As part of Rebel PT Yoga Month (more of that here), some of the team met up with Ali Mathers to talk running, marathons and yoga! Ali is an Aberdeen-based psychologist, multiple-marathon runner and qualified yoga instructor (she teaches yoga for runners in Run4It) and shared some of her favourite exercises to do post-run to aid flexibility and mobility.
“A lot of people find that their “hips” are tight due to spending a lot of time sitting, both at work and in cars; as well as running and cycling. This tightness, which can cause back pain and sciatica and affect mobility, is really in all the muscles surrounding the pelvis. Any yoga pose can be thought of as a hip opener since we are using the muscles around the hips in many different ways.
Sitting in Baddah Konasana Cobbler pose with the soles of your feet touching and your knees wide apart, opens the lower back, hips and inner thighs, hold it for several minutes at a time. If your hips or groin feel too tight to sit up straight or to bring your heels in close to your pelvis, sit on a block or a blanket. If your feet don’t touch, that is totally ok! Don’t force your knees down to the ground, let them drop naturally so you feel a gentle stretch. And keep breathing!”
“Runner’s lunge is an excellent stretch to help you open your hips and hip flexors. This stretch, at the end of a workout, will “reset” your legs and hips and help you recover faster. Hip pain and tightness tops the list of complaints when it comes to tight areas on the body and stretching the hip flexors isn’t easy.
Runner’s Lunge allows you to rest your hands on the floor so that the legs aren’t working as hard as other lunges and you are able to sink the hips deeper into the stretch to achieve greater benefits. The Runner’s Lunge works also works your quads, glutes, core, hip flexors and lower back.”
How to do Runner’s Lunge: Start in standing and go into a standing forward bend. Place both hands on the floor and step the right foot back, placing the ball of the foot on the floor and keeping the right leg straight. The left foot is between the hands, which are shoulder-width apart, palms flat on the floor. The left knee is directly over the left ankle. Look forward, keeping the chin parallel with the floor and extending the spine. Take a breath and while exhaling, soften the groin and let it sink toward the floor. Hold for 30+ seconds, keep breath even and flowing.
The Downward-Facing Dog is probably the most recognisable of all yoga poses and in most styles of yoga is either a strengthening pose, a transition pose, or a resting pose. There are so many descriptions of this posture so we have kept it basic will try keep it basic and Ali tells us that this is one of her top 5 stretches to do after exercising … The Downward-Facing Dog pose lengthens, strengthens, and opens the hips, quads, calves and hamstrings. in addition to opening the arms and shoulders .
How to do the Downward-Facing Dog: stand with your feet hip distance apart, hands should be shoulder distance apart. Glance back and check your feet, if you can see your heels try turning them out slightly so you can’t see them anymore. Then activate your arms and try keep your eye gaze on your knees or naval. Your upper arms externally rotate, internally rotate the forearms and externally rotate the upper …. sounds tricky, but it’s a fairly subtle action. Your neck and head continue along same line as spine. In textbook alignment, the head will be between the upper arms. This is tricky as you’re neither letting the head just ‘hang,’ nor crunching the neck too far up. Firm your shoulder blades and broaden across the upper back. Firm the shoulder blades and feeling them draw down towards the tailbone and broadening across the upper back. Don’t forget to engage the belly, draw your navel in towards your spine and engage your core! Keep this core activation going throughout the pose. Do not worry if heels are nowhere near the floor. Keep sending your hips back and bend your knees as little or as much as you need too. Keep the breath even and flowing, repeat twice with a 30 seconds mini break.
Prasarita Padottanasana pose (wide legged standing forward bend), Ali shared this with us as an ode to to anyone who says they “can’t do yoga as I can’t even touch my toes”? What “you” ( whoever you is) don’t realize is that yoga isn’t about touching your toes or achieving any other goal; it’s about learning to skillfully move your body through its appropriate range of motion.
The aim of this pose is to fold forward from the hips so that you can stretch your hamstrings without straining your back. It doesn’t matter how close you get to the ground, what matters is that you learn to stabilize your legs and your spine while you bend forward. Step your feet about 3 to 4 feet apart (one of your leg length is a good gauge), with your hands on your hips. Lift up tall through your whole torso and fold slowly over your legs. Place your hands flat on the floor, or towards the floor, shoulder-width apart and begin to stretch your torso forward. If your hands don’t get to floor keep on your hips. Fold deeper, bringing your head toward the floor and bend your elbows, stacking them over your wrists… then engage your core! Anchor your feet, firm your leg muscles up into your hips and lengthen your entire spine from your sitting bones to the crown of your head. Draw your shoulders up your back and take 5 long slow breaths / 30 seconds, tipping forward constantly almost like you may forwards roll over.
Balasana: Child’s Pose is a true resting pose and one that you can hold for long periods of time without the need for props. In the picture, Ali’s knees are touching as for her it targets her stiffer lower to mid back and elongates the lower back. If you sit at a desk all day, stand for long periods of time, chances are you have some compression in your lower back.
This is because we tend to ‘dump’ our weight down there, and usually aren’t consciously pulling up and engaging our lower abdominals all day long. Folding over your legs immediately reverses the splaying of the tailbone that can cause lower back pain and Child’s Pose allows you to open up and stretch this area of the body too. As you lower your body toward the ground, your torso will lay itself down and on top of your thighs. Also a good option for those of us with limited lateral hip extension.
Child’s Pose therefore helps to stretch the hips, thighs, and ankles while reducing stress and fatigue. It is also good for digestion as it gently relaxes the muscles on the front of the body while softly and passively stretching the muscles of the back torso. This resting pose centers, calms, and soothes the brain, making it a therapeutic posture for relieving stress. When performed with the head and torso supported, it can also help relieve back and neck pain – Child’s Pose restores us, balances us and provides equanimity to the body. Child’s Pose reminds us that resting is a good thing! Don’t forget to engage the core and stay as long as you want using long even breaths.
Hope you Rebels have found these useful! Look out for some of the stretches at bootcamp and get in touch with any questions or comments! #RebelLife #RebelYogamonth