Get Your Yin On!

Yin yoga is a slow moving and deep practice where postures are held for up to three minutes (sometimes more!) in order to get deeper into hard-to-get muscles and connective tissues. It is my go to yoga practice when I am sore from long or hard runs (like I am today). The benefits of this yoga are endless. Aside from just the stretchy goodies, you are also able to connect a little deeper to the breath, to your body, and to your mind. This all sounds nice and all, but yin yoga is often overlooked by runners because it is a little uncomfortable, especially for those who struggle with flexibility. It is important to remember that the more uncomfortable a posture is, the more we should be doing it. That does not mean that your practice should be painful. Pain is a different sensation and we want to avoid that in our yoga practice. However, a little (or a lot) of discomfort can be good for us.

I have outlined a beginner friendly yin practice that can be done by any inflexible, running yogi. This sequence concentrates a lot on the outer hips, IT band and hamstrings, which are all areas that need some extra love when you run. You’ll need a space without distraction, a relaxing music playlist, a strap, towel or belt, and a timer. Pillows, blankets and blocks can also be helpful, especially if your knees tend to give you trouble. Each posture will be held for three minutes, which you can time either through songs on your playlist or on a phone timer. Carve out about 45 minutes for this practice (this is very short for a yin practice, so feel free to hold the postures longer and take more time, too). This is a perfect practice after hard or long run day for recovery.

Start on the spine in supine bound angle pose. To get into this posture, get nice and comfortable on your back, then bend your knees and bring your feet together with the knees out. Bring your right hand to rest on your stomach and your left hand to rest on your heart. Remain here with the eyes closed and just breath. Try to lengthen your breath and use your hands to feel the breath entering and exiting the body.

Start with the feet together, knees apart and take a moment to close the eyes and relax here.
Start with the feet together, knees apart and take a moment to close the eyes and relax here.

After a few minutes in this pose, stretch the body out, point and flex your toes and take a few deep breaths. Release the arms to the sides of the body with the legs extended on your mat. Bend your right knee, place the foot on the inside of the left leg and allow the right knee to fall out to the side. Then, reach your right arm up over your head as far as you can, trying to lengthen the right side of your body. Reach your right arm over towards the left side of your mat until you feel sensation in the right side of your body. If your right knee is uncomfortable, place a block or pillow under it. After a few minutes here, switch sides.

Bend your right leg so your foot touches the inside of your left thigh and your right knee splays out. Reach your right arm up and over towards the left side of your mat.
Bend your right leg so your foot touches the inside of your left thigh and your right knee splays out. Reach your right arm up and over towards the left side of your mat.

Again, take a moment to stretch the body out before jumping into the next posture. Then, you are going to come into a simple cross-legged position, but while still on your back. Start with your right shin in front of the left. If this hurts your knees, takes blocks or blankets under them to elevate a little. If you have tight hips, this will be a little uncomfortable for you. Release your ams to your sides and just breath. Be sure to do this on both sides.

This is a simple cross legged position, but on the back. You may not feel much when you first come into this pose, but after a few breaths you should feel your outer hips and inner thighs.
This is a simple cross legged position, but on the back. You may not feel much when you first come into this pose, but after a few breaths you should feel your outer hips and inner thighs.

Hug your knees into your chest, maybe draw opposing circles with the knees. Then, place your feet on to your mat at mat width with your knees up. Just allow both legs to fall over to the right side. Reach your left arm overhead, turn your head to the right and just relax into the posture. As always, blocks or pillows can be used under the knees if there is any pain there. When your are done, switch sides.

Bring your feet to mat width  and have your knees up. Then allow your knees to fall all the way over to the right and reach your left arm up.
Bring your feet to mat width and have your knees up. Then allow your knees to fall all the way over to the right and reach your left arm up.

Place both feet on the mat with the knees up and grab your strap, belt or towel. Sling your strap around the ball of your right foot while holding each side of the strap in one hand. Extend your leg into the air, flex the foot and pull gently on the strap. You should feel a pretty deep stretch in your hamstring and in your calf. If you start to feel this in your lower back, or if the stretch is too intense, bend your extended knee a little. Repeat on the left side.

This is a pretty traditional hamstring stretch. Put your strap around the ball of your foot and extend the leg up. Lengthen the opposite leg on the mat and close your eyes. Be sure to keep tension out of your shoulders.
This is a pretty traditional hamstring stretch. Put your strap around the ball of your foot and extend the leg up. Lengthen the opposite leg on the mat and close your eyes. Be sure to keep tension out of your shoulders.

