Yoga for runners 101

Yoga.

One of those quintessential Indian “things” which I’ve never really “got”. Is that too many quotation marks for one short sentence?

Maybe.

I tried yoga a few years ago, in an effort to make hubby dearest do some kind of exercise. The teacher came highly recommended by hubby’s sister-in-law, if memory serves me right, but he wasn’t at all what I imagined a yoga teacher to be.

For one thing, he sat on a chair throughout the class, drinking tea.

And for another thing, we did the same exercises over and over and over again. No variation, no progress. Just lots of cups of tea.

So I stopped going to his classes, and would head out to run instead.

Anyway, he soon retired back to Bihar and that was that.

Cue my running group, where very often we do yoga-esque stretches after our sessions.

Every single person in the group knows all the poses, knows their technical names, and they are all terrifyingly bendy and flexible.

And they all run w-a-y faster than me, so there must be something in it, right? Yoga for runners clearly works.

So hubby and I have restarted yoga, and this time I’m determined to stick with it, hoping it will help my running.

This teacher seems better, doesn’t drink tea, and alters the sequence of the exercises, adding new “asanas”, so already in a month there is a feeling of progress.

Cue the other day.

I saw a photo on social media of my terrifyingly lithe & fit running friend Reeti Sahai, who was doing a reverse namaste pose..

I showed the photo to my husband and made some comment like “God, I wish I were so flexible. I’ll never be able to do that pose.”

AND LEFT IT AT THAT.

DIDN’T TRY THE POSE.

JUST EXPRESSED SELF DOUBT.

This morning, out of the blue, my husband asked our teacher about this pose.

He said he’d never heard of it (should I be worried about the extent of his knowledge?)

Himmat said, “Oh, it’s like doing a namaste behind your back” & I started to demonstrate to the teacher.

AND DID ONE.

First time.

People, I was SO chuffed, I can’t tell you!

Begone self doubt!

I realise that it is far from perfect, but what the heck. I did it.

I decided to read up a little about this pose (I’m nerdy like that) and here is the result.

REVERSE PRAYER POSE

Depending on the style of yoga, tadasana paschima namaskar may also be called paschima namaskarasana (westward prayer pose) or viparita namaskarasana (inverted prayer pose) in Sanskrit.

Thanks yogapedia.com.

Tadasana paschima namaskar is a simple yet advanced shoulder and chest stretch practiced from a standing position. The name comes from the Sanskrit, tadasana, or mountain pose; paschima, meaning “west” and referring to the back of the body; and namaskar, which is a greeting and term of respect.”

“As the name suggests, tadasana paschima namaskar is a variation of the foundational tadasana, but with the palms touching at the center of the back in an upward prayer position.

In English, tadasana paschima namaskar is most commonly known as reverse prayer pose.”

Yogapedia.com again.

For strengthening the upper back, it say, on the illustration above.

So I re-consulted yogapedia:

In addition to its physical benefits, tadasana paschima namaskar:

Calms the mind

Reduces stress

Boosts confidence

Relieves anxiety and mild depression

The pose is also believed to open the anahata (heart) chakra, which is associated with compassion, forgiveness, emotional stability, love and acceptance of oneself and others. Anahata is where the true Self resides; so, Self-realization is only possible when this chakra is balanced.

Wow.

I can’t honestly say that doing this asana calmed my mind or reduced my stress levels, but it sure boosted my confidence.

Hey, I’m sharing photos of me doing it, aren’t I?!

Imperfectly, but I’m doing it nonetheless.

The photo above shows attempt #2.

My palms are a little bit closer together, I think.

But my head isn’t straight, so I’ll have to work on that next time.

Now what about the physical benefits of the reverse prayer pose?

As per the photo below, it’s good for a frozen shoulder.

According to doyogawithme.com

“The Reverse Prayer Pose is a great pose for those with tight wrists and forearms. It stretches the flexors of the wrist.”

The Art of Living adds further benefits:

Opens the abdomen, thus allowing deeper breaths.

Stretches the upper back.

Stretches the shoulder joints and pectoral muscles.

Summarising all the benefits of this pose, what do we have?

1)Strengthening the upper back.

2)Dealing with frozen shoulder

3)Stretches the worst flexors

4)Stretching the shoulder joints and pectoral muscles

5)Opening the abdomen

That’s a whole lot of benefits from one asana.

Given that today was a fluke, it seemed a good idea to check the proper sequence.

Of all the explanations (& oh my God such l-o-n-g, rambling, self-indulgent 14 minute Youtube tutorials from American yoga teachers), I decided that the Art of Living gave the most succinct instructions of how to do this asana:

Begin in Tadasana pose.

Relax the shoulders and bend your knees a little.

Bring your arms behind your back and join the palms with fingertips facing downward.

As you inhale, turn the fingertips inwards towards the spine and bring them to face upwards.

Ensure that the knees are still slightly bent and the palms are pressed firmly against each other.

Stay in the position for a couple of breaths.

As you exhale, slowly turn the fingertips downward.

Bring the arms to the side of the body and slowly come back into Tadasana

I had no idea about the breathing involved, so will have to work on that.

My knees weren’t bent & I look ramrod stiff on the photo, to be honest.

So there are 2 things to correct immediately.

Plus the head tilting to the right.

Conclusion?

Definitely a pose to be worked on and repeated, and it’s probably something one can do in isolation, just like that, as a stretch, & not always in the context of a yoga class.

Final thought

While checking with yet another website I was fascinated to read that this pose is also known as the penguin pose.

Did the ancient yogis, high in the Himalayas, really know about penguins?

Really?

What a fascinating thought.

I definitely need more info on this, please.

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