Doing yoga during your marathon doesn�t involve Sun Salutes while sandwiched between thousands of racers or Downward Dogging it to the finish line. It�s about applying little tricks you�ve learned on the mat, like using form principles of an asana and practicing mindfulness exercises at the mile-markers. Doing so will keep you injury free and running at your peak.
�When you apply the holistic philosophy of yoga to running you really change running from a sport to a practice,� says Danny Dreyer, author of ChiRunning
. �Many people run with a mind-over-body mentality�they will get to the finish no matter how�but true mind-body work is working with your mind and body as a team.� Taking your yoga practice from your 2x6-foot yoga mat to the 26.2-mile course can help you find this mind-body synergy, and ensures you'll recover easily.
These 7 tips will keep the blood flowing to all of your muscles and ensure you have textbook posture, which protects your joints (by relieving compression) despite hours of pounding the pavement. They will also improve your form, boost endurance, and most importantly, take your mental game to a new level to help you finish strong and ready for your next race.Pre-Gun Pose
Center yourself and prevent your body from stiffening while crammed behind the starting gate with Equal Standing Pose (Tadasana). �Equal standing will help realign your body,� says Christine Felstead, founder of Yoga For Runners in Toronto. Taking a few seconds to breathe and plant your feet in the ground will help calm your mind and ground your body before the race. Remember this posture as you run. Keeping your shoulders down and lifting your chest will stretch out your spine and reduce all-over tension, and she says.
How to: Stand with your feet hip distance apart, and spread your toes as much as you can in your running shoes. Keep your legs straight and contract your quadriceps. Your hips are in a neutral position with your tailbone pressing toward the ground. Focus on grounding your feet and legs while lifting up through the spine and the sides of your body. Think about stacking all of your weight-bearing joints�shoulders over hips, hips over knees, and knees over ankles. Next, press your shoulders down, with your arms by your sides. Feel the crown of your head lifting up with your neck long. Hold for three full, deep breaths. Release tension in your shoulders by lifting your arms straight above your head.Body Sweeps
Running mindfully means staying in tune with your body throughout the race. �Use the mile markers as alarm clocks to check in with your posture, breathing and any tension in your body,� Dreyer says. �It�s like hitting the refresh button on your computer, going back to the beginning at every mile.� Checking in with yourself and making adjustments starting at mile one will prevent you from hitting the wall at mile 18 or 20. If you find yourself out of breath or tense when you check in with your body, try some of the breathing or posture techniques listed below.Run Like a Warrior
�When you�re hunched over, you lose up to 30 percent of your lung capacity,� Dreyer says. Keep airflow easy and smooth by making your spine straight and tall as your run. Lift up your head as if a string were holding up the crown, like in Warrior pose. Do the Twist
It�s actually the counter-rotation between the hips and shoulders that moves your legs as you run. Allowing your pelvis to rotate as you run will make your strides more fluid and improves your endurance by reducing the energy you exert as you move. �Think of the seated twist in yoga, where your hips are stationary and you rotate your upper body,� Dreyer says. Then, do the reverse while running. �You want your upper body stationary and your lower body free to rotate,� he says. This rotation creates a rubber-band effect as your ligaments and tendons return your spinal twist to its neutral position, moving your arms and legs. The result of this nonmuscular action is greatly reduced perceived effort level, because it is incredibly energy-efficient. Your ligaments and tendons do not require oxygen or glycogen, so less lactic acid is produced when you run. Since your muscles are not being broken down, less recovery time is needed. Don�t Wait, Exhale
Breathing is your body�s biofeedback. It can signal inefficiency, overexertion, or even tell you when it�s time to pick up the pace. While form and training are the foundation for your performance, adjusting your breathing can boost your time. �If you�re out of breath, it�s not because you aren�t breathing in enough, it�s because you aren�t breathing out enough,� Dreyer says. Belly breathing can help by focusing on big exhales, clearing air out for fresh oxygen to get in. Here�s how: Put your hand over your belly button. After an inhale, purse your lips and blow out while pulling your belly in toward your spine. Then, breathe in through the nose. If you are uncomfortable breathing through your nose while running, that�s fine too, but try it both ways to feel the difference.Loosen Up
In running, like in yoga, your muscles are strong, but they are open, too. Focus on staying as relaxed while running as you are in an asana. When your muscles are loose, they absorb the oxygen from your blood like syrup into a pancake�and oxygen is the fuel that keeps your muscles working, and your body running. Good Dog
To decrease post-marathon stiffness, yoga poses can offer more instant full-body relief than traditional running stretches. �Nothing beats Downward-Facing Dog,� Felstead says. �It gets into the calves, hamstrings, and back.� Immediately stretching the three muscle groups you just worked for hours on end will minimize next-day soreness.
Here�s how: Put your hands on the ground, shoulder distance apart. Spread your fingers, straighten (but don�t lock) your arms, and rotate your shoulders down your back. Bend your legs so your shins are almost parallel to the floor. Then, think about drawing your hips as far away from your hands as you can as you lift up and press your legs back through the quads to straighten your legs. Stay here for 5 or 6 long, deep breaths. Finish in Child�s pose for extra lower back relief. Repeat this three or four times as needed.