Thursday, January 8, 2015

My Favorite Yoga Poses

I have come to LOVE yoga!  With the hubbub of December, I struggled to keep yoga in my weekly rotation, and I could definitely feel a difference.  When I practice yoga regularly, my muscles feel relaxed, my brain is balanced, and I recover more quickly from hard runs.  When I don't, both my legs and my brain feel tight, tense, and edgy.

If you're interested in adding some yoga to your regimen, I've compiled my favorite yoga poses and videos.  Full disclaimer: I am in no way qualified to give out advice on yoga.  I'm self-taught via the interwebz, so I have no formal training on the subject.  However, I've learned a few things that work very well for my body, and I'd love to share what I've learned to see if they might work for you, too.  A quick rundown of my favorite poses for yoga novices:

1.  Triangle:  stretches the hips, thighs, and low back

2.  Pyramid:  hits the calves and hamstrings

3.  Happy Baby:  relaxes the hamstrings, groin, and back

4.  Lying Cow Face Pose (I don't name them; I just do them!):  incredible stretch for the glutes and IT band

5.  Toes Pose:  works out the ball of the foot and the top of the foot through the shin

6.  Standing Side Bend:  stretches the entire side body from the legs up through the torso

7.  Legs up the Wall:  eases tension in legs and back

Yoga has taught me how to listen - and respond - to my body.

I like to do Triangle Pose and Pyramid after every run.  They give a nice, gentle stretch to the hamstrings, calves, and low back.  If I only have a few minutes, hitting just those two poses is enough to help ease my tired muscles.  If I can squeeze in a few more minutes, I add in Happy Baby, Lying Cow Face Pose, and the Toes Pose.  Not pretty to look at, but they work wonders.

The Standing Side Bend may seem like an odd one to include here, but you'd be surprised by how tight your upper body can become during a long run or a speedwork session.  Stretching out these muscles is the ultimate refresher.  Ahhhmazing!  The final pose on the list, Legs up the Wall, is pure magic.  I have no idea how this pose works, but it makes a huge difference for me, particularly after a long run.  When I can lay in this pose for 5-10 minutes after a hard workout, I feel like a million bucks for the rest of the day, and I usually have limited soreness the following day, too.  I cannot recommend this pose highly enough.  If you are unable to do anything else in this post, give this pose a try after your next long run!  You'll love it, I promise.

I've found that I don't have to do yoga all in one session to reap its benefits.  Undoubtedly, the mental benefits are much greater when you can dedicated an uninterrupted block of time to its practice.  But, in the busy mother runner life, sprinkling poses throughout the day can still help your achy body.  I'll do a standing side bend while waiting for the microwave.  Put my legs up the wall while reading a book to my toddler.  Do toes pose in the shower (especially in the winter, when I don't want to leave its warmth).  Stand in triangle and pyramid while chatting with my 1st grader after school.

If you're looking for an easy-to-follow online yoga class for beginners, I highly recommend the hips, hamstrings, and low back classes on  Check out my review of the classes for links and more details.  If you're looking for something slightly faster-paced, Ekhart Yoga also has a great yoga for runners class.  View this post for full details and a link.

Give one of these poses a try after your next run and report back.  And let me know of your favorite poses, too!