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Yoga Poses for Runners: Better Balance

Balance is one of the most important skills each and every person should strive to maintain. It doesn't matter if you're an athlete, approaching retirement, or consider yourself a coordinated individual. Balance is tested throughout life and if you don't prioritize practicing it, you'll quickly see how fast you'll lose it. Often times, I get asked why I have my clients use a bossu or have them sit on a yoga ball instead of a bench; these items task and manipulate your base of support and require more balance. The better you are at keeping your center of gravity level, the better you are at any task life throws at you. Here are some populations that benefit tremendously from bettering their balance:


  • Kids who initiate balancing drills into their sport or activity have a less likely chance of breaking a bone or getting injured.

  • Adults who practice balance in their fitness routine have less imbalanced hips and shoulders compared to those who rely on one side to take over the work load.

  • Elders who practice balancing fall less and are able to move easier doing day to day tasks.

  • Runners who strength train on uneven/balance manipulated surfaces grow stronger as they run on uneven pavement, trails, sidewalks, etc.

  • Athletes who routinely test their balance preform at their sport better.

  • Desk workers who incorporate balancing into their exercise routine find less stiffness and joint discomfort in one side because they train both sides evenly.

The list could go on and on. Instead, we will jump to the point of gaining better balance through yoga.


Typically when I ask yoga-beginners to tell me why they want to begin a yoga journey, they say "better flexibility and balance". That is great! Yoga will help you progress in both of these. However, balance is truly tested in yoga when the yogi finds stability first.


That being said: the poses in this sequence are catered to those who have found stability in their yoga practice and would like to test their balance.

F.A.Q

Q: When should I practice these poses?

A: After you have warmed up your hips, ankles, and core. Balancing requires stable joints and solid foundation. You must turn on these three areas "on" to balance to the best of your capability.


Q: Where do I look?

A: "Drishti" is the yoga Sanskrit term meaning "gazeless gaze". It is commonly described at looking not at something, but through it. By setting a drishti, you'll be looking forward "through" something that is not moving. This helps create a sense of balance and stillness.


Q: Where should my weight be distributed? A: Your planted foot should be firmly on the ground with all 4 corners connected. If you're still having trouble, try lifting up each individual toe and pushing it once more into the mat so you can feel the sense of grounding.


Q: What are some of the best poses/exercises I can do before practicing these challenging poses?

A: Doing 1-2 rounds of forearm planks can help create core stability, which is vital for every balancing pose. To warm up the ankles and unilateral strength, doing 5-10 breaths in majorette will help your body adjust to one side supporting all of your weight. Your ankles must be strong and serve as the support for your entire body. Lastly, a few rounds of bird dogs (both holds and crunches) can help turn on the core, increase hip and gluten activation, and engage the muscles needed to balance.


Note: when warming up, these exercises should be practiced but not to fatigue*. If you are too tired by the time your balancing poses are tested, you have done too much and it may hinder your ability to hold a pose for longer.


Extended Hand to Toe Pose (Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana)

Extende hand to toe pose: Standing at the top of your mat, shift your weight into one side. If you are balancing on your right side, lift the left knee into your chest coming into majorette pose. Take your left hand and grab on to your left big toe, and begin to extend the knee so your leg straightens in front of you. Draw the shoulder blade back and pull the core in. From here, you can extend the leg to the left side which will open up the hips. Allow your right knee to remain soft and let your left knee bend as much as you need to.


Exercise Prescription: Try both poses for 5-8 breaths. Practice as many rounds as you would like to.
Warrior 3 (Virabhadrasana III)

Warrior 3: Starting at the top of your mat, shift your weight into your right leg. Begin to hinge at your hips and lift the left leg behind you. Keep your hips in line and both hip bones pointed in the same direction. Both feet should be pointed to the top of your mat. Your gaze will be looking right above your toes and your arms drawing back behind you, as pictured. Hold with soft knees and a pulled in core. Draw the shoulders down and back.

Exercise Prescription: Hold this pose for 5-8 breaths. Practice on both sides as much as you'd like.

Bound Half Moon (Baddha Ardha Chandrasana)

Half moon pose: Starting in the center of your mat, shift your weight to your right foot and lift your left leg behind you. Begin to open up your hips so your pelvis now faces the wall (versus facing the floor). You may reach your right arm down to the mat and lift your left arm to the sky. Allow your gaze to follow the left arm. Be sure to work your chest back and twist at the thoracic spine. For an added quad stretch, you may reach your floating left hand for your floating left foot, bending at the knee. Kick your foot into your hand to "counterbalance" these forces.


Exercise Prescription: Hold both sides for 30-60 seconds. Practice as many times as you'd like.
Birds Of Paradise (Svarga Dvidasanas)

Birds of Paradise: A very challenging pose; this one will surely test both your balance and strength! Starting in extended side angle on your right side, reach your right arm underneath your leg and wrap it behind your back. Take your left arm behind the top side of your back and form a bind, or a lock, with your hands. You are now in bound side angle. From here, step your left foot to the top of the mat while keeping the bind. You will be crouched down. Plant your left foot firmly on the mat and come to the toes of your right foot. Eventually, extending your left leg and standing upright with the bind still in place. You may straighten your right knee or keep it bent (straight is pictured).


Exercise Prescription: Hold each side for 30-60 seconds. Practice as many rounds as you'd like.

Where to go from here

Practice! These four poses are not formatted into a flow; so allow yourself to warm up properly before working on these challenging poses. A few rounds of Sun A and Sun B might benefit to simply get your body warm. The more you practice these poses and engagement of these muscles, the more you will see it translate into your every day life.


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