Runner Strong Yoga: Tree Pose

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A lot of runners experience stiffness in their hips. Tree pose is a readily accessible yoga post for most people that can help you open your hips, stretch the inner thigh of the bent leg, strengthen the muscles of the standing leg, all while working on your balance as an extra bonus!

Fairytales and Fitness

Tree Pose: Good post run hip stretch
Tree Pose, when done correctly, can help stretch out those tight hip muscles after a run. It also really challenges your balance — which means that while props are not needed, you might want to practice tree pose near something you can hold onto.

I can get that foot up there — but should I?

The goal of Tree Pose is not to get your foot as high on your thigh as possible — for many people that will cause one hip to hike higher than the other. Do you want to train your body to run with hips not in a neutral position? Trust me, you don’t, and trying to go deeper into the pose than your body is capable of can cause injury.

Also be aware of where your foot is on the straight leg: you do not want it directly on your knee! Above or below the knee joint, please.

It’s not about how far back you can press the bent leg

Your hips do not need to be — in fact, should not be — pressed back in line with your body. This also causes most people’s hips to be out of alignment.

Muscles Targeted

  • Hip
  • Inner thigh
  • All muscles of the standing leg
  • Abs

 

Using a wall & keeping your hands on your hip can help you stay balanced

 

Contraindications

  • Have something nearby (a wall, a pole, a tree) if you have balance issues
  • Protect your knee by placing the bent leg on the ankle of your standing leg (for knee issues)
  • Keep hands on hips if you have shoulder problems

Watch Out For

  • Standing leg is leaning inward or outward
  • Foot on your knee — this can put a lot of stress on your knee joint
  • Shoulders elevated
  • Hips not level, side to side, up and down — or both!
  • Booty sticking out (spine out of neutral)
Most people will benefit more from practicing with their foot on their shin, not their thigh

How to Modify It
It’s very important to take your ego out of the picture to truly reap the benefits of Tree Pose. You don’t have to hike  your foot up super high to get a good stretch and strengthen your legs at the same time.

  • Keep foot of bent leg on the floor, propped up on your toes
  • Bring foot of bent leg to your shin
  • Practice near something to hold onto (like a chair) if you have balance issues
  • Practice near a wall, either to hold onto or to lean back into
  • If you find your shoulders creeping up towards your ears, bend your elbows so they’re in a goal post shape
Also notice how my straight leg is bending out here — not what you want!
Bending your elbows (even just a little) will help you relax your shoulders

Now let’s get into Tree Pose

  1. Stand at the top of your mat with your big toes together, hands on hips
  2. Inhale and engage your abs
  3. Bend one knee, and place your foot on your straight leg at a point (above or below your knee) that keeps your hips level
  4. Push your foot into your leg and your leg into your foot to help keep your balance
  5. Think about hugging everything into the midline of your body to help keep your balance
  6. Keep your gaze on a single object in front of you to help keep your balance
  7. Try taking your hands together at your heart center
  8. Slowly raise your arms towards the ceiling, while continuing to gaze ahead at a single object
  9. If your shoulders start to hike up, slightly bend your elbows, soften your shoulders, and see if you can straighten your arms without elevating your shoulders
  10. If you fall out of your tree, no big deal, just start over!
  11. As you hold this pose for several breaths, remember to press everything into the midline of your body to create more balance and a straight spine.
  12. Slowly lower your arms and leg.
  13. Pause, notice if you feel differently side to side.
  14. Repeat Tree Pose on the second side.

You can also stretch over towards the bend knee to get a nice side body stretch, but it’s more difficult to balance in that variation of the pose

Do you have a yoga pose you’d like to see featured here?

Do you have a favorite arm variation for Tree Pose?

If you try Tree Pose after a run, let me know how it felt!

Runner Strong Yoga: Pyramid Pose

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Most runners know they should do yoga. Most runners also think that means spending an hour in a yoga studio, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Even a few poses practiced regularly could mean the difference between an okay run and a good run. They call it a practice for a reason.

I am starting a new series called Runner Strong Yoga. Each month or so I’ll share one yoga pose that complements your running. I’ll share tips to do the pose correctly and fix any misalignments you might have. I’ll let you know what muscles the pose targets and any contraindications for the pose.

Fairytales and Fitness

Make sure your legs are very active (but don’t lock out or hyperextend your knees) and your back is parallel to the floor

Pyramid Pose: Good all around post run stretch
Pyramid Pose is actually a very accessible pose for most runners. It’s a standing pose that can easily be done before you even head home. Simply grab onto a tree, a wall, the trunk of your car, or a park bench. In addition to being a great hamstring and low back stretch, done right it can also help you strengthen your core and your legs.

