Archive for the ‘Yoga’ Category

Guest Post: Author Ryann Price has been an active runner and yogi for 10+ years. In 2010 she completed her teacher training certification at In Touch Yoga in Bryon Bay, Australia, where she primarily studied hatha and vinyasa yoga. Today Ryann continues her practice and love of both yoga and running, and teaches the art of strength and flexibility in Washington, DC.

Ever find yourself sitting at the computer wanting to go to a yoga class but feeling stuck or intimidated.  Ashtanga, Bikram, Power Yoga, Iyengar – what does it all mean?  Can yoga really be this complicated? … And the answer is yes and no.

Finding a style of yoga that suits you is less about the type of yoga itself and more about what you’re looking to get out of the experience and the instructor.

Here are sample scenarios to help guide you.

  • Persona: Hi my name is Dylan.  I’m an avid runner.  Really high energy.  I LIVE to compete.  I’m driven to achieve and if I’m not sweating my brains out, well, then I’m not working hard enough.  My friends and I love to meet up for class, get our butts kicked and snag brunch after class.Tip: If you sound like Dylan you might love the heat and competitive nature of Bikram or Hot Power Yoga.
  • Persona: I’ve been studying yoga for a few years and my name is Carla.  I’m dedicated to the poses and to proper alignment.  I like that fact that I’ve been going to class with many of the same people and learning a progression of poses.  We’re all in it together and we have a very dedicated instructor passionate about our yoga journey and development.Tip: Carla more your style? Try Iyengar or Hatha yoga – they’re both focused on alignment and building a solid foundation of basic poses.
  • Persona: Yoga is something I’m deeply passionate about.  I’m Andrea and I’ve been practicing yoga daily for about 6 months. It’s a big commitment, but the more I do it the more I love it!  I enjoy the challenge and the physical workout, but I’m also exploring the spiritual side.  We’ve said mantra’s in class a couple of times and spend a lot of time working on our breath. After all, yoga is really just fancy stretching if you’re not breathing.Tip: Do you look in the mirror and see someone like Andrea?  Ashtanga or vinyasa flow classes could be your jam.

Does one of them sound like you? Then follow the respective tips above. Or if you’re like me and you could be any of them depending on the day – just get out there and try all!

Now, finding a yoga class that works for you is not all about the style, the instructor plays a huge role.  I have a few critical questions I ask myself after I take a class with a new instructor.

  • Did I like listening to his/her voice for an hour (or more)?
    This is KEY (more than you may think).  If you don’t like his/her voice you’re not going to enjoy class.
  • Did I feel safe?
    Yoga is like any other physical activity, if you’re not safe you can get injured.  Your instructor’s job is to ensure the safety of their students.
  • Did the environment meet my expectations?
    If I wanted to relax did the lighting, the smell, etc work for me?
  • Was I inspired?
    This is the most important question for me.  I need to be inspired by the instructor and the class.  Continuous learning and exploration drew me to yoga and keep my interest day after day .  If I’m not inspired I won’t go.

Yoga is like dating, you never know who you might meet but you’ll know once you’ve met someone you like.  Try several studios or gym classes and give each instructor 2 chances (unless you feel totally unsafe) – everyone can have an off day.  Most studios offer new student/client rates or deals – in some cases unlimited yoga at a significantly reduced rate.  If they don’t advertise it ask for one.

No more excuses, if you’re like so many others and you’ve been unsure of where to start, just Google it, find a studio and jump on the mat!  The worst thing that happens is you get back from class, run to your computer and search for a new class.

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I couldn’t help but think of my Physical Education students when I read the Times Article “Skip the Stretch Before Running — It Doesn’t Prevent Injuries”¹ The article states that through a recent study, static stretching before a run did not decrease your chance in injury. I spent the first 3 months of my P.E. Teaching career explaining this concept to my students, especially the older ones.

The children that I teach had been use to their routine of coming into the gym, performing static stretches, running laps and then starting the lesson plan for the day. For me to change their routine took a lot of explaining and I still believe they’re not all convinced.

I used the analogy of comparing your muscles to a rubber band. If you’ve ever seen a cold elastic band, what happens when you try to stretch it? The rubber band breaks. When you have a warm rubber band, it stretches very easily.

