cupping the instep in your hand, fingertips on the top of your foot. The sole of the foot is facing up. Your right kneecap is facing the floor. raise your left arm up straight out in front of you, fingers together and pointing toward the ceiling. Bring your knees together, and stretch up as far as possible to try and touch your shoulder to your chin without moving your head. Keeping your whole torso and extended left arm in one solid piece, roll forward from the hips to the fingertips, until your abdomen is parallel to the floor. As you do this, you’re stretching forward with the arm and kicking the right foot back with all your strength (the more you kick your leg and stretch your arm- the more balance you will get)
benefits: Stimulates cardiovascular system, Increases circulation to heart and lungs, Opens diaphragm, Opens shoulder joints, Helps frozen shoulder conditions, Improves spine elasticity, Improves strength and balance, Reduces abdominal fat, Helps regulate ovaries and prostate gland
Plank/Side Plank: To do plank position, make sure your shoulders are over the wrists and the whole body is in one straight line. This is very similar to the position you would take if you were about to do a push up. Press the forearms and hands firmly down, do not let your chest sink, press back through the heels. Keep the neck in line with the spine and broaden the shoulder blades.
From plank, shift your weight onto your right arm as you roll onto the outside of your right foot. Keeping the both feet flexed, stack the left foot on top of the right with the legs very straight. Bring the left arm up to the ceiling and the gaze to the left fingertips.
benefit: strengthens arms and spine, tones abs
Crescent Moon: interlace the fingers, pointing the index finger up over the head, press the feet into the floor and reach the fingers and crown up while relaxing the shoulders down and back. Exhale and press the right hip out to the side, arching over to the left. Keep the feet grounded and the legs and buttocks engaged. Reach up and out through the fingers and crown.
benefit: stretches and opens the sides of the body and improves core body strength, balance and concentration. Half moon strengthens the ankles and knees, improves circulation and energizes the entire body.
runners lunge: step into a lunge, hands on the mat on either side of your front foot, a straight line from your back heel to the crown of your head. Press your back thigh skyward. Hold for 10 breaths, and then change sides. Keep reaching through the back heel, and engage your abdominals.
benefits: Strengthens and tones the legs and back, Softens the groin and hip muscles, releasing tension Helps to relieve pain and prevent injury in the lower body, Relieves backache and sciatica
note- my front arm should actually be a little bit down (more level with my back arm)- focus your energy pointing the front arm forward and pulling the back arm back- (think of tearing your arms apart almost–but dont really do that haha)
reverse warrior: From warrior 2 , bring the rear hand down the back of the rear leg, Bring the front arm up next to your ear. Keeping the front knee bent and directly over the ankle, reach the rear hand down as you come in to a backbend. Bring your gaze up to the front fingertips.
benefits: Strengthens the legs, improves the flexibility of the spine
KNEE TO NOSE
Bring yourself into plank position (arms directly under your shoulders). Extend one leg straight out (toes tucked under) and bring other knee to your nose (right below shoulders). extend down as far as your body will let you… all the way down like I am in the below photo (or just the elbows down) (or just the hands down)
Benefit: strengthens abs, arms, thighs, stretches calf
From Downward Facing Dog, bring the right leg up into a Downdog split.Bend the right knee and swing the leg forward, bringing the right knee outside the right hand while releasing the top of the left leg to the floor.Square the hips towards the floor. Take padding under the right side of the butt as necessary to bring the hips square.
Benefits: Stretches the thighs, groins, back, and psoas. Opens the chest and shoulders.
AWKWARD CHAIR POSE: UTKATASANA
From mountain pose, bend the knees until the thighs are almost parallel to the floor. Keep the butt low. Bring the arms up towards the ceiling. Bring a slight back bend into the upper back.
benefit: This pose increases strength, balance and stability. The Hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteals, and the erector muscles of the back are exercised and strengthened.
REVERSE TABLE TOP
Sit straight up on the ground with your hands several inches behind your hips and your fingers pointing forward. Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor, big toes turned inward, heels at least a foot away from your buttocks. Exhale, press your inner feet and hands down against the floor, and lift your hips until you come into a reverse tabletop position, torso and thighs approximately parallel to the floor, shins and arms approximately perpendicular.
benefit: Strengthens the arms, wrists and legs, Stretches the shoulders, chest, and front ankles
Sit down on your Yoga Mat. Pull in your legs and grab your upper legs on the back side below the knees. Tilt your upper body backwards so that your lower back carries your weight and the entire upper back is aligned in a straight perpendicular line. slightly pull your legs with your arms to maintain the posture. extend your arms forward and parallel to the floor. stretch your legs and feet together. See to it that your back remains straight. When you find the position easy, you can reduce the stretching power of your arms without changing the position. Eventually bring your arms along the body parallel to the floor and focus on a particular spot for your balance. Quietly breathe in and out through your belly and try to maintain your relaxation during your efforts.
benefits: Strengthens the abdomen, hip flexors, and spine. Stimulates the kidneys, thyroid and prostate glands, and intestines. Helps relieve stress, Improves digestion