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Hatha Yoga - Post Marathon Stretches

As we are all aware stretching after a run especially a marathon when the muscles are warm and soft helps reduce risk of injury and allows you to feel better the following day. For this reason three teachers of Hatha Yoga( all teachers at My Yoga Studio) were available on Saturday last to assist runners after the Viking Marathon.

Stretches help increase the length of muscle fibers. A matching expansion of the connective tissue within and around the muscle is also needed, including the fascia This is what happens during periods of prolonged stretching. The connective tissue gradually follows the lead of the muscle fibers, the muscle as a whole gets longer, and flexibility is improved.

Hatha yoga stretches are a safe and effective way to bring this about. In order for muscles to know how much to do they rely on sensors such as muscle spindles which run parallel to the muscles. If movements in stretching are too quick or too far, the muscle spindles react causing contraction and preventing the stretching of the muscles.To avoid this stretch reflex being triggered, yoga practice suggests focusing on the breath, moving with ease,directing the breath to where the body is tight and listening to the feedback from the body as you move in a mindful way. A balance of muscle contraction and relaxation allows safe and deep release; an example of such a stretch practised with runners on Saturday was the runner lying on their back, both knees bent and soles of the feet on the mat. Then placing a belt around the ball of one foot and keeping the other foot on the ground mindfully extending the foot with the belt towards the ceiling.The instruction is to press the sit bone (ischial tuberosity) of the extended leg back into the mat and at the same time lengthen the leg upwards.Breathing with ease and comfort and moving slowly whlist extending ensures that there is no over stretching and avoids the stretch reflex. Finally keeping broadening the sole of the foot and pressing more into the ball of the foot than the heel brings a balance of muscle contraction and relaxation.

This and other postures or yoga asanas build strength and flexibilty and support us in our other activities in life such as running.

To quote a very old proverb the stiffest tree is most easily cracked while the willow survives while bending in the wind !

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