I taught a yoga class this morning for a group of runners training for fall marathons. They had varying degrees of experience with yoga but all were in training for a half or full marathon. As a result, all were experiencing one of the common side affects of running long distances: tight hips, sore feet, tight shoulders, tight hamstrings and maybe even a little bit of overall exhaustion.
As I headed into my second class of the day, I decided to stay with the theme of “Poses for Runners.” Even if you don’t run, you most likely have tight hips and shoulders just from sitting all day. This is why working with this theme can be great for anyone. It’s helpful to have some knowledge of the anatomy behind these poses so let’s start our discussion there.
When people say they have “tight hips” that can either mean that the front of their hips are tight and along with that, they may feel tightness in their low back or it could mean that they feel tightness, discomfort or pain in the inner or outer hip (s). We typically think of hip flexors as being the main culprit but you can also have tightness in the external rotators (muscles that turn your hip and knee open to the side) or internal rotators (muscles that turn your hip and knee “in” toward the middle. In order to get that whole center piece of the body stretched out, it’s helpful to work all actions and areas. So that would include: hip extension, as in standing and leaning backwards or taking one leg back, as in Airplane Pose; taking your hip and opening it, or externally rotating it, as in the position of the hip with the bent knee in Tree Pose; or internal rotation, as in the turning inward position of the knee in Eagle or Cow Faced Pose.
I would say the biggest issue of the 3 for people is the hip flexors. This is typically the psoas muscle, which runs from the lower back around the side of the body and attaches on the top of the thigh bone. When this muscle gets tight, it tends to pull on the lower back and literally “pull” the tailbone back and out, as if it’s sticking out of the back of the body. This is why when people try to come into poses like Crescent Lunge and Warrior 1, their tailbone sticks out. This interferes with their ability to adequately stretch their hips flexors. The corrective action is to lift the front rim of the pelvis and draw the belly in towards the spine. This will help drop the tailbone and stretch the hip flexor on the straight leg.
A few years ago, I made a video with poses to stretch the hips, shoulders, hamstrings and back. To date, it’s the most viewed video on my You Tube channel. Rather than try to explain the poses you can do, just take a peek and try them:
Once you’ve watched the video, please let me know if you have any questions. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.