Running can be hard on the body's joints, but one thing many runners don't know is that running can also be hard on the body's energy systems.
Running can potentially put the body into a syndrome known as homolateral. The energies of the body need to cross over to stay healthy. This starts at our DNA and goes all the way to the hemispheres of the brain that control the opposite sides of the body. If your energies are not crossing over, they are running parallel to one another. What this does is increase levels of fatigue; the body is trying to get you to stop, rest and reset. But that pattern of parallel energy also makes you work at 50 percent of your full capacity. Running, because of its parallel movements, can throw the body into this pattern.
One popular fad is chi running, which promotes a crossover pattern in the body to support the runner's health. But you don't have to learn a whole new technique to be a better runner.
Here are some powerful Energy Medicine yoga tools to help improve your running, improve your energy and minimize injury.
The first thing to do in any Energy Medicine yoga practice is to get the energy awake and moving forward, otherwise it's as if you're running one direction and the energy of the body is running another — anything but efficient!
While standing, find the bulbous tips of your collarbones and drop directly off them into the slight hollows below. These are the end points of the kidney meridian, part of a system that carries the body's life energy, according to traditional Chinese medicine. Thump these points powerfully. You can use your fingers pressed together or your fists, Tarzan-style. All your meridians are affected by these two simple points. Thumping these points gets your energy to wake up and move forward. If they are sore, you can massage them first and then thump them, but that soreness also means they need your attention.
Then take one hand and bring it to the palm of the other hand. Draw the hand up the inside of the arm to the shoulder, and then cross your hand through your body to the opposite hip. Do that two more times and then do the other side. You’re essentially drawing a huge X through your body, and this movement helps to cross energy over the body.
Before you stretch, we'll try to release some toxins from the body to help limber things up. Take your first two fingers and thumb together into a "three finger notch." Massage, with deep pressure, the outside and inside "seam" of your thigh. These points will be sore, as they are trigger points for lymph. Massaging them releases lymph into the venous blood supply for removal from the body.
After you massage your thighs deeply, fold forward into a full forward bend (uttanasana). You just might find that you’re deeper into the bend because of that quick massage! One of the things that plagues runners the most is tight hamstrings. Stay here, hanging over and breathing deeply to help open up the hamstrings. Always keep a slight micro-bend in the knee to keep from hyperextending.
After you’ve finished here, drop into a squat. This position is powerful for stretching out all of the hip and ankle muscles, which take a beating with running. You may need to use some props, blankets or blocks, to help support you. The goal is to stay here for a while, building up to three to five minutes eventually.
While you’re here, massage down between the muscles and tendons of each toe, and pinch off the skin between the toes. This is called clearing the gaits. We have meridian beginning and end points at all of our toes, and these are places where energy gets stuck and can cause pain. Because the feet of runners are constantly pounded, these energies can get even more stuck. If there are areas of soreness that aren’t caused by injury, spend some extra time working them to get the energy moving again.
After your squat, you can sit on the floor and do a seated forward bend (paschimottanasana) and cobbler's pose (baddakonnasana) which are similar to the squat and hang but seated. You can also massage the seams of the thighs sitting down and get more toxins released.
When you've finished with that, come back to stand.
The last thing we'll do in preparation is a pose called Heaven and Earth. This is one of the oldest physical movements recorded: Pictographs were found in ancient tombs portraying it. This pose helps bring energy and clearing to the joints, another area where runners can have problems.
Inhale and sweep the arms overhead in a circle and bring your hands together in front of the heart. Now inhale again and lift one hand up to the sky, and the other down to the earth. Look up. Exhale and bring the hands together in front of the heart. Inhale again and switch sides, lifting the other hand up to the sky and the opposite hand down to the earth. Exhale and bring the hands together in front of the heart. Do this again two more times each side.
Finish by coming again into the full forward bend. Take a few breaths here, and then slowly come back up to standing, weaving your hands back and forth in front of your body as your rise, imprinting that crossover pattern again.
After your run, do this whole sequence again: thump, hang, squat, clear the lymph, clear the toes, and connect heaven and earth. Add in any other yoga poses or stretching you like to do to complete your workout.
Do all this and watch your running benefits increase!
Related on MNN:
- 5 running apps to get you from the couch to a 5K
- Exploring yoga styles: What is Vinyasa yoga?
- Why morning yoga beats a cup of coffee