If you’re a runner, you may have heard about the benefits of adding a few yoga classes into your weekly routine. Yoga not only strengthens and tones the muscles of the body but also provides flexibility. Both benefits go a long way in avoiding injuries. You can even alternate yoga and running on different days to prevent wear and tear on muscles and joints.
Yoga creates a strong mind-body connection, which helps the practitioner be more conscious of the movements they make during an athletic activity. Many runners are still susceptible to injuries, however, and if you’ve ever been in that boat, yoga can help get you back on your feet.
Recovering From a Running Injury With Yoga
Running injuries can happen to many different parts of the muscular and skeletal systems, joints, ligaments and tendons. The type of injury you have determines the treatment option that will work best for you. If your injury is mild enough that resting for a small amount of time will heal it, yoga can be a great tool for keeping your strength and flexibility intact.
More serious injuries, however, may need the help of a physical therapist before heading back to the yoga mat. Anyone who has had a moderate to severe injury should seek physician approval before returning to a normal fitness routine.
Downward facing dog is a great pose for tight hamstrings, calves and hips, plus you get the bonus of stretching the shoulder muscles. This pose also strengthens the core and back, creating a better running posture. If you have a mild injury in your calf or hamstring muscle, bend your legs or gently walk your feet out while rooting down through your hands. Focus on feeling your index finger and thumb pressing into the ground, allowing you to stretch back while moving your legs in a peddling motion.
This pose is great for getting into the hip flexor, outer hips and quadriceps muscles. You can transition into runner’s lunge from downward facing dog by stepping your right or left foot forward, dropping your opposite knee to the ground, and placing your hands on the ground. Blocks under your hands and a blanket or towel under your knee protects joints and keeps the stretch on the gentle side. If you’re injured in the hips or quads, be incredibly gentle and remember that this pose should only be used for allowing a little movement and blood flow into the area, not to fully stretch an injured muscle.
Restorative pigeon pose
If you’ve attended a yoga class, you’re probably familiar with the pigeon pose. While this is an excellent pose for healthy runners, take care to avoid it while injured, especially if you have a knee injury. Instead, opt for something gentler, like a restorative pigeon pose. Lie on your back with your knees to your chest. Cross your right ankle over your left knee and thread your hands between your legs to hold onto either your left hamstring or shin. Gently pull your legs toward you.
You should feel a stretch in the outer right hip, hamstring and maybe the low back. Keep your right foot flexed toward your knee to protect the joint. Always be cautious about overdoing it, especially with an injury. This pose maintains hip flexibility while rehabbing. Breathing into the hips and areas where you feel the stretch is also incredibly calming for the nervous system, allowing the muscles and joints to relax. Repeat on both sides.
Twisting also calms the nervous system and maintains flexibility in the spine. You may also find that it helps to stretch your outer thighs; this is beneficial if you have a tricky knee. Lie on your back with your knees into your chest. Stretch your left leg out and slowly drop your right knee to the left, using a bolster or blanket to land on for a more restorative version. Hold your right knee or leg gently with your left hand while twisting to stretch your right hand out to the right side.
This pose becomes (as do all of them) even more beneficial if you remember to take deep breaths. When you exhale, you allow the muscles surrounding the spine and jaw to soften as well as any other tension in the body. Be gentle with yourself, as always, and remember that if you have any pain, quit the pose.
The key to recovering quickly from a running injury is rest. Be gentle with yourself in whatever activities you engage in. If you decide to attend a yoga class at one of our Hancock Wellness Centers, just inform the instructor about your injury and ask for help adjusting the poses to suit your needs. Our staff is always happy to help!