Running and outdoor sports, while beneficial, leaves our bodies tight in many areas - usually the hamstrings, hips, quadriceps and calves. A good yoga practice can balance the body, bringing flexibility to these muscles and ligaments. These stretches will make you more efficient in your outdoor program as well as more relaxed.
Quad Stretch -- Lying face down on the floor, bend one leg and grab onto the ankle, gently pulling the leg back and up. Try touching your foot to your glutes. Switch sides. This can also be done standing. Be cautious if you have knee problems.
Hip Opener -- Upside Down Pigeon Pose: Lying face up, lifting the legs to knee height off the floor, bring the right ankle to the left quadriceps, aiming for a spot on the leg midway between knee and groin. Pull left knee in towards body, push right knee away gently until you feel a deep stretch in the hip and glute area. Hold for 10 deep breaths and switch sides.
Hamstring Opener -- Forward Fold: When at resting heart rate, standing, hinge at the hips folding forward. Grab onto elbows - or more intense, grab ankles - with fluid breathing sink a little further on each exhale, letting the crown of the head move towards the floor and relaxing the head and neck as much as possible. Take 10 deep breaths. This pose is not recommended for anyone with a heart condition or if heart rate is higher than resting.
Side Opener -- Lateral Flexion: it is common to have tight latisimus dorsi (Lats). With this stretch we can open the sides of our bodies. Standing brings both arms overhead; bring the right arm down resting the hand on the hip. Inhale, lifting out of the lower back. Exhale; sink the left arm overhead until you feel a deep stretch up the left side of the body. Keep the glutes tight and the lower body moving forward as the upper body continues to lift and sink. Take five deep breaths and then switch sides.
Hip Flexor Opener -- Butterfly Pose: Tight psoas muscles are common to runners. This pose will open up tight muscles. Start seated with the soles of the feet together, gently place hands on the ankles and use elbows to press thighs and knees towards the floor, breathe and visualize the hip flexors softening. Take 10 deep breaths.
Beth Shaw, E-RYT, BS, CMT, is the president and founder of YogaFit. She has been showcased in numerous fitness magazines and shows including Oprah's O magazine, Time, CNN, NBC and more. Shaw is an animal rights activist and the innovative educator and entrepreneur responsible for more than 30 DVDs and CDs.