Muscles Targeted

  • Lower Back
  • Hamstrings
  • Moderate hip stretch
  • Good allover body stretch

Contraindications

  • Be careful going too deeply into Pyramid Pose if you have low back issues
  • Be careful if you have hamstring injuries/issues
Make sure you’ve really engaged your core, your legs, are not overly rounding your back, or craning your neck up

Watch Out For

  • Feet not pressing evenly into the ground
  • Legs not straight and/or activated
  • Hips not level, side to side, up and down — or both!
  • Back rounding or dipping down (can you balance a coffee cup on your back?)
Having your hands on your hips can help you feel if your hips are in a neutral position
Make both feet are really placing into the ground/mat; thinking about pressing your front toe into the ground can help you really press down through your legs & feet

 

Holding onto blocks can help you to keep a straight back

How to Modify It
While this pose is great for beginners and experienced yogis, props can be a great addition to really give you the full benefit of the pose.

  • Prop your fingers up on blocks (no death grips, please!)
  • Practice with your hands pushing into a wall (or tree, or park bench if outside — even your treadmill!)
  • Place your hands on your hips or low back to see if your hips are level
  • If you find turning out your back foot bothers your knee, just keep the foot pointing straight ahead — but still keep it very active!

 

It’s okay if your heel pops off the ground with your back foot facing forward

 

Reverse prayer hands (hand come into prayer position at your back) can really help you open up across your shoulders and back. If that’s not available to you, you can try just holding onto your elbows behind your back.

Now let’s get into Pyramid Pose

  1. Standing at the top of your mat, legs hip width apart, step one leg back roughly the width of one leg. Both legs are straight, with just a slight microbend at the knees.
  2. Toes of the front leg point forward.
  3. Rotate the back leg out roughly 30 degrees, from the hip. If this bothers your knee, you can allow the heel of the back foot to come off the mat, or play with the angle of your foot until it’s comfortable for you.
  4. Press both feet firmly into the mat (if available to you), and really activate both legs so much that you feel a slight lift in your kneecaps.
  5. Feel your legs yearning towards each other and your big toe pressing firmly into your mat; this will help you balance.
  6. Draw your navel to your spine to activate your core.
  7. Think about lengthening toward the front of your mat as you slowly hinge forward from your hips until your back is parallel to the ceiling.
  8. Keep your gaze down and slightly forward (to the top of your mat if you’re on one); you want your neck in line with your spine.
  9. As you hold this pose for several breaths, think about your head and your tailbone continuing to move away from one another.
  10. To come out of the pose, slowly raise your head back towards the ceiling.
  11. Step your back foot forward to meet your front foot.
  12. Pause, notice if you feel differently side to side.
  13. Repeat Pyramid Pose on the second side.

Do you have a yoga pose you’d like to see featured here?

Do you have a favorite arm variation for Pyramid Pose?

If you try Pyramid Pose after a run, let me know how it felt!

Hit Reset: Book Review

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Hit Reset Book Review

I am not usually a fan of yoga books, at least not yoga books that actually are about yoga routines — it’s too hard to do yoga while reading out of a book. Hit Reset: Revolutionary Yoga for Athletes (Amazon Affiliate link) may just have changed my mind on that score.

A Quick Peek
Here’s a list of the chapters in the book:

  • Intro
  • Rediscover Balance
  • Breathe & Focus
  • Strengthen Your Core
  • Balance Your Foundation
  • Save Your Knees
  • Unstiffen Your Hamstrings
  • Wake Up Your Butt
  • Mobilize & Stabilize Your Hips
  • Sort Out Your Shoulders
  • Unstick Your Side Body
  • Epilogue
  • Routines
  • Glossary

If you have not found at least one chapter that speaks to your weakness, I’d be shocked. I’m willing to bet you’ve found multiple areas you need to work on.

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Problems, solutions, and self tests

A Little more detail
Each chapter begins with several common problems and their solutions. There’s also a very short self test to determine whether or not this is really one of your problem areas. Then it’s on to one or more routines that help you with that particular weakness, with plenty of instruction and photos (and at the back of the book, just the entire routine in photos).

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Moves in a flow & detailed instructions for each pose

One of the things I really love about the book is all the information you get on the nuances of the poses It’s almost like you’re in a private class with Erin instructing you.

Is it more difficult to do a flow of yoga poses while reading a book? Well, yes, yes it is, there’s no getting around that. One of the things Erin emphasizes, though, is there’s no need to stick to the routines exactly as written. If you have the time, it’s great, but if not, just pick a few poses here, a few poses there.

Yoga is meant to be a practice, not something you do for an hour once a week. Imagine getting good at playing an instrument when you only practice one hour a week? Your body is an instrument, too. Your most important instrument.

Eventually you’ll come to know the poses well and you’ll be able to do them without the book, at least your favorites — probably not an entire routine, unless you have a much better memory than I do.

