I started teaching Yoga ten years ago. Shortly after teaching my firsts classes as a certified yoga teacher, I created a program for a marathon runner who was curious about what yoga could do for her. She complained about common runner’s pains-aches in the hips, ankles and knees and asked for a “prescription” yoga routine to help her out.
Uneven muscles are the source of many pains
The program I gave her was one which will help anyone, no matter their athletic inclination. The fact is, we get good training for athletic activities, but we have uneven muscles due to everyday life. You click the computer mouse with one particular hand. If we play basketball, we go up off the same foot every time we do a layup, or if we play baseball, we always bat right or left-handed. The inevitable result is that muscles on one side of the body end up longer or shorter than on the other side. As a result, you eventually get lopsided, and so you get corresponding aches and pains.
We fix our uneven muscle syndrome by doing yoga
The four-pose prescription you’re about to learn was my original yoga routine that I started 14 years ago. It opened a new world to me and changed my life. My physical yoga practice soon grew to 90 minutes a day, but don’t assume that you must put in tons of time to have a meaningful yoga practice. After all, yoga is a living, ongoing practice that goes beyond the mat.
By doing these poses on both sides, we restore the length of muscles on both sides and regain our sense of balance that we developed in childhood. The pelvis returns to its neutral position as the muscles from the ankles to the shoulders stop defying each other. As the body stops being disproportionately tilted in one direction, associated pains in the knees, back and hips diminish.
The poses are basic ones we know
- Use your stomach muscles to lift your ribcage up, to stretch and curve your front while keeping pressure off of your spine. Don’t compress your spine in order to bend backwards in the pose. Stretch your front and keep back loose.
- Keep your back foot planted from the outside in, and for both feet, claw your toes down slightly into the mat. This engages the ankles and prevents overstretching on muscles and ligaments that encase the knees.
- Keep your navel pulled in toward the spine. This will prevent the abs from collapsing forward and will help prevent compression of the spine.
Revolved Triangle Pose is another classic. If you’re new to yoga, be aware that this pose is quite challenging despite its technical simplicity. The big challenge really is mental; it requires a good deal of concentration the keep moving your body into the twist. Why? This pose literally stretches ever muscle in your body, so your mind is talking to every muscle at once. The sheer volume of required concentration makes this pose an incredible stress buster.
- Breathe slowly and fully. Focus on swiveling the torso further in small increments each time you exhale.
- Keep the knees unlocked as your legs straighten, and keep the toes grabbing the mat to prevent knees strain.
Tree Pose is another classic and a great introductory balancing pose. It strengthens the calves and ankles and helps you develop conscious, controlled movement of your pelvis and hip rotators. It is this pose that will really show you which side is tighter and which is looser. When you first start doing tree pose, you may find that you have “one good side”-you’ll be able to balance quite well on one side but not the other.
- If you have trouble balancing in Tree Pose, you can use a wall to help, but don’t put your palm on the wall and don’t lean on it. Use your fingertips, and just touch the wall slightly. As you gain confidence and control, you can push off the wall with your fingers as you gradually develop the ability to cease using the wall.
Doing tree pose every day, along with Warrior I, Revolved Triangle and Side Stretch (known to many yogis as Half Moon when both hands are overhead, palms together) will enable you to even out the length of the muscles on both sides, so you’ll eventually have two good sides!
Standing Side Stretch is a simple pose that will give you a good yoga buzz. Focus on planting the feet consciously and keeping them planted as you lift the shoulder to stretch one side and fold the other. As mobility develops in the pose, practice bring both hands up, palms together and keep them over the crown of your head as you move in and out of the pose.
Yogasync Me! We love the ooh’s and aah’s exclaimed by runners trying this Yoga class for the first time! Try it now, exclusive to Yogasync.tv
Have you tried this version of Tree Pose? Get your alignment right first in this most basic variation, and then work up to the other versions of Tree Pose.