The registration for the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon got over even before it started. Running enthusiasts in different parts of the city are common sights. This shows how the popularity of running is spreading out like a wild fire and how running enthusiasts are working systematically with a dedicated schedule towards achieving their dream of half marathon / full marathon in January 2016.

This is also the time of the year when it is important to plan a comprehensive Yoga practice to match one’s running schedule. A logical and effective combination of running with Yoga will definitely give an extra edge over other contestants on the D-Day.

Plan your yoga practice based on your running schedule. For example, it would be a good idea to choose strength building postures during an easy run and restorative and relaxing postures during a high intensity run. Also, as you begin to prepare yourself for your marathon run, you can do more of high intensity strength building yoga postures and as you start reaching close to your target run (which is expected to be intensive), you may include more restorative postures to give your body optimal rest. Be rest assured that the strength building postures would have done its bit by then. As part of this series, I am focusing on Virbhadrasana II & two of its variations. These are strength building postures, which also has an in-built characteristic of flexibility in that.

Movement analysis & how it helps runners specifically

These are the general characteristics of almost all the asanas described below.

  1. There is 90o of flexion of the left knee and left thigh and full extension of the right knee and right thigh
  2. The arms abduct (arms going away from the mid part of the body)
  3. The right thigh rotates outward (tendency has to rotate inward), left thigh is brought parallel to the floor
  4. The neck and head rotates
  • These postures stretch and strengthen the lower extremities, especially the hip flexor and the knee extension. Firmness brings stability and suppleness does the job of shock absorption. Both of these characteristics are required for runners to perform better on the road as well as to prevent injury.
  •  External Rotators & Hip Flexor– Sitting or standing for hours lock the hip joint in one position thereby decreasing the range of motion. Running, on top of that, further shortens these muscles. Performing these postures regularly will increase the fluidity and keep knees free from extra stress.
  • These postures play a specific role in increasing the range of motion of the ankle joints as well (we do need certain level of fluidity in the ankle joint for propelling forward while running). Pressing the heel, lifting the arch, stretching the bottom of the feet, curling, extending and spreading the toes and then placing it on the floor, help align and develop the weight bearing points of the feet – the big toe mount, the baby toe mount and the center of the heel. This alone can help prevent lot of injuries from happening. The arch of the feet helps absorb shock during walking and running. Stretching and lengthening the arch helps in better absorption and further injury prevention.
  • Knee injury is very commonly associated with running. Flexed left thigh works on developing a strong quadriceps (thigh), thereby protecting the knee from unwanted stress.
  • Apart from developing muscular strength, it also develops full range of motion for flexion and extension thereby allowing lot of movement, which otherwise limits running endeavor. The whole process helps increase stride length for runners in particular. The inner thigh stretch also builds isometric strength.
  • A well-balanced pelvis helps prevent back pain and running becomes a back pain free experience.
  • Core and hips work as stabilizers, important components for being a better runner and again preventing unnecessary injuries.

Virbhadrasana II (Standing Asymmetrical posture)

  1. Stand in Tadasana (feet grounded, body tall, chest elevated & shoulder blades close by); place your palms on your waist; exhale and jump 4 to 4 ½ feet apart (do not jump in case of back pain or knee pain).
  2. Press your left heel firmly on the floor, raise your left toes up (feel engagement of your left calf muscle) and away from the floor; rotate your heel out to the left, lengthen the arch of the foot and slowly place your big toe mount on the floor; press your metatarsals firmly on the floor and curl your toes in; hold for few seconds and then place your toes on the floor. Move your right foot 30 – 40 degree towards the left too.
  3. Alignment check – body is facing the front; hips are dropping down, breast bone is lifted up; shoulder blades are close to each other and hips are in line with each other (body especially the upper part has a tendency to move to the left – keep it aligned in the middle).
  4. Inhale and while inhaling, cross your arms in front of your body and raise it up above your head (elbows should not be bending), feel complete stretch throughout your body while stabilizing your pelvis and hips; exhale and get your arms parallel to the floor; arms are at the shoulder level; get your shoulders away from each other and the shoulder blades close to each other.P1
  5. Wait for few seconds, roll your left knee and bend it in the process of aligning your thigh parallel to the floor; you have formed a right angle; your left  knee and ankle is in one line meaning left knee is standing just above the ankle and is in line with the second toe; visualize that you are pushing your left knee forward while at the same time pulling your left thigh fibers to the left groin (this opposing stretch will help involve your left thigh completely), press your left groin and quadriceps down to the floor so that your left thigh is almost locked and stabilized.
  6. Turn your head to the left, stretch the spine from the coccyx; stretch the back muscles of the stretched leg fully by fixing your left heel firmly on the floor; rotate your right hip out and left hip in; the upper part of the body is perpendicular to the floor and not tilting to any side.
  7. Hold the posture with normal breathing for 20 seconds or as per your comfort. Release in reverse order and repeat in the other side.

Variation – 1 (Virbhadrasana II)P2

  • Get into Virbhadrasana II as instructed above, stretch your arms at the back and interlock your fingers.
  • Maintaining the stability of the core, thigh & hips, push the interlocked fingers down towards the floor; your hips and core are engaged and at the same time, chest is raised up.
  • Hold this posture for 20 seconds with normal breathing and repeat in the other side.

This posture apart from the mentioned benefits will also help improve your lunge capacity.

Variation – 2 (Virbhadrasana II)

  • Get into Virbhadrasana IIP3
  • Exhale and slide your right hand on the right leg and get a grip on your right leg at the point you cannot slide your right hand further.
  • Inhale and raise your left arm up above your head as if you are trying to touch the ceiling and then drop it towards the right while at the same time maintaining the stretch throughout the body.
  • Turn your head and look at the ceiling with normal breathing.
  • Hold for 20 seconds, come back to normal position in reverse order and repeat at the other side.

Frequency: Hold for 20-30 seconds with normal breathing. Repeat 2-3 times. Gradually increase the holding and hold for 45 seconds to 1 minute at one go.

Comprehensive Benefits: Virbhadrasana II is one of the strength building asana. It develops strong and shapely legs; relieves cramps in the calf and thigh muscles; brings elasticity to the legs and back muscles; supports the health of the knee; helps correct abnormalities in the legs like flat foot etc. which also may be one of the causes for IT band problem.

Regular practice of these postures even for a month can show amazing difference in the running performance. The beauty of yoga posture is such that anyone, at any level of fitness, can modify the practice as per their requirement. Make sure to approach this posture slowly to reap the maximum benefit and avoid injury. You can check other details on www.shammisyogalaya.com. For other blogs on running, you can check www.shammisyogalayablog.com

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