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Photos of each pose in a routine (and when to use it)

Which is exactly what I do: a few poses before heading out on a run, or when something felt off, and often right before I went to sleep (bed yoga, anyone?).

I only have one teeny, tiny complaint about this book: because the spine is glued, not sewn, it’s not strong and it didn’t take much use before the cover separated from the spine. As a person who used to work in printing many years ago, I know that this is cheaper than a sewn spine — although it does’t mean the book has fallen apart; I’d just rather a sewn spine so that the book laid flat easier.

I highly recommend Hit Reset for any active person, and use it frequently myself.

It’s even better with the videos
Hit Reset does not come with videos, but the author, Erin Taylor, is the instructor behind Jasyoga. I knew several runners who were posting about Jasyoga, and several months ago I subscribed — and I’ve never looked back.

Many of the routines in Hit Reset are available via Jasyoga. But there’s much more: meditations, recovery, yoga for triathletes — just to name a few categories. There are routines from 5 minutes up to about 40 minutes. I use many of them on a regular basis and I really enjoy my practice.

I was lucky that I subscribed when Jasyoga was still $4.99/month and got grandfathered in at that rate; now the monthly subscription is $9.99 — which I think is still a bargain. You can try it yourself for a month free with the code FREERESET — not an affiliate link — I am just a happy customer.

I did, however, reach out to Velopress and request this book to review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own and I was not compensated for this review.

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This week I am also joining up with Running on Happy, Suzlyfe, Crazy Running Girl, and Coach Debbie Runs each week for the Coaches’ Corner linkup

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5 Favorite Yoga DVDs

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I love yoga. I mostly practice at home with DVDs, although through the years I’ve taken classes, too, which I really enjoy — but remember my number one complaint about running? Yeah, it’s less time consuming for me to practice at home.

It’s favorites Friday from  Cynthia from You Signed Up for What?, Courtney from Eat Pray Run DC, and Mar from Mar on the Run and the Friday Five Linkup and I’m sharing my favorite yoga DVDs — the ones I use over and over and over again (disclaimer: the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I get a very small amount of money if you click on the title of the DVD to purchase your own DVD).

Christine Felstead’s Yoga Essentials
This is a DVD that will work well if you’re a beginner, and certainly is fine for more advanced yogis too.

I like it because it’s broken down into mostly short segments:

  1. Foundation (10 minutes)
  2. Lower Back (10 minutes)
  3. Hamstrings (10 minutes)
  4. Hips (20 minutes)

I love doing the foundation poses at the end of a day or after a run or race, as it ends with legs up the wall (which Mr. Judy finds entertaining). I don’t have lower back problems, but every once in a while it will bother me, and I’ve used that segment and it definitely helps.

I also like to use the hamstrings and hips segments regularly. It’s very rare that I do the whole DVD, I usually just pick one or two segments to do in one practice.

Yoga Tune Up Quickfix RX: Lower Body
I found this DVD when my ankle started to bother me recently, and have been doing the Feet & Ankle segments almost daily. This DVD also includes segments for: low back, hips, and stress relief.

I’ve tried, and liked, them all, but the ones I use the most are the hips and feet & ankles, since those are my weak points.

Each segment has a 5 minute and 10 minute quickfix. You can choose to play all the quickfixes, just one, or both quickfixes for a particular segment. An option to create your own program would have been nice. The navigation is a bit clunky, but I think this DVD has helped me a lot.

It’s more stretching and rehab than yoga, but I’ve found it very helpful and have been using it almost daily since I bought it.

Yogaworks Beginner AM/PM
This DVD is not aimed specifically at runners. but it’s a great introduction to yoga — and one of my favorite DVDs.

There is a 10 minute AM & a 10 minute PM routine, as well as a 45 minute beginner’s class.

I’ve done them all, and I’m particularly fond of the AM routine — I’m always amazed at how much they manage to get into 10 minutes without seeming rushed. They’re good about showing modifications, too.

It’s a great introduction to yoga for the non-yogi.

The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga
I have several of Sage Rountree’s books, and really enjoy them, but it took me a while to warm up to her DVD. I don’t use it as often as the ones above, but I do enjoy it when I have a bit more time to devote to yoga.

There are preprogrammed routines for many things, including: IT band, Balance Flow, Core Work, and much more. You can also program your own routine.

Power Yoga for Sports Runner’s Edition
This is a more advanced yoga DVD, although I still think it’s accessible to beginners. I don’t do it as often as I’d like to, as it’s longer at about 30 minutes and not broken down into different segments.

I love doing this DVD as  cooldown after a run or on a recovery day.

Do you have a favorite yoga DVD? Favorite fitness DVD?

Discalaimer: The links in the post are affiliate links. If you decided you wanted a FitDesk Bike, too, and bought it through my link, I’d earn a small amount of income. I bought all these DVDs with my own money, and all the opinions in this post are my own experiences with the DVDs.