Know more about simple Yin yoga poses for runners, their top health problems, what Yin yoga offers for them and the essentials of selecting a Yin yoga sequence for runners.
Running is one of the most effective and natural forms of exercise, and essentially costs you next to nothing.
Whether taken up as a form of exercise or a professional sport, it improves cardiovascular health, sleep, memory, muscular strength, bone density, joint health and tolerance to stress.
However, even as it bestows a range of benefits, it can be stressful to the body and lead to injuries.
Yin yoga poses relax the body and prevent the health issues arising due to the strenuous activity of running. Yin yoga practice for runners can benefit you pre-and-post run.
Top Health Problems Runners Have
All runners whether beginners or pros, are prone to injury. The repetitive impact from running can take a toll on joints, muscles and connective tissue, and put runners out of action for rather long periods of time. In some instances it can also end the careers of professional runners. Let’s look at some of the most common problems that plague runners.
Ankle sprain is a problem most runners face at some or the other point in their career. This happens when the ankle turns outward or inward and suddenly stresses the ligaments, causing severe pain.
Plantar fasciitis is a painful inflammation which develops at the bottom of the foot because of torn plantar fascia/tissue. The symptom is a sharp pain at the base of the heel.
Runner’s knee develops when the kneecap slips out of alignment due to overuse and causes mild to severe pain. If left untreated, the kneecap cartilage can wear down.
The calf is attached to the back of the heel by the Achilles tendon. Achilles tendinitis is caused by the inflammation of the tendon, which causes pain and stiffness in the area.
IT Band Syndrome
The iliotibial band (IT) is a long connective tissue that runs from the knee to the outer hip. It stabilises the knee. IT band syndrome is caused by the IT band rubbing against the leg bone, causing a sharp pain just above the knee, on the outer side of the leg.
Hamstring injuries happen gradually and are caused by small tears in the connective tissue of the hamstring muscle. Dull pain in the back of the upper leg and weakness, stiffness and tenderness of the hamstring muscle are some of the symptoms.
This is the inflammation of the muscles and tendons covering the shinbone, which causes a stabbing sensation in the shins.
Stress fractures are small cracks caused in the foot bone by repetitive and forceful pounding. Pain progressively gets worse and is even felt while resting, with tenderness, swelling and bruising in the affected area.
What Yin Yoga Offers Runners
Running is a Yang activity that needs restorative Yin activity for balance.
Not sure what is the Yin-Yang balance? Read about it in Yin Yoga – what is it and who is it for.
Yin yoga poses for runners restores the body’s yin energy. The meditative quality of Yin yoga fosters stillness in the mind and body, in contrast to the vigorous physical demands of running and adds a valuable component to athletic training.
The inward focus, awareness of sensations and equanimity that Yin yoga develops can help runners effectively tolerate discomfort and prepare them to face adverse running circumstances.
Good running form also depends on flexibility. A limited range of motion affects the body’s ability to complete a gait cycle and causes imbalances.
Yin yoga poses for runners target the dense connective tissue that is most often not worked upon by other forms of yoga or exercise. The stretches lengthen the connective tissues of joint capsules, ligaments and tendons, without stressing the muscles around them.
Yin asana releases tight quads, hip flexors and hamstrings, and the stress stored in them thereby improving flexibility.
Warm-ups and cool-downs are integral to a good running session.
Warm-ups dilate the blood vessels and ensure your muscles are supplied with oxygen for the vigorous activity ahead. It also raises body temperature to warm up muscles and provide optimal flexibility. By gently raising the heart rate, warm-ups tend to minimise stress to the heart.
Even during cooling down after a run, it is critical to keep blood flowing smoothly throughout the body with some or the other mild activity.
Sudden reduction in flow can cause light-headedness because of the drop in the heart rate and blood pressure.
Yin poses for runners get the blood moving through muscles and connective tissue before and after a run. The boost in circulation also removes waste products from tissues and carries in much-needed oxygen and nutrients, aiding in faster muscle repair after an injury or a hard run.
Thus, a Yin yoga practice before and after a strenuous running session can work wonders for you.
Adopting a Yin yoga practice can help runners release tension in tight connective tissues, increase the range of motion in joints and muscles, improve circulation and heart health, and accelerate recovery.
Top Yin Yoga Poses for Runners
Yin poses for runners maintain the health of joints by increasing hydration, reducing fixation, improving flexibility, preventing degeneration and maintaining functional mobility. Given below are a few simple Yin yoga poses for runners.
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
- Gently fold forward from your hips.
- Clasp your elbows with opposite hands, or lightly touch the floor with your hands for support.
- Do not force yourself to go deeper into the pose. Let gravity do its work.
- Bring your awareness to the stretch in the hamstrings and lower back.
- Breathe normally while you maintain the stretch for 1-3 minutes.
- Use the strength of your legs rather than the lower back to come back to standing position.
- Rest for a while in a standing position and repeat. Do not exceed your limits.
