Trail runner, coach and yoga and pilates instructor, Rachel Cieslewicz of Salt Lake City, Utah will be leading the yoga classes at this August’s Run Wild Trail Running and Wellness Retreat for Women, presented by Run Like a Mother, the book. Here she offers some insight into how yoga is beneficial to runners.
Why is yoga more effective than stretching after running?
RC: Stretching of any type after a run is after is a good idea, but it’s tempting to rush through a few stretches without care or notice of what your body needs. Yoga incorporates breath with movement. After a run is a great time to move slowly through a series of restorative poses and breathing deeply helps you stretch more deeply and lengthen the muscles better than if you only did a few standing stretches. Yoga is an opportunity for us to truly turn inward.
Can yoga help reduce running-related injuries?
RC: Yes! A regular yoga practice makes you strengthens muscles and improve joint range of motion, but it also makes you aware of how your body is responding to your running training. You may find an area of tightness that could—if ignored—could lead to injury. Breathing into areas of tightness helps release those tight areas. Relaxed muscles are more powerful and perform better than tight ones.
How has your yoga practice helped make you a better athlete?
RC: I credit yoga for making me the athlete I am today. Yoga has taught me to how to use deep, conscious breath to calm my mind when my body is working really hard. In a race, that can make the difference between first and second place. Yoga has taught me body awareness, which is essential for avoiding injury. Instead of ignoring small aches and pains until they blow up into major issues, I address them right away. In this regard, I believe that running connects mind, body and spirit.
What are some of the best yoga poses for runners?
RC: Sun Salutes. I do sun salutes before each race to warm up my body and tune in to how I’m feeling. The stretches are dynamic, flowing, and opening without causing over stretching of cold muscles. It is also an opportunity to focus on what I want to achieve in the race and remind me to breathe consciously while running. (View a video demonstration of Sun Salutations here on www.yogajournal.com)
King Pidgeon. This pose is great for opening areas that tend to be tight with runners: the hips, chest torso and shoulders.
Figure Four. I do this standing and lying on my back (one ankle crosses other knee. Pull in towards chest). It is fabulous for helping the piriformis and lateral hips open. A lifesaver for me!
How else do runners benefit from yoga?
RC: I consider yoga a microcosm for all aspects of life. What I learn on the mat I try to carry with me throughout the day. It helps me be calm in stressful situations. I breathe when I am struggling, which then melts to ease. I seek peace and love in my life and attract the same to me. I live a strong, flexible, balanced life and athletic career. I enjoying teaching others the wisdom that yoga has gifted me.