So, throughout this practice we’ve been working on external hip rotation and on IT band and hamstring stretches. This posture is what we have built up to. Start with both feet on the mat and the knees up. Take your left ankle on to your right knee so that the left knee opens out. Then, left your right knee, drawing it in towards your chest and take your left arm through the hole you made with your left leg and your right arm around your right leg. Lengthen your right leg into the air and clasp your hands on your thigh. If this stretch is a little too much, loop a strap, belt or towel around your right thigh and pull it in. Flex the right foot and try to relax through your face, neck and shoulders. Try to hold this one for the whole three minutes and then switch sides.

Place both feet on the mat with your knees up and then take your left ankle on to your right knee with your left knee out. Reach your left arm inside the triangle you made with your left leg and your right arm around your right leg. Extend your right leg up and clasp your hands on your thigh.
Place both feet on the mat with your knees up and then take your left ankle on to your right knee with your left knee out. Reach your left arm inside the triangle you made with your left leg and your right arm around your right leg. Extend your right leg up and clasp your hands on your thigh.

When you are done, hug your knees into your chest and open your arms out to a “T” position. Allow both legs to fall all the way over to the right side while keeping the left shoulder on the ground. Turn your head to look over your left shoulder. Switch sides. When you are done, take a moment to just lay comfortably on your spine and breath. Notice how your body feels after taking some time to slow down and relax.

Draw both knees into your chest and bring your arms out to a "T" position. Allow the legs to drop to one side and turn your head the other way.
Draw both knees into your chest and bring your arms out to a “T” position. Allow the legs to drop to one side and turn your head the other way.

I hope you enjoy this yin practice. If you are unable to carve out a full 45 minutes for this, try holding each posture for just 60 seconds. It is incredibly important to take some time to rest, slow down and connect. If you have any questions let me know! Namaste. 🙂

training update with very little training

The A1A Half Marathon is 33 days away and for the past week, I have not been training. I came down with the flu and was too sick to be awake, no less to run. This certainly causes some hiccups in the training plan, but I am more concerned about getting over the flu than breaking 2 hours on my first half marathon. I am not sure when I’ll be back to my usual intensity, but if all goes well, I’ll try for a (slow) 30 minute run on wednesday to kind of shake it all out. Send me lots of positive and healthy vibes while my immune system finishes up this battle.

Pretty excited for my half marathon line up!
I am committed to the Holy Half in March. Pretty excited for my half marathon line up! Isn’t their logo cute?

In the mean time, I signed up for my next half marathon of the season, the Holy Half at the University of Notre Dame. This is where I go to grad school and many of my friends have ran the race. It is student run, and isn’t particularly fast (there are a lot of turns to keep it on campus), but it is the race that goes through my usual running grounds, so I gotta do it! I am not sure what my goals will be, which will likely be very dependent on how well the A1A half goes. As we get closer, I’ll update you on all of that.

Last summer, I participated in a race series called DINO (Do INdiana Outdoors), which has trail races, triathlons and mountain bike races. This year, I am hoping to do a few more of their races. March 14th kicks off their series with a 15K trail run not too far from my house. They have a few other trail races that I have my eye on. Here is my plan for races over the next few months.

Feb 15 – A1A Half Marathon

March 14 – DINO Mounds State Park Trail 15K

March 28 – Holy Half Marathon

April 25 – DINO Town Trail Run 15K

So, as I try to get better, I am signing up for races. It is a good motivator to eat well and sleep a lot so that I am ready to kick some serious butt. I’ll keep you updated on how my training goes over these next few weeks, but any advice on getting back after you’ve been pretty sick is very much appreciated!

Reflections for Intensions

The end of the year is a perfect time to reflect on our accomplishments and growth over the past 12 months. As runners, we always try to compete with ourselves for that better time and longer distance and sometimes, it just doesn’t happen. Resolutions come in many forms, and may (or may not) be reachable in just a single year. Sometimes our goals can take an entire lifetime to achieve and those, quite honestly, are the best ones. It’s important that as we approach the end of the year, that our reflections lead to positive thoughts and actions towards ourselves and others.

