As well as doing a lot of walking every week, I’ve recently been inspired by my sister, cousin and friend Neil to take up running again. I used to run all the time prior to my back injury in my 20s and then unfortunately found it wasn’t possible without crippling back pain. I’ve found through my yoga practice that I can run shorter distances again now so long as I take the time to complete a series of yoga postures afterwards to release some of the key muscles and areas impacted by running. If you’re doing a lot of running or walking, I’d really recommend these five postures afterwards to aid recovery. Also, if you have a spiky massage ball, rolling the soles of your feet on it on a regular basis will help with any soreness in the feet as well 😊
Wall quad and hip flexor stretch
To bring an effective stretch into the front of the thigh (the quadricep muscle) and also into the hip flexor, this stretch using a wall or door gives support to enable you to stay in the stretch for a few minutes. I need to have a thick blanket folded to provide support for my knee in this position and would really recommend it, even when using a yoga mat on the hard floor. To come into the posture, find a suitable wall or door and carefully bending one knee, bring the shin up again the wall and step the opposite leg forward into a low lunge position. If having the heel up against the bum is too intense a stretch for your quad or hip flexors, you can take the bent knee further away from the wall. Stay for 2 minutes and then repeat on the opposite side.
After the quad stretch, take both feet out to be slightly wider than your yoga mat (or wider than the outside of your hips) and turn the toes out to a 45-degree angle. Begin to release your bum down towards your heels as you bend the knees. Your heels may not come to the floor – this isn’t important and may not be possible for some people anatomically. The important part is to release the bum towards the ground to enable a deep stretch into the connective tissue around the hips. The squat will also provide a stretch for the lower back. If can get into the posture comfortably, you can press your elbows onto the insides of your knees, with your palms pressing against each other for support. Stay in the squat for around 2 minutes and then release your bum back to the floor to come into the next posture.
Top tip! If you are nervous about releasing all the way down, if you have a bath you can hold on to the side of the bath as a useful support as you release the bum down so you don’t have to worry about falling backwards.
You will need a foam block for this posture, or alternatively a couple of cushions that you can sit on to raise the hips slightly higher than the knees and enable a forward tilt in the pelvis. Position your block or cushions along the back long side of your yoga mat, and come onto your sitting bones (the bones at the base of the pelvis, if you move your flesh on your bum back and out of the way a little bit 😊).
Take the legs apart, maybe around 90 degrees, depending on what the hamstring muscles will allow. Looking to keep the forward tilt in the pelvis and flat lower back, you may either sit slightly forward or begin to walk the hands along the floor to bring the body forward to a point where you feel a comfortable stretch along the hamstrings (do not go too far and over-stretch or tear the hamstring muscles). Stay for around 2-3 minutes and then bend the knees before bringing the legs back together.
Downward Facing Dog
From dragonfly, you can then come onto all fours on your mat.
From all fours, inhale and then exhale taking the bum back towards the heels. Keep a forward tilt in the pelvis as you lift your knees from the floor. Keep the knees bent to maintain a flat lower back and not round up into the lower back. Focus on sending the heels back rather than down and maintain the bend in your knees. You can ‘walk the dog’ by alternating sending one heel back and then the other several times to bring a stretch into the calf muscles. Press firmly into the widely spread fingers and keep the shoulders moving away from the ears. Maintain for 3-5 full breaths and then inhale the knees back to the mat and then exhale back to child’s pose. Repeat this sequence 3-5 times.
From downward dog, bring one leg forward, taking the ankle onto the floor by the opposite hand, bending the knee – don’t worry if the ankle / foot moves back, just ensure the knee feels comfortable. Allow the opposite leg to come down flat on the mat, and then tuck the toes to extend the leg back several times to bring a stretch into the hip flexor, before releasing the toes so the top of the foot is on the mat. For the leg that has the bent knee, the intention is to feel a stretch into the outside thigh / bum area as this posture aims to bring a stretch to the piriformis muscle,
which can become tight from a lot of running and walking (and sitting). You can either then stay with the arms extended, or you can fold forward over the forward leg. Stay here for 2-3 minutes and then to come out, if you’ve folded forward, walk the arms back so you’re upright and then step the forward bent leg back and come back into downward facing dog. You can either then come straight to the other side or release knees to the mat and take child’s pose before coming back up into downward facing dog and then repeating on the opposite side.