By April Streeter
The Active Times
Sure, rolling out your yoga mat isn't going to give you the heart-pounding, sweat-dripping, body-aching high that your run might -- but practicing regular poses is a routine that more and more runners are taking up. And for good reason: Not all yoga is quietly moving from pose to pose while murmuring 'om' under your breath. In fact, some forms -- such as Astranga, or Power Yoga -- are quite the opposite.
"Astranga is a hot, sweaty practice," says Beryl Bender Birch, founder of The Hard and The Soft Yoga Institute and author of Power Yoga, a manual devoted to yoga for athletes. "What is wonderful about it is that it doesn't interfere with the strength and endurance that athletes work so hard to build."
Birch focuses on stretching and strength-building as keys to yoga's importance for runners -- emphasizing its benefits for muscle pliability and joint range of motion.
"While you get stronger when you increase mileage, you also get tighter -- and that tightness won't go away unless you make it," she says.
Your best bet for full benefits? Find a class near you -- not only can an instructor help correct poses and suggest moves for your individual trouble spots, but a class can help you master your breathing, which will transfer into your running as well.
But in the meantime, we've got you set. Here, eight asanas, or poses, perfect for a post-run or rest-day yoga session.
Why: Strengthens your core, quads, calves. Stretches your groin and hips.
Do It: Start standing. Step your legs about four feet apart. Turn your left foot out 90 degrees and align your left and right heels. Raise your arms to shoulder height, parallel to the floor, palms down. Extend your left arm out, tilting your tailbone toward your right foot. Bending from the hip and keeping your right side long, extend your left arm down to the floor, outside your foot, and reach your right arm toward the ceiling. Turn your head to look at your right thumb. Hold for five breaths. Return to your first position, then repeat on the opposite side.
Why: Strengthens abs.Stretches back, legs, spine.
Do It: Start standing. With legs wide, turn your feet slightly inward. Lean forward from the hip joint, keeping your torso elongated. When your torso is parallel to the floor, drop your hands flat to the mat and walk your hands backward, aligning them with your heels. Continue to drop your torso, until elbows are at a 90-degree angle, head on the floor. Hold for five breaths. Return to first position. Hint: This pose takes time to achieve. Stop wherever you are comfortable, slowly going deeper into the stretch each day.
Why: Strengthens groin, ankles. Stretches groin, ankles, legs, shoulders.
Do It: Start standing. Step your legs about 4 feet apart. Raise your arms to shoulder height, parallel to the floor, palms down. Turn your left foot and leg out 90 degrees and align your left and right heels. Slowly bend your left knee, creating a 90-degree angle with your calf and thigh, left thigh parallel to the floor. Turn your head to look over your left arm and continue to extend your arms outward. Hold for five breaths. Return to first position.
Why: Strengthens abs. Stretches knees, hips, ankles.
Do It: Stand, feet together, with your chest lifted, shoulder blades dropped and hands to your sides, palms facing forward. Shift your weight to your left foot and slowly draw your right knee up toward your chest. Using your left hand, bring your right foot toward your left thigh or hip, eventually resting your foot as high as you can on your leg, with the sole of your foot facing up. Release your knee downward. Lengthen through the spine. Hold for five breaths. Return to first position, and repeat on the opposite side.
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