Rounded shoulders and a hunched back don’t just make a runner look ragged – they hinder performance. “Poor posture restricts breathing, causes backache and displaces your weight in a way that can eventually lead to injuries such as shin splints,” says yoga sports coach Lexie Williamson. She put together this twice-weekly, post-run routine to open the chest, improve your posture and help you run more efficiently. Hold each pose for 30 seconds to a minute, or as long as it takes to complete four breaths (inhaling and exhaling).
1.Standing back bend
Why: Stretches the pectoralis muscles, thereby facilitating deeper breathing.
How: Inhale. Raise your arms away from your sides and draw them back a little, or if you can, raise them above your head. Move into a gentle back bend. Keep your abdomen engaged and your tailbone tucked under to protect your lower back, and raise your chin slightly.
2. Forward bend
Why: Releases the lower back after the back bend (1) and stretches your hamstrings.
How: As you exhale, bend your knees and fold your upper body over your legs, aiming to line up your fingertips at the side of your toes. Keep as much of a bend in the knees as you need to feel a stretch in your thighs – this will depend on how tight your hamstrings are.
3. Mountain pose
Why: Improves posture by encouraging you to look ahead rather than down at the ground, as wellas relaxing your shoulders to encourage fluid arm motion.
How: Roll your shoulders forward before drawing them back. Push your hips slightly forward and open your palms to face the front. Looking ahead, imagine a straight line pulling you up from the crown of your head.
4. Achilles stretch squat
Why: Stretches the feet and ankle muscles, and the achilles tendon.
How: From a standing position, bend your knees and lower into a squat, with your feet hip-width apart. Balance on the balls of your feet, with your fingertips touching the floor. After finishing the squat, take your weight onto your hands, sit back and straighten your legs ready for the next move.
5. Bridge with interlaced fingers
Why: Strengthens the glutes, back and quads, and facilitates deeper breathing.
How: Bend your legs and place your feet hip-width apart on the mat. Take your arms by your sides, palms face down, and lift your hips. To further open up your chest, interlace your fingers underneath your hips and press your hands into the floor. Keep your chin tucked in throughout the move.
6. Core roll-down
Why: Strengthens the rectus abdominis, which aids your posture on the run.
How: Tuck your chin into your neck. Raise your arms to shoulder height and parallel in front of you, palms facing in. Take four breaths while rolling your back down to the floor, keeping your abdomen pulled in.
7. Legs up the wall
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Why: Speeds removal of lactic acid, while abdominal breathing encourages the use of the diaphragm to prevent stitches.
How: Sit with your legs up against a wall, keeping them together or slightly apart to stretch your inner thighs. Rest your palms on your abs, fingertips touching. As you inhale, your belly should rise and fingertips part; exhale and your fingertips touch again.
8. Supine twist
Why: Aids deep breathing by stretching the often neglected intercostal muscles between the ribs and the obliques at the sides of the waist.
How: Lie on your back. Bring your arms level with your shoulders, with your palms facing up. Drop your knees to the right and roll your head to the left. Do this on both sides. Follow with another knees-to-chest pose.
9. Knees to chest
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Why: Releases the lower back.
How: From a supine position (that’s lying on your back, to non-yoga-speakers), bend your legs at the knee and bring your thighs up against your belly. Hold them just below the knees and then rock gently from side to side.
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