If you’re a runner, you know that injuries might, at some point, become part of your life. In fact, half of all runners deal with at least one injury per year, mostly due to repetitive motion, or body imbalances.
To prevent injuries, it’s important to follow an appropriate running plan and strengthen some key muscles responsible for the movements that are causing you pain and discomfort.
Yoga can play a major role in preventing most injuries and recovering faster, as its’ stretches help you improve your strength and flexibility.
For an injury-free running, lay down the mat and try these 8 yoga poses:
If you’re experiencing pain on the heel or the sole of the foot, especially when you get out of bed in the morning, you’re probably suffering from plantar fasciitis. This is one of the most common injuries among runners and can be caused by stress from repetitive foot strikes as well as tightness in the Achilles tendon, ankle, and calf muscles.
You can avoid it by stretching the tissues on the back of the leg and the sole of the foot to reduce tension in the plantar fascia. Do these poses once a week or more for prevention:
- Sole Stretch: Come onto your hands and knees and tuck your toes under. Sit on your heels gently. To start, keep your hands on the floor in front of you and keep some of your weight on your hands as you sit back. You can progress to sitting upright with all of your weight on your heels, palms in your lap. Hold for 30 to 90 seconds.
- Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose: Lie on your back, put a strap around the ball of the right foot, and extend your right leg up. Keep your head and shoulders on the floor and grab the strap with both hands. Hold for 1 to 2 minutes, and repeat on the other side.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome, the medical term for knee pain, is every runner’s worst enemy. Knee pain can have a number of different causes, including repetitive movements (such as pounding on the pavement), downhill running, strength imbalances or weakness in the hip muscles.
To prevent this common injury, keep your hips flexible and strong with these yoga poses:
- Frog: Walk your knees as wide apart from one another as they will comfortably allow. Flex your feet strongly and bring the inside edges of your feet to touch the mat. The angle in both the knees and ankles should be no greater than 90 degrees. Lower down to your forearms. Gently push your hips back and downwards. Hold for 2 to 5 minutes.
- Pigeon: Stretch your right leg out behind you, and bend your left knee so that your left foot is near your right pelvic bone with your toes pointed out. Slowly drape your body over the right leg. Repeat on the opposite side.
IT Band Pain
One other cause of knee pain in runners is the irritation of the iliotibial band (IT band), a thick tendon that stretches from the pelvic bone down the tibia. The IT band pain can be caused by downhill running or unidirectional track running, excessive increased mileage, or weakness in the hips and glute muscles.
Stretching the IT band itself won’t fix the problem. To prevent it, do these yoga poses to stretch the muscles of the hips and thighs that pull on the IT band:
- Supine Cow Face Pose: Lie on your back and cross one knee over the other. Hug your knees in toward your chest, while keeping your head on the floor. Hold for 1 minute, and then repeat with your legs crossed the other way.
- Standing Forward Bend (variation): While standing, cross your right ankle over your left. With your knees slightly bent, fold forward and rest your hands on the floor. Reach your sitting bones toward the sky and move your ribs away from your pelvis to prevent your back from rounding. Hold for 1 minute, and then repeat on the opposite side.
This muscle group is the source of frustration for many runners. They are so strong and thick it takes time to open and flex tight hamstrings.
Try these 2 yoga poses to stretch them:
- Standing straddle forward bent: Start by moving apart both legs as far as you can. Your feet should face outwards. Tilt your torso to the front and move your hands so that they are below your shoulders and your wrists in alignment with your ankles. Bend your elbows and try to keep your hips in the same plane in which your ankles are. Displace your body weight upon your feet and draw your quadriceps muscles upwards.
- Plow pose: Lie on your back and bring your legs straight up in the air towards the ceiling. Bring your arms alongside your body with your palms down. Press into your hands and lift your legs over your head.
Any poses you want to add? Leave your suggestion in the comments below!