As the Year of the Horse slowly recedes and we get ready to welcome the Year of the Goat on 19 February 2015, channel your own inner animal by learning yoga poses reminiscent of some of our favourite creatures. Maintain your stamina and tone your body by adopting off-run-day yoga poses that require little effort. Don’t be surprised if you’re more agile and toned thanks to these 10 yoga moves guaranteed to get your body humming like a purring tiger.
1. Wall Dog
Directions: Face a wall using your arm to establish your distance. Put both hands on the wall at shoulder height. Point your fingers upward. Take a few steps back and bend at the waist so your spine is parallel to the floor. Suck your belly in and back, keeping your pelvis stable as you lengthen your lower back. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths before release.
Benefits: Give your entire body a relaxing Wall Dog stretch that releases tension in your hamstrings and calves.
Extras: This move strengthens your shoulder joints and spinal muscles too.
2. Downward Dog
Directions: Start in a push up position to prepare for this exercise. Lift your hip bones up and toward the ceiling so your heels are forced to push into the ground to give your entire body the ultimate stretch. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths. Repeat as often as you like.
Benefits: The Downward Dog opens up the hips, calves and hamstrings so they are lengthened, strengthened and relaxed after running activities that impose stress on the body due to the repetitive nature of swinging motions you experience from your natural running gait.
Extras: Even your arms and upper back get a gentle workout as you focus on your legs when undertaking Downward Dog moves. Runners with a propensity for shin splits, IT-band syndrome, foot and knee problems are particularly benefited by the Downward Dog.
3. Upward Dog
Directions: What goes up must go down, even when it comes to dog behaviour! To accomplish your own Upward Dog pose, assume a plank position and lower your body about half way—so it looks like you’re a dog doing a low pushup. Roll over your toes and arch your chest to complete this relaxing move.
Benefits: Wait until you see how much your upper body improves by mastering the Upward Dog! If you’re a typical runner and seek to equal the strength of your legs by toning your upper body, this is the yoga pose that makes sure your upper body never again suffers from neglect.
Extras: Savvy runners know that if they don’t condition their upper bodies, their performances can suffer, whether training or racing. Pair Upward Dogs with Downward Dogs to turn your body into an equal opportunity animal that serves you well on and off the marathon circuit.
4. Little Piggy’s Hamstring Stretch
Directions: Stand with your feet parallel to your shoulders, and bend your arms behind you to launch this Hamstring Stretch. Grab your forearms or elbows. Take a step back (2 to 3 feet) and rotate your right foot about 60 degrees to square your hips. Keeping your hips in this position, draw in your belly to lengthen your torso all the way back to your spine. Bend forward from the hips as far as possible while maintaining a straight spine and legs. Take from 5 to 10 breaths holding this position. Repeat all moves to stretch your other side, too.
Benefits: This little piggy exercise is sure to bring home the bacon in terms of your hamstrings and legs!
Extras: No squealing about the workout your shoulders, back and forearms will also get from undertaking this leisurely stretch pose.
5. Diamond Pose with Cow-Face Pose Arms
Directions: Imagine standing amid tranquil bovines while mastering an essential yoga pose guaranteed to keep your body moooving! Place a mat or blanket on the floor. Assume a Diamond Pose with Cow-face position (on all fours) with knees and feet slightly apart. Sit back on your heels with the tops of your feet touching the ground. Extend your right arm at shoulder height, pointing your thumb down. Bend your right elbow, moving the arm back as you touch your spine and point toward your neck. Now, point your left arm to the ceiling and turn your palm to the wall behind you. Try to get your right and left fingers to touch while holding from 5 to 10 breaths.
Benefits: You might have to practise this move until the cows come home because it’s not easy to master, but once you get it, wait till you see how your knees, ankles and shins benefit from this complex maneuver.
Extras: In addition to your knees and shins, don’t be surprised to discover that your spine, chest and shoulders are also conditioned, leaving you as relaxed as a cow in pasture under the noonday sun.
6. Reclining Pigeon
Directions: Don’t fly away at the thought of emulating this bird when you conduct your off-run day training and toning endeavors. It’s easy to accomplish the Reclining Pigeon: Lie on your back with both knees bent and stretch your left ankle over your right quad to work muscles that tighten up when you undertake a strenuous run. Be gentle as you pull your legs toward your body for maximum stretching. Repeat on the other side.
Benefits: You’ll find yourself having new respect for the humble pigeon when you realize how toned your gluts and hamstrings have become after learning and practicing this easy yoga pose.
Extras: The Reclining Pigeon is a great alternative to the Regular Pigeon, a harder move that takes time to learn. The Regular Pigeon requires the body to be upright, putting pressure on the knees if this move isn’t done perfectly, say seasoned yoga instructors. Move on to the Regular Pigeon once you’ve mastered this pose first.
