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Yoga for Outdoor Sports
BY: ELIZABETH KOVAR M.A. PHOTOS: DANIEL LUPASTEAN
Tis the season for marathon, triathlon and cycling events. Every year the Pacific Northwest features thousands of events that benefit charities or medical research. As warmer weather approaches, competitive and recreational athletes dedicate muchtimeandenergytraining. Spring and summer blossom weekly events to meet the fun and challenging times
Running, cycling and swimming is a form of cardiovascular training which is primarily known to increase cardio endurance and strengthen the most important muscle in our body, the heart. However, many event warriors fail to recognize the risk for repetitive stress injury. Each sport requires
consistent hip and knee flexion
and extension which maybe injurious to the hip, knee or possibly ankle joint. Plus, the pelvic muscles not only attach to the lower extremity, but to the spine and abdominals; therefore, back pain maybe a result of overtraining from continuousmusclecontractions or improper form / posture.
The hip is a complex, ball and socket joint, which utilizes various muscles to move in several directions. This joint performs flexion, extension, abduction, adduction and rotational movements. Structurally, the hip is located on the lateral part of the pelvis and includes the greater trochanter of the femur bone. Major muscles of the hip, to perform the various movements, include
but are not limited to: gluteus maximus & medius, piriformis (for extension), illiopsoas and tensor fascia latae (for flexion). The inner thighs, glutes and tensor fascia latae assist in the adduction, abduction and rotational movements. In addition, the hamstrings assist in hip extension, and the quadriceps also assist in some hip flexion, but the quads are the prime movers for the knee.
Injuries amongst runners, cyclers and triathletes vary. Common injuries include, but not limited to: IT band syndrome, trochanteric bursitis, piriformis syndrome, patellafemoral syndrome (runner’s knee), shin splints, achilles tendonitis or plantar fasciitis. For the avid cycler, it is common to have 85-93 pedal strokes per minute as well as the runner taking several thousand steps per mile. Combining this with everyday walking, our hip and knee joints experience much pounding. It is vital to understand that any load applied to the body causes stress. However, the long-term, repetitious stress may cause damage or “wear and tear “ issues such as osteoarthritis.
To decrease the risk of injury it is recommended to incorporate a strength training regimen to increase muscular strength and static stretching post training to
lengthen muscles after continuous muscular contraction. If acute pain occurs, follow the R.I.C.E. therapy (rest, ice, compression, elevate). However, if the acute pain turns chronic seek medical attention.
To assist in relieving aches or pain from the hip, it is important to incorporate flexibility training. Incorporating a yoga practice increases strength, and flexibility and releases stress or tension in the muscles. Implement the following sequence post training to focus on lengthening muscles and opening various areas of the hip. It is recommended to hold each pose between 30 – 60 seconds. Poses maybe repeated up to four times.
Downward Facing Dog:
How to Perform the Pose: Start on all ‘fours’, curl the toes underneath and lift the hips up as you simultaneously relax the chest toward the thighs. Allow the heels to relax toward the floor and keep the palms flat and firm into the mat.
Benefits: Release lower back pain. Lengthens hamstrings, calves, arch of the foot, shoulders and hands. Known to prevent osteoarthritis.
How to Perform the Pose: From down dog, step your right foot forward in between the hands with the knee directly over the ankle. Place your left shin on the mat, and lift the chest over the hips. Step your right foot forward about 2 inches and press your right foot firm into the mat. Slowly, lunge forward from the pelvis to open the left hip flexor and abdominal region. Raise arms overhead. Repeat on both legs.
Benefits: Lengthens the hip flexors, quadriceps and lower abdominal. Opens chest, shoulders, underarms and neck. Relieves sciatica.
How to Perform the Pose: From Low Lunge, keep your back left leg in a lunge position and place both hands to left of your right inner thigh. Take your right foot two to three inches toward the right. For a deeper stretch lower the forearms toward the floor while keeping the front foot directly on the mat. For a more advanced pose, curl the back toes underneath and lift the back knee off the floor keeping the leg steady with a soft bend at the knee. Repeat on both sides.
Benefits: Deeply lengthens the glutes, piriformis, hip flexor and hamstrings. Strengthens arms and back.
How to Perform the Pose: From Lizard, place one hand on each side of the foot, lift the back knee off the floor to come into a runners lunge. Slowly, step your back foot forward in between the hands to come into a forward fold. Keep a soft bend at the knees. Place the hands underneath the feet with the top of the hand on the mat. The fingertips should reach toward the ball and arch of the foot.
Benefits: Lengthens low back, hamstrings and calves. Opens the forearm extensor muscles.
How to Perform the Pose: From Gorilla, stand upright and place the feet about 3 – 3.5 feet apart. Turn the left foot forward and turn the right heel out about 45*. Bring the arms to shoulder level and softly bend your left knee to 90*. Place your left forearm on the thigh and lift the right arm overhead. For a deeper stretch place the left hand on the floor. Repeat on both sides.
Benefits: Lengthens the inner thighs, quads, knee and ankle joint. Opens abdominals, chest and shoulders. Known to prevent osteoporosis, low back pain and sciatica.
Extended Side Angle Pose
How to Perform the Pose: Lie on your back with a towel or a yoga strap. Bring your right knee into the chest and place the strap or towel around the ball of the foot. Extend your leg into the air and press the ball of the foot into the strap or towel. Repeat on both sides.
Benefits: Lengthens glutes, hamstrings, and calves. Relieves back pain and strengthens knee joint.
Reclining Big Toe Pose with Strap
How to Perform the Pose: The setup is the same as the Reclining Big Toe Pose, but place the towel and strap into the right hand and slowly move the right leg away from the body. Hold it at a place of comfort to where the left side of the body remains on the mat.
Benefits: Lengthen inner thigh and opens groin.
Reclining Big Toe Pose with Strap Variation
Elizabeth Kovar M.A., Seattle resident, is the fitness coordinator at the Lynnwood Recreation Center. Elizabeth is a freelance fitness and travel writer, in addition to a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. She has also studied yoga in five different countries.