The dangling pose activates the quadriceps and glutes and stretches the hamstrings. It decompresses the spine and stretches the shoulders and neck. It strengthens the diaphragm, massages the abdominal organs and reduces menstrual cramps.
People with high blood pressure or glaucoma should avoid the pose. Those with low blood pressure should release the pose slowly so that hey do not get dizzy while coming up. In case of back issues, consult a doctor.
Half Butterfly Pose
- Sit in a comfortable position.
- Extend your right leg forward.
- Fold your left leg and place it such that the inside of the left foot touches the inner right thigh.
- Fold your body forward from the hip over the right thigh.
- You can also fold your body in the middle, between your legs.
- Feel the stretch along the hamstring of the extended leg and the inner thigh of the bent leg.
- Hold for 1-3 minutes.
- Breathe normally.
- Lay down in Corpse pose for a while, if tired.
- Repeat the pose with the other leg.
The Half Butterfly pose works the spine and releases tendons, fascia and ligaments along the spine. It stretches the low back and hips. Adductors and hamstrings get a stretch. If you let your head hang forward, the stretch reaches the cervical spine.
The pose is contraindicated for people with sciatica. If you have a lower back disorder, keep the spine straight as you lean forward. Avoid dropping the head forward if you have a whiplash injury to the neck. If you have pain in the knee, place support under the thigh or move the foot away a bit from the groin area.
Malasana or Yogi Squat
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with toes turned out.
- Squat down gently. Use the support of the wall if needed.
- Make sure that your knees turn outward in the same direction as your toes.
- Hold your hands, palms facing each other, in prayer, in front of your chest.
- Relax into the pose.
- Be aware of the sensations in your hips and groins, and along the spine.
- Hold for 1-3 minutes.
- To come out of the pose, sit back on the floor, straighten your legs, place your hands on the floor for support and gently stand up.
Releases lower back. Stretches and strengthens the ankles. Tones lower body and core muscles. Stretches hamstrings and opens the hips. Aids digestion and metabolism.
If you have suffered an injury to the knee or ankle or if your hips are too tight, avoid the pose.
Supta Matsyendrasana or Supine Spinal Twist
- Lie on your back with your arms stretched out in line with your shoulders.
- Bend your right leg and cross it over your midline onto the floor on the left side of your body by gently twisting the spine and low back.
- Turn your head to the right and look at your right hand.
- Both your shoulder blades should touch the ground, even if your knee is not touching the floor.
- Hold for 1-3 mins and breathe normally.
- To release the pose, turn your head back to the neutral position and gently straighten your right leg and torso.
- Rest in savasana and repeat on the other side for the same duration.
Supta Matsyendrasana stretches the neck, shoulder, spine and quadriceps. Improves digestion. Enables deep relaxation. It strengthens, lengthens and realigns the spine.
Avoid if you have had Chronic or recent injury to the spine, hips or knees.
Selecting a Yin Yoga Sequence for Runners
When selecting a Yin Yoga sequence for runners, you have to bear certain points in mind.
It is important to pick out poses that encourage you to move your limbs in directions that you ordinarily do not move during running. It would help to stretch deep-seated connective tissue.
You should identify your weak areas and aim to strengthen them with the selected Yin yoga poses,
which in turn will improve your technique. Pinpoint the goals that you plan to achieve with the Yin yoga practice and tailor the sequence around it. Remember to keep the goals realistic.
The sequence should fit comfortably into your schedule. You should select poses that suit your body because it is important that you enjoy the sequence. Evaluation of progress at regular intervals is essential to check if the Yin yoga sequence is doing the desired job.
If you are a runner seek the help of a qualified teacher to devise a Yin yoga sequence to suit your requirements with poses that are safe, yet challenging for you
Things to Keep in Mind
Given below are some simple tips for runners to follow when taking up a Yin yoga practice. Settle into the pose you are doing and sense the feedback from your body before moving deeper into the stretch. Resolve to remain still with the muscles relaxed.
Focus your mind on observing the sensations that come up rather than fixing it in a particular spot. The sensations you encounter should be dull aches, not sharp, burning or stabbing pain.
Adjust the pose to accommodate any release of connective tissue or to avoid a sensation when it becomes too intense. Always stick to a duration that suits you and be aware of your limitations.
Do Savasana between poses just in case you feel tired or if the asanas feel too intense. Take care to enter and exit Yin yoga practice gently and with support, as it’s dangerous to move in or out of poses suddenly or abruptly.
The Bottom Line
Running is an active, demanding physical activity that triggers your sympathetic nervous system and the fight or flight mode. It is best to balance it with an activity that taps into the calmer mental and spiritual realms to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This way you can destress by tuning into the rest, digest and relax mode.
Yin yoga poses would be the best choice for you in the interest of a long-term career or hobby as a runner. On the same lines we recommend our specially designed Online Yin Yoga course which can work wonders for you. Sports persons who have enrolled in this course have rated it 5-Stars. See the course here.