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Yoga Poses Runners Should Practice

Yoga is an ancient Indian form of exercise that is universally beneficial. This FitnessVigil article describes how yoga can be employed by runners.
Tanmay Tikekar
Who Should Try Yoga?
Some runners recommend not going for yoga if you are routinely going to be running long-distance races, since the flexibility gained from yoga is said to be a deterrent when running long distances. Though this has not been scientifically proven, it's worth a mental note. But apart from serious marathon runners, everyone unarguably benefits from yoga.
Yoga is a complete exercise, imparting both stronger muscles and a better cardiovascular performance. It is a body-weight exercise, but the effort required to hold the poses also results in a functionally better cardiovascular system. It also helps the practitioner mentally, causing a calming, relaxing effect.
At first sight, then, yoga would appear to be completely unlike running. Runners are always active and pumped up, whereas yoga gives calmness and flexibility while being rooted to the spot. However, the endurance-building and overall 'healing' effect of yoga on the body is one of its primary benefits, and can help runners recover from long sessions, and aids in the recovery of their prime muscles.

Here are some easy-to-do yoga poses that runners should practice.
Yoga for Runners
Tadasana
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Stand erect with your heels joined. Slowly raise your hands above your head, and either join your palms in a 'namaskara', or interlock your fingers and turn your palms up. Now, slowly raise your heels off the floor, balancing yourself on the balls of your toes (don't try to do a Kate Winslet and stand on your toes―that position is, in fact, extremely stressing and risky). Stretch your whole body upwards. Hold this position for a few seconds, then slowly lower your heels and arms.
Baddha Konasana
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Do a sitting split, and fold your legs inwards. Lightly hold your toes together as close to your body as you can. If you can't do a full split, stretch your legs as much as you can. If you can do the full split and hold your toes quite easily, bend down and rest your forehead on the ground ahead of you, without lifting your knees off the ground.

This position is excellent for stretching the hamstrings, and increases flexibility and mobility in the pelvic region.
Adho Mukha Svanasana
pose-five-eight
Stand erect, and slowly bend over. Balance yourself on your hands and feet, and engage the core muscles to prevent your abdomen from sagging.

This asana relaxes the lower spine and hips.
Ardha Matsyendrasana
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Sit with your legs extended in front of you. Cross your right leg over the left, and place your right foot beside the left knee. Fold your left leg backwards so that your right buttock rests just behind your left heel. Hold your right ankle with your left hand from behind the right knee, and very gently turn your upper body to the right. If you can, extend your spine beyond that, but don't stretch your neck much after your spine is stretched to its maximum limit. Support your upper body by placing your right hand on the ground. Repeat vice versa.
Gomukhasana
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Like in the previous asana, fold your right leg backward so that your right heel is next to the left buttock. Fold your left leg backward, over the right foot, and bring your right heel as close to your body as you can. Your knees should be on top of each other (or the closest you can get to that stage). Now, join your hands behind your back―the right from above and the left from below. If you can't join your hands, stretch them as far as you can. Hold the position for a few seconds, and slowly release your hands. Then bring your left leg to its starting position, and then the right leg. Repeat from the other side.
Parsvottanasana
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Stand erect, and extend your right leg so as to make an approximate right angle (90°) with the left leg. Keeping both legs straight, align your upper body with the right leg, and rest your palms on the ground between your feet. Your hands should also make a 90° angle with the right foot. Hold this position for a few seconds, then slowly raise your upper body, and return to the starting position. Repeat from the other side.
Paschimottanasana
pashchimottanasana-silhouette
Sit on the floor with your legs together and straight ahead of you. Raise your hands in the air, and bend forward. Hold your toes with your hands. If you can't reach the toes, stretch your hands as much as you can. If you can reach your toes quite easily, try resting your arms on the ground beside each foot and your head on your knees.
Viparita Karani
Lie on your back, and raise your feet against a wall. Fine-tune the position till you feel comfortable. Keep the feet straight up, and see to it that they are completely in contact with the wall. Lifting your feet off the wall is not harmful, but defeats the purpose of the asana. This is an especially relaxing pose for runners, but is a simple and surprisingly effective tonic to the stress of a sedentary lifestyle for everybody else as well.
These yoga poses help in the recovery and strengthening of hamstrings, calves, ankles, the core muscles, and the spine―all essential for a runner. Combined with the correct diet and enough rest, yoga is just about the best post-workout exercise for runners.
Precautions and Tips
Yoga should always be done gently and with smooth motions. Jerky motions in yoga can result in serious injuries, since it places a considerable load on the skeletal and muscular system. If you have a preexisting condition concerning either, check with your physician before starting a yoga routine. If you can't perform the full motion described below, do the maximum you can without hurting yourself. If it hurts, apart from a general soreness or fatigue from running, lessen the intensity of the position, or don't do it. While runners tend to ignore minor niggles and pain, yoga only hurts when done incorrectly. As mentioned before, forcibly performing the positions can result in serious injuries.

Breathing during yoga sessions should be rhythmic, deep, and mindful. Concentrate on your breathing while you hold a particular yoga asana. It is this aspect of yoga that helps the practitioner psychologically, imparting a calm, balanced mindset.
DISCLAIMER: This FitnessVigil article should not be used as replacement to medical advice. Professional physicians should always be consulted before starting any new exercise routines.