One year ago, I was still recovering from my ankle injury (a full tear to my ATFL), which meant no running for me. I had always considered myself a runner, but I hadn’t even laced up the running shoes in over 6 months. My injury had sidelined my passion and I knew my fitness was suffering for it. My husband and I would go hiking and I would be struggling to keep up (to my defense, he goes really really fast!). I decided that I needed to get back to the trails and begin running again. I hadn’t raced in well over a year, but I felt confident that I could work my way back. My intention for 2014 was to run again, and in the process work up to a half marathon. Did I do it? …Well, kind of. I ran again. I raced again. But I didn’t run that half. In October, when I had intended to run a half, I felt an old injury resurface, and in great wisdom (and a whole lot of frustration), I decided to back off and push the half distance until 2015. So, here I am. I am training for that half and it feels right this time. No pains, no hickups. Maybe 2014 wasn’t the year of the half marathon for me, but it sure seems like 2015 will be.

Here are my 5 goals and intentions for the upcoming year:

1. Run a half marathon (actually, run like 3 or 4…but let’s start with 1)

2. Train in the mornings more often..for real this time

3. Confidently do forearm stands away from the wall (in class, while instructing people through it…haha!)

4. Practice gratitude and appreciation for what is here…always. No matter what life throws.

5. Clean my room once a month (this is a vast improvement over never…which is how often I clean it now)

This is me practicing forearm stand, confidently, in my running shoes, when I thought no one was watching.
This is me practicing forearm stand, confidently, in my running shoes, when I thought no one was watching. This is a rare occurrence for me. 

So as you approach the new year, what is it that you intend? Will you approach these goals with positivity even if they fall short? Take the new year as an opportunity. Be positive.

I’ll leave you with an affirmation as you reflect. 

Lead me from the unreal to the Real
Lead me from the darkness to the Light
Lead me from the temporary to the Eternal 

– Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 

Happy Holidays, everyone! Namaste. 🙂

Thanksgiving Week Training Update

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

The snow melted and it is currently 52 F outside. Unfortunately, I am not able to enjoy the warmer weather for my long run. While on a rather short and easy run last week, I started feeling the old IT band pain. So, with that, plans changed and I didn’t go for my long run sunday. As disappointing as it is, I would much rather just handle it now, back off a bit and get it feeling good than to battle with it like I have in the past. Luckily, it was just a twinge. My goal is to keep it under wraps with some light training this week. Running on a treadmill doesn’t usually hurt me, so I will start with that.

Monday (MY BIRTHDAY!): rest – give it another day off

Tuesday: If it is feeling good – 3 slow miles on the treadmill. Otherwise, rest.

Wednesday: Backpacking in Smoky Mountain National Park

Thursday: Backpacking in Smoky Mountain National Park

Friday: Backpacking in Smoky Mountain National Park

Saturday: Backpacking in Smoky Mountain National Park

Sunday: If I am feeling good – 5 slow miles. Otherwise, rest.

Total: Maybe 8 miles

There you have it. I am listening to my body and doing what it asks…backing off. Hopefully next week I will be better and can go for my long run then. It’ll be nice to concentrate my energies on walking instead of running. 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your holiday plans!

My Comeback and Intention

As a runner, I often forget how useful my knowledge of yoga and anatomy can be to prevent injury. This became a big problem when I found myself sidelined for two weeks from IT band syndrome. I had been training hard for a trail race in Southern Indiana, but after the race I became enamored with running two half marathons a few weeks later. Instead of backing off and recovering from a very hilly trail race, I instead upped my training immediately, and injured myself in the process. Needless to say, the half marathons were off the table. I was barely able to bend my knee (so I was walking pretty funny). I gotta say though, everything I’ve ever learned in any yoga class should have helped me prevent this. You hear in classes about listening to your body (I didn’t) and not letting the ego get the best of you (oh, that so happened).  I learned a valuable lesson. Yoga is found both on the mat, off the mat, and in your training plan. Now I don’t mean yoga, like let’s touch our toes (although that helps too). I mean yoga, like set an intention to listen, be mindful and don’t let your ego dictate what your body does. Luckily, my lesson only required a two week hiatus from running. It could have been so much worse. So, during my current training cycle, my intention is non-harming. I listen to my body and make sure that I am doing what is best for it, regardless of what my ego may want.

Namaste 🙂

An intention of non-harming will get you to your goals, even if they are to climb mountains!
An intention of non-harming will get you to your goals, even if the goal is to climb mountains!