In my classes, I always start with a warm up, but I never have them perform static stretching at the beginning of class. My students start with a walk/light jog, followed by dynamic stretching and then some additional static stretches before we begin our lesson plan. This prevents injury and gets their muscles prepared for the sport/exercise they are about to partake in. However, at least once a month I will still have a hand raised with the question “why don’t we stretch first?”

As a runner, I agree with the Times Article for myself and for the way I work with my clients and Physical Education classes. I always start with a proper general warm up before exercise. I use static stretching at the end of a session for a cool down and in an effort to prevent any cramping or tightening of the muscles after exercise.

Here is an example of a dynamic warm up that I use with my Physical Education Class.

  • 100Ft. of Toy Soldiers; Take one step, lift the opposite leg as high as it will comfortably go and touch the knee of that leg. Repeat on opposite side
  • 100Ft. of Cherry Pickers; High skip while reaching one hand in the air
  • 100Ft. of Caterpillar; Bend at the waist and walk your hands out to a plank position. Then walk your feet into meet your hands, while keeping only a slight bend in your knees. Walk your hands back out and then your feet in again to meet your hands.
  • 100Ft. Back Shuffle; Step backwards staying on the balls of your feet. Look behind you to make sure you don’t crash into anything.

Repeat all exercises

This warm up will raise your core temperature and improve your flexibility at the same time. For an extra stretch you can perform some static stretches afterward, although it is not necessary.

¹Skip the Stretch Before Running — It Doesn’t Prevent Injuries By Alice Park Friday, February 18, 2011, Time Healthland

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Guest Post: Author Ryann Price has been an active runner and yogi for 10+ years. In 2010 she completed her teacher training certification at In Touch Yoga in Bryon Bay, Australia, where she primarily studied hatha and vinyasa yoga. Today Ryann continues her practice and love of both yoga and running, and teaches the art of strength and flexibility in Washington, DC.

If yoga is the art of creating space throughout the body with a focus on the spine, well running is the art of compressing that spine back down.  As a runner myself I’ve battled many injuries and as a yogi I’ve come to find a cure for almost all of them on my mat.  You don’t have to trust my experience alone, this list from WebMD of the top running injuries highlights that tight muscles can be the source of almost all the injuries listed (with the exception of blisters – can’t help you there!).

The key to balancing your running with yoga is knowing when to stretch, when to strengthen and what muscles to target in both cases.  Running classically tightens lower body muscles like hamstrings, hip flexors, quadriceps, piriformis and calf muscles.  These are excellent areas to focus your stretching.  Integrating a yoga practice that focuses on these muscles into your daily life is an excellent way to ensure you stay injury free and as a bonus gain added mobility in your stride.

As a runner you know which of your lower body muscles are weaker or out of balance.  Incorporating strength building poses into your practice that work on your weaker areas is an excellent way to round out your muscle imbalances.  Core strength is always present in yoga poses even if they are not categorically “core strengtheners”, but it can also be a way to elevate your level of performance.  Specifically target the lower back, inner thigh, lower abs and oblique muscles to build up your core, which will not only increase your performance as an amateur runner but also help protect you against injury.

Now that you’re up to speed on the physical benefits yoga brings to your life as a runner, how do you start your practice?  Or for those of you already practicing how you do make your practice work harder for you as a runner?

To take on your problem areas commit to 3 daily poses.  If you take 5 minutes per pose that’s a maximum of 15 minutes per day.  A quick example, if you have tight hips, hamstrings and quads here’s a 15 minutes runners’ daily sequence:

  1. Anjaneyasana (low lunge), focus on dropping your hip to the ground and relax your glute (repeat on opposite side)
  2. Take your lunge to the wall with your back shin up the wall.  Focus on flattening your back against the wall. (repeat on opposite side)
  3. Supta padangustasana.  Here you’ll need a belt.  Take it slow because you can overstretch (aka pull) your hamstring.  Start where you can just barely feel something.  Keep your grounded leg straight and foot flexed.

Unlike running, your yoga practice does not have a destination.  It’s a journey.  Yoga is a journey.  Take it one day at a time and find a place, a teacher, a time whatever gets you motivated to jump on your mat. Do your daily sequence.  Invest in yourself and your body, you only get one.  And just like running life is a marathon, not a sprint.

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