7. The Giraffe; Wide Leg Standing Forward Bend
Directions: If you can stand with your legs spread about four feet apart—feet parallel, toes slightly inward and your hands on your hips, you can accomplish the Giraffe, a forward bend beloved by runners. Assume the stance, keep your hips stable, lift your spine and draw in your stomach to lengthen your lower back. Bend forward, placing your fingertips or palms on the floor and then push onto the floor with your hands. Now, lift your chest and draw back your shoulders. Hold the giraffe pose for 5 to 10 breaths and release.
Benefits: Wait until you see how effective this yoga pose can be on the hamstrings and calf muscles—especially for runners who are often troubled by tight muscles from hips to outer knees. You’ll also stretch your Achilles tendons, inner thighs and lower back, so this is a marvelous all around yoga pose for runners.
Extras: Get the most benefits by doing the forward bend Giraffe right after you’ve enjoyed a good, strenuous run. Sure, you can do it at other times, too, but using this as a post-race exercise is particularly beneficial.
8. Low Lunge Lizard
Directions: Kneel on the floor. Bring your right foot forward. Bend your right knee at a 90-degree angle so your shin and thigh are perpendicular and your thigh parallels the floor. Keeping your hips stable, elevate your spine and draw in your belly. Stretch your torso forward until it meets your right thigh and place your hands on either side of your right foot. Slide back the left knee until it’s straight. Turn your toes under, pressing the ball of your foot to the floor. Hold this Low Lunge Lizard yoga pose for 5 to 10 breaths before repeating on the other side.
Benefits: If you use Low Lizard Lunges to launch your yoga sessions, your entire body will awaken. Discover improved balance and what could be more beneficial to a runner than maintaining balance while experiencing changing terrain under foot?
Extras: The Low Lunge Lizard does a super job of toning the back and legs while treating the calves and the Achilles tendons to a healthy stretch.
9. Rhino Horn Triangle
Directions: You don’t have to believe in the therapeutic powers of rhino horn powder to imagine the triangular horns atop these magnificent beasts, so invoke that image as you undertake a triangle yoga pose that offers multiple benefits. Place your legs in a triangle pose on the floor to gently stretch glutes, hips and inner thighs as you stretch your arms out to your sides at shoulder height. Turn left toes in slightly and roll right thigh open to turn your right foot out 90 degrees. Align your feet so that heel of your right front foot is in line with arch of your left foot. Take 5 to 10 breaths and returns to standing. Repeat on other side.
Benefits: Undertake the Rhino Horn Triangle to even out and lengthen your breath while assuming this pose, and achieve a sense of relief when you discipline your breathing. By the time you get your breathing under control, your leg muscles relax. Runners assume calmer, smoother breathing patterns thanks to this pose, and you know what that can do for your confidence, composure and endurance.
Extras: Ease into the Rhino Horn Triangle pose slowly to avoid accidentally experiencing outer hip pain because you’re focused too much on getting your breathing under control. If you feel some hip pain, rest your arm on a block rather than the floor and feel the relief as you work to regulate your breathing.
10. Chimp Bound Angle
Directions: Apes are adroit at pushing their bodies into clever configurations so they can swing around trees and heights effortlessly. Assume the Chimp Bound Angle pose by sitting and pressing the bottoms of your feet together while your knees are spread wide apart. Gently rock your legs. This simple pose can do wonders for your sense of well-being. Make sure you position your heels close to the groin for maximum effectiveness while keeping your spine straight. Keep pressing your soles and hold for 5 to 10 breaths.
Benefits: Develop patience and dig deep into a tranquil state of mind as you hold this position. Fight the urge to rush or you won’t receive the benefits of lower back, hip and thigh relaxation. Strengthen your inner thighs, pelvic region and hips once you master this yoga pose. Don’t force your knees down to the ground; it’s not a natural way to pose and could stress out your muscles and tendons, as any intelligent Chimp can attest.
Extras: If you find that it’s too hard to keep the soles of your feet together and you can’t seem to keep your spine straight, do the Chimp Bound Angle on a folded blanket and you should achieve success.
Connect with Your Body and Soul
How often do you get in touch with your inner animal—the spirit that lives within you and makes itself known in the way you live your life and the way you train for your running activities? If you’ve mastered a yoga pose that’s reminiscent of an animal but it’s not mentioned here, we’d love to know about it. Let us hear you roar as you enjoy a successful and healthy running life in the year ahead!
Special Thanks to:
Article Writeup: Aidan from Run Society
The talented Photographer: Stefanus Ian, Instagram: @stefanusian
The apparel worn by Angeline Yeo is proudly provided by Vivre Active Wear. Vivre Active Wear women’s apparel is designed in Singapore and boasts many quality collections that are suitable for running and Yoga practice. Instagram: @vivreactivewear