Taking a short break from yoga poses that actively enhance the speed and endurance quotient of a runner, I’ll focus on a stiff issue – Flexibility! I gather that most people avoid yoga because they think they aren’t flexible enough. However that’s one of the reasons people should be doing a lot more yoga - to increase their flexibility and to prevent injuries.
What is flexibility? It is to be able to move a joint to the maximum extent possible without pain. It is the Range of Motion.
What is Range of Motion? The range of motion for the body is way more than we are actually able to move. It can be maintained and enjoyed through stretching exercises. Flexibility of spine plays a major role.
Why do runners need flexibility? Or a better way of making this question effective is what does flexibility do to a runners’ running? Flexibility gives us runners a wide range of motion. I feel my strides flowing. Flexibility poses help a runner work on the stretching and flexibility of hamstrings, quads, calves and all of lower body- keeps the injuries at bay too. And if you aren’t a runner, then also there is no harm in bringing some flexibility into the body.
So here are some of the basic yoga stretches we can incorporate in our daily lives both as stiff bodied runners and beginners:
- The Half Dog leading to Downward Dog - The downward dog gets tough because your heels probably don’t touch the floor.
Stand a few feet in front of a wall and place hands flat against it a bit above waist height. You have to walk your feet back and continue to straighten out arms. Don’t arch your back. And keep your gaze down. Lengthen your spine and don’t crouch. It brings great flexibility into the spine and opens up the calves and hamstrings.
Gradually as your develop flexibility in weeks or months, you move to the downward dog position because it improves the flexibility of commonly tight lower-body muscles. It majorly helps in improving the range of motion.
- Standing Forward Bend – It’s not easy to touch the hands and the palms down on the floor and hence for beginners it is suggested to use a block. . And try to use the block in various ways as shown in the images. Increases back and hamstring flexibility. What is not to be forgotten is to exhale as you go down and lengthen the spine while going down. The lengthening should come starting from the back of the foot, to the calves, the hips and then the spine. Keep the block in various ways and again gradually try to touch your hands down.
- Standing Spinal Twist Pose - The final aim of this pose is to be able to give you flexibility in your spine again. It is said, you are only as young as the flexibility of your spine!
Place a chair next to a wall and bend the leg touching the wall and place it on the chair. As you twist and look back, place your hands on the wall and twist as much as you can while keeping the shoulders relaxed, breathing in and out. Every time you inhale you lengthen the spine and at the exhale you twist a little more. Keep the shoulders soft and feet nicely grounded. Repeat on the opposite side.
- Cow Face Pose – Inflexible bodies have a hard time doing this pose. But you don’t have to go the whole hog by holding hands in the first go. Use a belt or a cotton belt and gradually and progress it will take you to the full pose. It takes a while for the hands to meet. In this one the progress to the full pose will be slow. It stretches every muscle of the shoulder. The hip muscles also get a great stretch.
5. Seated Forward Bend - This is for creating that free spirit in the lower body. Lots of stiff yoga beginners get really scared watching the full pose. Trying is even harder. But then as Yoga would have it, you need to progress slowly and steadily. Use a belt to help you move forward. Remember to lengthen your spine and not crouch.Shoulders to be kept really soft. The stiff shoulders won’t help you get too far. Remember to breathe out as you reach for your toes.
These poses have been analyzed for this article for the purpose and focus of building flexibility especially for people who feel they have stiff upper or lower body. Please do write your queries in the comment section.
By Tanya Agarwal for Wellthy.Fit
All Inputs by Ritu Govil from the Sivananda Tradition