October 4, 2008

Yoga For Running

This morning, I decided to try to put together my own yoga for runners sequence. The details of how I came to it are below, but if you are looking for a 45 minute to 1-hour yoga sequence that will be a great cross-training workout on a non-running day to help you get ready for your next run, I recommend trying this (borrows heavily from Ashtanga -- if you need modifications or instructions on how to get into these poses, I recommend David Swenson's Ashtanga Yoga "The Practice Manual"):

-5 Surynamaskara (Sun Salutation) A
-5 Suryanmaskara B
-1 Padangusthasana for 5 deep breaths.
-1 Padahastasana for 5 deep breaths.
-2 sets of Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose) on each side for 5 deep breaths
-2 sets of Parivtritta Trikonasana (Reverse Triangle Pose) on each side for 5 deep breaths
-2 sets of Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose) on each side for 5 deep breaths
-2 sets of Parivritta Parsvakonasana (I opt for the opposite elbow to knee twisted prayer version) on each side for 5 deep breaths
-2 sets of Garudasana for 5 deep breaths on each side
-2 sets of Trianga Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana for 5 deep breaths on each side
-2 sets each of Janu Sirsanasa A, Janu Sirsanasa B, and Janu Sirsana C for 5 deep breaths on each side
-2 sets each of Marichyasana A, Marichyansana B (I do the modification that looks like a half lotus while hugging the upright knee and not leaning), and Marichyasana C
-2 sets of Masyendrasana for 5 deep breaths
-1 Gomukhasana A for 5 deep breaths
-1 Gomukhasana B (aka Cow Face Pose!) for 5 deep breaths
-2 sets of your favorite variation of Kapotasana


Ever since I started running semi-regularly, I've sworn by yoga as the reason why I rarely suffer from the running-related injuries that many of my running friends suffer. Well, in truth, I credit yoga, *AND* the fact that I'm likely to bail on a run if my body sends a strong signal that I should do so.

I like to claim that I average 1 yoga session a week, but, in truth, I am a compulsive stretcher and most days at work, I spend a bit of time in my desk chair typing or on the phone with my legs in full lotus, half lotus, or a modified Bharadvajasana II. In meetings where I am in danger of falling asleep, I do these positions with my legs and sometimes even go so far as to do prayer-behind-the-back and the arms from eagle (Garudasana) (I try to remember to avoid the arm poses when I'm in meetings with clients).

About a year ago, I self-diagnosed with piriformis syndrome that I could generally control with yoga focused on hip openers (such as Bryan Kest's Power Yoga), intelligent training, rest, stretching, watching my weight, etc. If I don't pay attention to my body, however, it will let me know with mild sciatica in my left leg coupled with strong/dull outer hip pain. Thankfully, both symptoms have historically been alleviated with stretching and rest.

Last week, I logged over 37 miles, which meant I was 10 miles over my mileage from the week before. In other words, I seriously broke the "no more than a 10% per week mileage increase rule" and, of course, since I'm working on speed, many of these miles were at medium to hard intensity.

Sure enough, Sunday afternoon, after my long run, while shopping for groceries, I had to stop several times to rub my left leg and stretch due to pains shooting down the back of my left leg, my left outer hip, and, as a bonus, for the first time, my left hip flexor had gotten into the game as well, which caused a weird pain pattern across the front of my left thigh (thanks to the power of the Internet, I now know that the pain traces the Sartorious muscle). Awesome.

So, I took Monday off.

By Tuesday, I felt much better, and it was apparent that the increased mileage and speed training had paid off -- despite taking it *very* easy on the effort, my 4 miler was much faster than I expected. My runs for the rest of the week were great as well and E & I easily fit in Kest power yoga #1 on Thursday night. For the first time in at least 6 months, I found myself ready for the weekend's runs without having logged a single mile during the week (including super-slow recovery miles) that was slower than a 9:50 min/mile pace.

