Whether you’re running the New York City Marathon or just love to run around your local park (or on the treadmill), add yoga to your workout mix to gain flexibility and help prevent back and knee injuries.
Sure, you probably feel great—and feel strong and healthy. But the truth is, you probably have muscular imbalances (this is common in even the fittest of athletes). What this means, your stronger muscles are overcompensating for weak muscles you may not be using when you run.
These muscular imbalances put the wrong kind of pressure on the joints, which can trigger injury, explains Brad Jones, a former U.S. Olympic physical therapist and strength conditioning coach (and founder of b Project), in Carlsbad, California.
Runners are also prone to injury, particularly in the knees, because running is a high-impact activity that gives your joints a pounding, says Manhattan-based physical medicine and rehab specialist Nadya Swedan, M.D., author of The Active Woman’s Health and Fitness Handbook. Runner’s muscles are also tight and short (and inflexible)—why yoga is the perfect balance to elongate and loosen the muscles.
We got a chance to talk to Kiley Holliday, a yoga instructor at Pure Yoga, in New York City, who recommends these four yoga poses for runners*. (She helps runners get ready for the New York City Marathon—and teaches a 6-week New York Road Runners (NYRR) Yoga for Runners series, in New York.) Something to keep in mind when it comes to yoga: never force yourself into a pose; stop when your body is telling you to stop. “Respect your body,” as my own yoga instructor, Elaine Coburn, tells our class.
LIZARD POSE (WITH QUAD STRETCH)
1. Start in a forward fold at the top of the mat, bending the knees enough so that the hands can comfortably touch the ground. Then, step the left foot to the back of the mat, so that the right knee is in line over the right ankle.
2. Drop the left knee onto the mat and untuck the toes. Then, inch the right foot towards the very edge of the mat, turn it out about 45 degrees and roll onto the pinky toe side of the foot.
3. Attempt to drop the forearms down on the ground inside the foot. If the forearms don’t reach, place a block underneath them. Try to get more of the top of the left thigh onto the mat.
4. Bend the left knee and reach for the outer edge of it with the right hand. It may be necessary to come off the forearms in order to reach the back foot.