It’s an all too familiar sight for me now – a raised eyebrow and a worried crease on the forehead. I see it way too often every time I tell someone – I’m a yoga trainer and a marathon runner.
Aren’t they very opposite to each other? they ask. I laugh it off and with a shrug, I say “that’s what I do”.
When people say yoga and running are the opposite, they are absolutely right!
We all need that balance in life – the Yin and the Yang. To me, yoga is my Yin and running the Yang of my life. Yoga brings to me the balance in my running life.
Running as we all know is a high impact sport and a customized yoga practice has been the perfect balance to my intense running training. I used the word customized for a reason – I truly believe yoga can be customized for all. While most people think yoga is either bending your body like a pretzel or sitting in a meditative pose and breathe, there is so much more to it than meets the eye.
In this article, my focus will be to pen down thoughts on how yoga can help with relaxation and de-stressing after an intense session of running.
Yoga for Relaxation & de-stress – We often find that runners after their long runs are completely exhausted and have no fuel left to do anything apart from sleep. What I found beneficial for me is a gentle Yin Yoga practice. After 60 mins of Yin Yoga and Yoga Nidra, my body feels very relaxed and rejuvenated almost as if the practice exhaled out all the stress and tension.
What is Yin Yoga and Yoga Nidra?
Yin Yoga – is a slower-paced more passive practice, targeting and stretching the connective tissues(ligaments, tendons) and fascia rather than focusing on the muscles. This type of yoga helps in regulating the flow of energy in the body. It also focuses on joints that are not exercised a lot in the dynamic practices and also overused in the yang workouts. Here the poses that are suitable for all levels and are practised mostly in a seated or lying down position where the pose is held for longer durations of 3 to 5minutes. This is different from the yang yoga practices which focus on the superficial muscles where the poses are held when the muscles are fully relaxed allowing time and gravity to deepen the stretch, target the fascia and connective tissue.
For runners practising the yin yoga brings the perfect balance as this means ailments like joint wear and tear or tightness could become a thing of the past. Since it allows a deep release of ligaments, tendons, and joints you tend to feel very relaxed with improved circulation and flexibility. The poses in Yin yoga stimulate and remove blockages in the myofascial meridians in the body which in turn balance the internal organs and systems.
Classification of Yin and Yang style of workouts
Certain types of exercises can be classified into yin or yang styles of practice based on their qualities. Yang style workouts like running or cycling are more dynamic, repetitive, stimulating, sweat and heat-inducing in nature. The yang principle relates to masculinity, heat, movement, and force. The yin is considered more the feminine force relating to stillness, rest, balance, cooling, and release. This practice also allows you to be intimate with oneself, your emotions, feelings which are usually neglected in fast-paced yoga practice. If the yang force is overused without any balance from the yin, the body may be overworked, fatigued and injured.
One benefits from the Yin Yoga practice by bringing balance and calm to the body and mind, the release of stress, increased mobility, better protection and lubrication of joints, ability to meditate better amongst others.
Here are some of the Yin Yoga Poses:
- Dragonfly pose: Get into the sitting position and spread your legs wide apart till they can’t stretch further. Bend forward with your arms stretched straight in front of you. You could also stretch on either side of your legs as shown in the picture below. This pose opens up groin, hips and the back of your thighs.
- Half Saddle pose: Start by sitting on your heels. If your ankles hurt, place a soft blanket there. Slowly lean back using your hands as support creating a little arch to your lower back with your hand above your head. You can do this by keeping one leg upright. By getting into this pose, the back part of the pelvis between your hips is stretched as well as the hip flexors and quadriceps.
- Half Butterfly pose: While in a seated position, bring one foot in towards you and stretch the other leg straight out to the side. This allows your back to round up, slowly bend to the side of the stretched out leg and try touching your head to the knee with your arms touching your ankle. This pose helps in stretching your lower back, targets the ligaments along the spine and also aids in digestion.
- Dragon Pose: Get into the lunge position, by slowly stretching the back leg and stretch your torso by dropping your head back and hands to the side of you. This posture stretches your hip and groin area and the back leg’s hip flexors and quadriceps.
Yoga Nidra– Also known as yogic sleeping is a Pratyahara practice (drawing your sense organ inwards). It is a state between being awake and sleeping. Practising yoga nidra makes you feel completely relaxed and you become increasingly aware of the inner world by some systematic and guided instructions. In yoga nidra you remain in a state of light withdrawal of the 5 senses with four senses internalised that are withdrawn and only the hearing sense connects with instructions given on the outside. It is a deep state of relaxation while still maintaining full consciousness and a great practice to release stress and tension and plant positive intentions in your subconscious mind. Many yoga masters even claim that 30 mins of yoga nidra is equivalent to 3 hours of sleep.
This is not a comprehensive list and advice you to practice these poses under the guidance of a teacher/trainer.
My long early Saturday morning runs used to leave me drained but a simple yin yoga session at the end of it now leaves me in a deep state of relaxation.
Don’t believe me – give it a go and you’ll soon find yourself hooked.