However, last night, I expressed concern that perhaps I should skip today's 6-miler in favor of yoga because my hip was starting to tighten up again. E surprised me by having a very strong opinion that I should definitely do yoga instead of running. (This is an amazing change for the guy who initially had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into our once-a-week-together-at-home yoga practice.)

The speed increases are very seductive, and I really wanted to run today, but I begrudgingly agreed that I should do some yoga instead. A local class would be great, except they were all at inconvenient times given our other plans for the day.

So, I decided to see if I could design my own yoga for runners sequence, which is how I ended up with the sequence posted at the beginning of this post in Italics.

First off, I started looking at Sciatica.org's list of recommended yoga poses -- and I decided to incorporate them all. Then, I included a few poses I knew had provided me with hip relief in the past. Then, all I needed to complete the series was a good warm-up, so, I decided to start with the Ashtanga Sun Salutations series. I knew from experience that it is guaranteed to get the muscles nice and warm, and I liked that it would rope in some core body work as well as some arm strength since the rest of this series is so leg-focused.

Overall, it took me about an hour to finish this entire series. However, I was consulting my Practice Manual for modifications and transitions where applicable, so I suspect that with some effort I could get this down to 50 minutes, or maybe even 45 minutes.

I spent the next several hours after this workout very pleased with how relaxed my hips, buttocks, and lower back felt. I'll check in after my long run tomorrow to ensure it did the trick, but today, I feel great. I think I'm going to try to incorporate this sequence into my running schedule more regularly.

[Update: Sunday's long run was the best I've had in a long time. I definitely need to try to do this series more often.]


Anonymous said...

Have bookmarked this post for future reference. I know you've done some DVDs in the past -- is there one you recommend for someone who isn't quite knowledgeable enough to follow this series yet?

Anonymous said...

At the risk of sounding like an obsessed fan, I think Bryan Kest's Power Yoga DVD is the perfect combination of hard enough to make anyone work and yet accessible enough to make it work for newbies. Also, it is heavy on the hip openers and he seems to get that the hip is the "storage depot for lots of tension."

After 5 years, I still return to this DVD as my go-to, probably doing one of the levels at least twice a month: http://www.poweryogastore.com/miva/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=D-BKS&Category_Code=ALL&Product_Count=15.

It's cornier than hell in places, but solid, and honestly, myself, E and all of the friends I've turned on to this video have found that even the corniness takes on a certain hilarious wisdom that forms part of your practice, over time.

Bonus (but not very yoga-like, because it's competitive): If you do level 1 of this DVD once per week, you will be a very accomplished yogi within 15 weeks. If you venture into level II and level III, you will find that you intimidate people when you go to classes in studios and instructors will ask you all sorts of weird questions about your practice because they will assume you are training to be a teacher. The first time this happened to me, I was so confused, since I had only done bikram in the studio and was only practicing at home with this DVD. I have since learned that it is just a great yoga workout that qualifies you to comfortably walk into any studio, in any country, with any yoga focus, and if you can handle level 1, you will be fine -- Bascially, it is a fabulous fundamental DVD upon which to base a practice.

I also very much appreciate Shiva Rea's Yoga Shakti DVD: http://www.amazon.com/Shiva-Rea-Shakti-Marc-Caro/dp/B0001611DS -- bonus, you can select each sequence before you hit play, so you can design your own workout for the DVD to lead you. Why all work-out DVD's don't do this, I'll never know.

Other than that, I'm not a huge fan of many of the other DVD's I've purchased. A collection of Yoga Zone DVDs is useful in that the various series are 20 minutes and easy, so when I *really* want to bail, I can rely on one of them to be an easy cheat-session that often rewards me more than I would have expected.

In general, I like books, cards, and constructing my own workout (probably why I like Yoga Shakti so much), so I'm probably not the best person to recommend DVDs.

Regardless, as a non-DVD lover, I wholeheartedly recommend Kest. One of these days, I'm going to buy some of his newer works. But I haven't yet mastered the others, so until then...


Anonymous said...

thank you! :)

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