It is not news to the running community that running has a shortening effect on the gluteal muscles (more so if one is in a desk bound work for hours). This tightened gluteus is among one of the main reasons for many problems (Achilles tendon, plantar fascia, knee pain, tight back etc.) associated with the posterior part of the body especially in runners.
Tight gluteal muscles not only create imbalance, due to the rigidity during movement, but also causes injuries, as other muscles begin to compensate to cover up that imbalance. The fluidity and the running strides are also highly compromised as a result of this stiffness.
The best solutions to deal with this problem are:
- Jadu Pocha (sweeping & swabbing) – nothing can stretch your hips like traditional Indian sweeping and mopping, which is in the squatting position.
This might seem near impossible to many. So let us move to the next option:
- Sitting on the floor with your legs crossed (or normal sitting position close to crossed leg as per your comfort – contraindicated for one with knee injuries) – this can have a profound effect in opening of the gluteal muscles. Though the ubiquitous presence of the dining table, sofa, bed, chair etc., does not allow one a chance to think to sit down on the floor, still make a conscious effort to sit down on the floor with legs crossed, without fail, at least 5 times a day. This is the simplest, cheapest and the easiest way of bringing optimal freedom to your hips. This alone should take maximum care in sorting out many of your problems.
Apart from these two daunting tasks (as you have left it behind in the past), follow these below mentioned postures. Regular practice of these postures will surely show a great result in releasing the tightness in your hips, thereby, improve your running efficiency.
Prasarita Padotanasana (Wide legged forward bend)
- Stand with your feet wide apart (4.5 to 5 feet). Make sure you have the right grip, with your heels firmly grounded to the floor; otherwise the feet will slip further apart and you will lose the grip.
- Your palms are on the waist; toes are parallel to each other and heels are slightly away from each other (the outer edges of the heels are aligned with the little toe); stretch the arch of the feet to create more space and tighten the grip of the feet on the floor.
- Lengthen your body, by lifting it up towards the ceiling and then slightly recline backwards (feet fixed to the floor and legs straight) with an inhalation. Each and every part of your body is active and alert.
- Maintaining the length of the body, slightly push your abdomen into your hips with an exhalation and allow your hips to protrude out, while at the same time, you start to bend forward with prolonged exhalation (maintain the length of the spine throughout).
- Let the forward bending be a very slow and smooth process.
- Half way into the bend, you should feel your hamstrings getting completely involved in the stretch. You can choose to press your feet firmly on the floor and further slide your heels slightly away from each other to get a better grip and a better balance.
- In this position, your spine will be in concave position with your hips moving in three directions – hips up to the ceiling, hips out to the sides as well as pushed out at the back, your lumber spine dropping down to the floor and your upper back, chest and head towards the ceiling. Keep the back of the neck stretched. Maintain the firmness of the body through out. Hold the position for 10-20 seconds with normal breathing.
- Exhale and place your palms in between your feet. Palms are shoulder width apart. Press your palms firmly on the floor, lengthen your arms, slightly move your shoulders to the back with your shoulder blades are nearing each other and then sliding down towards the hips; raise your head up (you have again created a concave back but this time with your palms on the floor). This will lengthen the spine to its fullest. Hold the position for 10 seconds with normal breathing.
- Exhale, tuck your tummy in, bend your elbows towards the body and begin to get your head towards legs to place the crown of the head on the floor in between your palms. Your legs, palms and head are in one line now. Elbows are forming a square.
- Make sure that the body weight is equally distributed throughout your body. Make sure that the body weight is not only on your head. If it is so, push your hips slightly at the back to engage it more. This will help take the weight off your head and also engage your hamstrings.
- Be there for 20-30 seconds with normal / deep breathing.
- Slowly revert back to the initial position of the posture by pressing the palms firmly on the floor; inhaling and raising your head up towards the ceiling; hold for a few seconds here; then place your palms on the waist; and slowly come back to the standing position in a controlled manner with an inhalation.
Note: Even if you are not able to assume the absolute posture as instructed, doing it upto your ability would allow you to reap enough benefits associated with the posture.
This posture works exclusively on stretching your gluteal muscles, the hamstrings, the groin & some of the adductors. Regular practice will help ease tension in these areas and gradually release the stiffness caused due to constant movement of legs. The optimal flexibility acquired, will then increase the fluidity, range of motion and help tackle many other problems (back stiffness, knee pain etc.) which has its source in tight glutes. Similarly, hamstrings which have a tendency of getting stiffer due to age and also due to regimented running, will have more fluidity, adding to the running efficiency.
Strong Lower extremity
Leg muscles are toned and strengthened. It also develops and strengthens the ligaments and muscles of the feet, knees, legs and hips.
The concave position with palms on the floor helps ease stiffness, thereby strengthening your back and is recommended in case of sciatica & slip disc. However, make sure that you do not drop your head down towards the floor in case you are suffering from slip disc, sciatica or severe back pain.
Benefits of Inversion
Placing the head on the floor in between the palms helps direct blood flow towards the head. This brings the many benefits of Sirshasana, to the practitioner.
Do not place your head down on the floor in case of any back problems.
If you have low blood pressure, come out of the posture gradually, to avoid dizziness.
The other postures which are equally effective in opening of the hips are Adhomukha Svanasana, Uttanasana, Supta Padanghusthasana etc. So make sure to practice these regularly and, without fail, immediately after your run.
Shammi Gupta, founder of Shammi’s Yogalaya holds an MA in Yoga Shastra, is a certified Yogic Therapist and Naturopath, has completed an Advanced Yoga Course and holds a Diploma in Yoga Education from Mumbai University. She is a certified trainer from American College of Sports Medicine and holds an MBA in HR & MBA in Finance from The University of Akron, Ohio, USA. She conducts Health Awareness Workshops for Corporate, Yogasana Workshops for Athletes and Yoga Therapy Workshops on different medical issues for patients. Among the celebrities Shammi trains are eminent personalities from the film and television industry and corporate world.
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