It is last week before the much-awaited Mumbai Marathon. Runners are converging in Mumbai, from different parts of the world, ready to take on this challenge with their strategies and plans. I connected with some of my running buddies to try and figure out what role can Yoga play towards the enhancement of a runners performance during the Marathon.
The discussion concluded with a few crucial pointers – stretching the calves, stretching the hamstrings, strengthening the knees, strengthening the neck and the right breathing technique to charge up one’s body and at the same time, to calm one’s mind down the run. Here are a few stretches which are mild in nature, can be done without strain and can help release the tension from joints and muscles to align your running wheels and pump you up just before the run.
Targeted Calf Stretch
On the four – calf stretch
- Get on your fours i.e. palms shoulder width apart and knees hip width apart on the floor
- Stretch your right leg out to the back and place your toes on the floor (do not stretch your right leg too much at the back, keep the stretching soft)
- Focus completely on the back of the right leg, lengthen the sole of the foot, push the big toe mount on the floor and then stretch the rest of the right foot to try and place your right heel on the floor
- You can slightly move your body weight to the back to push the right heel towards the floor but definitely not enough so as to place the heel on the floor
- The whole process should be, with resistance, in which you are trying to rest your heel on the floor but not doing so literally
- With your full attention on the right calf, keep pushing the heel down, feel the stretch on the calf, hold for 10 counts & release. Repeat 5 times and change the side
In Adhomukha Svanasana (Dog Pose)
Adhomukha Svanasana is a popular posture and focuses on stretching your calves along with hamstrings, especially, when you get your heels off the floor and then slowly lengthen the sole of the feet and place the heels firmly back on the floor. If you are not able to keep your heels on the floor, ask someone to push your heels down from the back. If this is comfortable, move on to the next stage:
- From Adhomukha Svanasana, raise one leg up in the air towards the ceiling; frontal part of the toes are resting on the wall
- The key is to keep both the legs straight without bending at the knee
- Take all the attention to the leg which is on the floor and push that heel down firmly on the floor without moving your hips. Hips are pointed towards the ceiling and so is the raised leg.
Along with your calves, this will stretch your hamstrings and strengthen your knees.
Targeted Hamstring Stretch
- Stand a foot away from the wall with your back towards the wall
- Release your hips to place it on the wall without getting your feet close to the wall. Upper back begins to come forward
- Push your hips firmly against the wall and start to slide it up towards the ceiling while bending your upper body further in front; place your palms on the legs or wherever you are comfortable and keep your chest parallel to the floor
- Use your hands to further push your hips up on the wall
- Push the back of the legs, especially, the thighs towards the wall without any visible movement
- Create a gap on the lower back by throwing your pelvis in front and raising your head up; hold for some time while breathing normally
- In your next move, gradually bend your upper body so as to place it on your legs
- Place the abdomen on the thigh (the chest and head are up), then your chest on the knees and finally your head on the shin
- Hold on to this stretch while breathing normally
- Try to raise your toes with your heels firmly on the floor, this will activate the stretch in the calves along with your hamstrings
The above stretches are so focused that it will not only release the tension from the targeted areas to increase the fluidity and the flexibility of the body but also will help deal with achilles tendon, plantar fascia, knee stress and hamstring tightness.
On the morning of the run, start your day with Kapalbhati (3-5 minutes) and Suryabhedan – right nostril breathing (3 minutes). Ten minutes before the run, perform 5 rounds of deep breathing (inhale as much as you can and exhale as much as you can without straining yourself) and then 3 minutes of Ujjayi.
The beauty of these simple stretches and the breathing is it can be performed anytime and anywhere. These are mild in nature but highly effective in outcome. It will help you prepare yourself for the D Day with ease and without soreness.
So go ahead with this practice and run like never before.
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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.