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Yoga For Runners

17 June, 2014 0 comments

yoga for runners




Studies have shown that yoga not only reduces stress, helps weight loss and eases joint pain, but it can even help improve those running times! The strength and flexibility developed through yoga, particularly Bikram, will support you in running more efficiently, staying injury-free, and building mental endurance.

Olga Allon, Director and Head Teacher at Hot Bikram Yoga in London, talks us through two key Bikram moves, and how practising them will help improve your running performance.



1. To begin the posture, stand with your feet together, toes and heels touching. Contract your quads and stand up tall with your shoulders relaxed.


2. Interlock your fingers and place your knuckles under your chin. Keep your knuckles here in contact with your bottom jaw throughout the entire posture.


3. Start inhaling through your nose, using a count of six to fill your lungs. At the same time, slowly raise your elbows so that your forearms frame your face and your elbows are level with the top of your head.


4. As you exhale (for a count of six), bring your elbows and wrists together in front of you, whilst gently and slowly tipping your head back. Exhale through your mouth making a 'haaaaa' sound, and ensure you fully empty your lungs as you do so.


5. To begin again, repeat the first step: Inhaling through your nose, levelling your head and raising your elbows so your arms frame your face. Remember to keep your knuckles in contact with your chin through all phases of the posture.


How will Pranayama breathing help your running?

Olga Allon explains: “Inhaling and exhaling to a count of six helps stabilise your breath, one of the most important components of yoga - and running. Pranayama breathing can help improve elasticity of the lungs and improve lung function.


“It also gives you a chance to clear your mind, forget anything clouding your mind, and focus on the task ahead of you - a principle easily transferrable to running. Adding a breathing exercise such as Pranayama to your pre-run routine should help improve your running.


“This is supported by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2004) who found that yogic practices including 30 minutes of Pranayama breathing (two sets of 15 minutes a day) significantly improved cardio-respiratory performance. A study in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2009) also found that Pranayama breathing after exhaustive exercise decreased levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and increased levels of melatonin, the 'antidote' to cortisol, a neurohormone related to lower levels of stress and better sleeping patterns.


“When your body is in a state of stress, be it from an exhausting week at work or after a PB-beating half-marathon, cortisol levels skyrocket, which leaves you vulnerable to nasty little free radicals which attack at cellular level and weaken your immune system. If you've ever had an impossible-to-shift cold virus after a period of intense training, cortisol is probably to blame.


“Before your next run, dedicate two minutes beforehand to this breathing exercise. You might get a few funny looks, but when you're running faster for longer, you'll have the last laugh.”



1. Stand with legs and feet together. Bring your arms over your head. Interlace your fingers with thumbs crossed and with the index fingers of both hands pointing upwards like a child making a gun sign. Keep your elbows locked straight and your biceps against your ears. There should be no gap between arms and ears at any time.


2. Stretch straight upwards as though you are being pulled up by a string at the top of your head.


3. The sideways lean. Lean down to the right, pulling your arms down to the right and sticking your hips out to the left, as far as you can whilst still being able to breathe through your nose. If you have trouble breathing or can't hold the pose without cramping in your side, you've gone too far.


4. Hold this pose for a minute then return to centre, pause for a moment and then repeat down to the left.


5. The backwards lean. Keeping your arms above your head, lean back at the waist as far as you can and tilt your head back. Now bring the arms back to meet the head. Eventually you should be able to see the wall behind you.


6. The forwards lean. Standing with your legs and feet together. Bending forward at the waist place your hands on the floor. Bend your knees if you need to. Take a few seconds to wiggle your hips, bounce up and down and generally loosen your lower back and hips. Now grip your feet from underneath with all ten fingers and toes pointing forwards. Tuck your elbows behind your knees.

7. Bend down and forward so that your torso and your quads are touching. There should be no gap between them. Your head should be touching your shins, or at least your knees if that's too tricky to start with.


8. Now grip your heels tightly and push your hips upwards, stretching out your hamstrings. If your head and torso come away from your body bend your knees until they reconnect. Hold for one minute. As your hamstrings get more flexible each time you do this, eventually you'll (theoretically, and after a LONG time) be able to touch your head against your feet while keeping your legs straight.


9. Perform this whole set a second time.


How will Arda-Chandrasana with Pada Hastasana help your running?

Olga Allon explains:" Runners' backs take a hell of a pounding. It's a well known fact that you can (temporarily) lose up to two inches of height during the course of a marathon due to compression of the spine.


“This pose lengthens and stretches out your whole spinal and musculo-skeletal system, which means you'll start your next run feeling that bit taller and stronger. It also works your core, toughening up your mid-section which, if done regularly, will help your running posture and keep you going for longer before you start to bend forward at the middle due to fatigue."                     

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