At some point in their running “career”, runners get injured. Some listen to their bodies, take the time they need and aim to heal as quickly as possible. Others (read, most!), run through pain and do damage control icing with pea bags and scheduling intimate dates with the foam roller. And while we empathize with injured running friends when they’re on the side lines, we are also relieved that it isn’t us.
In certain cases, the injuries are one offs and can be addressed with rest and treatment with professionals. But for many runners, chronic injuries, or little aches and pains caused by muscular imbalances and areas that get prone to tightness due to running are just par for the course.
But there is no need to live in constant pain! Below I offer recommendations for what I consider to be good yoga postures to aid prevent or help alleviate the four most common runner injuries. Working on these may be really intense at first, especially if the injury is long standing and acute so I recommend easing into the postures, making them part of a regular stretching regimen and listening to your body.
Plantar fasciitis - In order to stretch and release the band of fascia underneath the foot, try Toes Curled Under: start in a kneeling position in bare feet with toes curled under. Slowly sit your weight back onto your heels, only coming back as much as you can tolerate and breathe through for a specified amount of time. To release, bring palms on the ground in front of you to shift the weight off the feet and slowly release. Work up to 3 minutes. More on Plantar Fasciitis!
Achilles tendonitis - In order to get a stretch into the soleus and tibialis posterior (which also plays a role in shin splints) try a modified Downward Dog: come to a table top position with the wrists under the shoulders and the knees slightly back from the hips. Curl your toes under and keeping your knees bent, press into your hands and lift your hips up and back. On your inhale, press into you hands and lift your hips, pressing your thighs towards your chest. On the exhale, with knees bent, reach the heels towards the floor. Hold for 5 breaths or more.
Knee pain – If you have patellofemoral pain syndrome, try a wall sit: instead of a stretch, I recommend a leg strengthener to stabilize the patella. Sit against a wall as if in an imaginary chair, legs at a 90 degree angle. Keep jaw soft and hold, while breathing, working up to two minutes. Bonus strengtheners – if your adductors are weak, try putting a yoga block or a few books between your knees and squeezing the block. If your glutes have a hard time firing, try the wall sit while pushing your shins away from each other without changing the alignment of your knees or ankles.
IT band tightness – the exercise above will help to fire those muscles in your gait will be beneficial for your IT issues too. For IT tightnesses, I recommend a supine twist with TFL stretch. Lying on your back, bring the soles of your feet on the floor wider than hip width apart. Let knees fall to the right. Bring your right ankle to the top of your left lower thigh. Stay for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side.
About the Author: Alice Toyonaga is a yoga teacher, runner and bureaucrat. She is best described by her friends as a goal-setter with seemingly limitless endurance and a gift for multi-tasking. Convinced she sleeps in plank, her friends also know that in order to see her socially, they either have to join one of the many run clubs she is a part of or attend her challenging yet grounding yoga classes.