In honour of the tens of thousands of amazing runners who descended onto London’s streets yesterday to run a staggering 26.2 miles, yoga teacher Lily Silverton provides a selection of perfect post-run yoga asanas to help reduce pain, stretch tight and overworked muscles, and speed up recovery…
Running, though excellent for the heart and mind, can really take its toll on the body. Common issues among runners are shin splints, knee and foot problems, hamstring tears, hip flexors strain, IT-band syndrome, and lower back pain.
The postures below focus on lengthening and releasing the affected muscle groups, to help open up tight hamstrings, hips, quads, calves, and spines. Combine them with deep abdominal breathing, to encourage high levels of oxygen into the muscles, and to focus and calm the nervous system and mind.
And they’re not just for runners! I recently completed a walking trek across the Arctic and these were the postures that helped put me back together when I arrived home ever so slightly broken. They’re also pretty good if you’ve been sitting at the office all day 🙂
As with any movement, always remember that your own is body is your best teacher. Don’t go so far into a posture that you experience pain, and try your level best to relax, especially around the shoulders, neck, jaw, and between the eyebrows. Enjoy!
Seated Forward Fold
This pose stretches the entire backside of your body from the arches to the neck. Consider taking this pose as a yin yoga pose, and holding (with the head supported) for 3-7 minutes.
Wide legged seated forward fold
This pose works the inner thighs and lower back, as well as the glutes and hamstrings. Again, hold here, taking deep full breathes, for 4-6 minutes.
Knees into chest
Running is all forward and backward movement. Bring some new directions to the spine by hugging your knees into the chest and taking a gentle rock from side to side. Eventually letting the knees fall to one side in a twist and taking a few breaths there, before coming up and over to the other side to do the same.
Although it’s your feet pounding the pavement, often tension can creep into the spine and particularly between the shoulder blades. Keep the hips over the knees and release the chest downwards, either with the fingertips pressing into the floor or coming down onto the forearms. Take 5-7 breaths here (or more if it feels good!)
Probably the most famous yoga pose and a staple for its incredible effect on the spine, lower back, and legs. This posture stretches the entire back side of the body – arches, calves, hamstrings et al. Spread the hands and press the fingertips into the floor, guide the tops of the shoulders away from the ears and keep the knees bent if that feels better on the lower back. Take 5-10 breaths here.
A brilliant posture for stretching the hip flexor, thigh and groin. From downward dog bring one foot forward between the hands and release the back knee down. Press into the front big toe and the shin of the back leg. Lift the arms up to increase the stretch. Take 5-10 breaths on each side.
From low lunge tuck the toes and lift the back knee to straighten the leg. The effects are similar to low lunge, but with slightly more work for the muscles. Keep reaching back through the back heel and forward through the top of the forehead. Take 3 breaths on each side.
Three legged dog wigh open hip
Come back up to downward dog and then reach one leg up behind you bending at the knee and letting the foot fall towards the opposite buttock. Press down with the heel of the straight leg, and guide the inner thighs away from one another. This pose works the hip flexors, hamstrings, and calves. 3-5 breaths each side.
Trusted pigeon! Great for the glute muscles as well as a general release for the lower back and spine. Prop up with a pillow or blanket so that your hips are roughly level and don’t forget to breathe – this one might feel intense after a long run. Remember: uncomfortable is okay, pain is not. Try to stay for 15 breaths on each side.
Runners have a tendency to hunch forward when they get tired. This posture – one of my absolute favourites – helps open the shoulders and front side of the body. You don’t need a block – you can use a small stack of books – and you do not need to come up very high to still get the benefits. Stay here for as long as feels good.
To make this posture extra restorative place a blanket on top of your mat underneath your shins and grab a pillow to have underneath your abdomen and forehead. Stay for as long as you like.
Take the time to make yourself as comfortable as possible here. Your incredible body has been through a lot, and this kind of active relaxation that joins body, mind, and breath can really help aid repair. Stick on a piece of your favourite calming music, cover yourself with a blanket and an eye pillow if you have one, and just breathe. Give yourself at least 5 minutes, but feel free to stay for up for 20 (anymore than that and chances are you’ll fall asleep, which is also fine!)
Lily Silverton is a London based wellbeing teacher and writer. Visit her website.
Imagery: Aaron Smyth