A Yogi’s Take on Plantar Faciitis Prevention

Plantar Faciitis is no joke! Do lots of stretching and yoga to prevent it.

Plantar Faciitis is no joke! Do lots of stretching and yoga to prevent it.

If you, or anyone you know, has dealt with plantar faciitis, you know it is not to be taken lightly. The facia is a thin band of fibrous tissue between muscles. Plantar faciitis is an inflammation of the plantar facia of the foot. As runners, we spend a lot of time on our feet and are particularly susceptible to plantar faciitis. Most people with plantar faciitis have pain in the heel of foot and describe it as a stabbing feeling that is especially bad in the mornings and after prolonged standing (or running). Like many overuse injuries, plantar faciitis can sideline your running career for a long time. There is no quick fix for this, and it can take from months to years to rehabilitate. So, what are we going to do to prevent it? …YOGA! Plantar faciitis often comes on from tightness of the calf and achilles tendon, which are two areas that are notoriously tight on runners. These are also areas that are easily taken care of by a few yoga postures. I’m going to touch on a few postures you can do at home that are great prevention and relief for plantar faciitis.

Downward Facing Dog Pose

Start by coming to your hands and knees. Place your hands one hand length forward, spread out your fingers and lift the knees up. Press your chest toward your thighs and lift your seating bones up. The knees can be bent, especially if you are not warmed up. Try to drop your heels towards the ground (don’t worry if they don’t make it). Start by peddling the feet and trying to straighten one leg at a time, while bending the opposite a little deeper. After a few breaths, you may find that you can straighten the legs fully. If you get tired, go to hands and knees to rest, and once ready come back to downward dog pose.

Downward Facing Dog: Make sure that the seating bones are lifted and the hands are shoulder width apart. You knees can be bent. Try to draw down through the heels.

Downward Facing Dog: Make sure that the seating bones are lifted and the hands are shoulder width apart. You knees can be bent. Try to draw down through the heels.

Once you are comfortable with the posture, try coming to your toes by lifting the heals off the ground as high as you can and then drop the heels back down to the mat. Try this a few times with the breath and notice if your heels are able to make it a little closer to the ground.

Runner’s Lunge & Crescent Lunge

You may need blocks or two stacks of books on each side of you for this posture. Come to runner’s lunge by starting on your hands and knees. Step your right foot forward in between the hands (make sure that it is all the way forward and that the knee is stacked above your ankle). Then, bring your left knee back a few inches and tuck your left toes under. If you need blocks, place each hand on a block. Lift up your chest and try to get your back straight. Take a moment here to feel the posture. Then, try to bring your right hip back and your left hip forward and straighten your back leg. Press into your left foot a little and notice the sensation in your foot and in the back of your leg.

Runner's Lunge: Keep your knee above our behind the ankle. Make sure that it never comes forward of the ankle. Try to press into your heel and draw the back hamstring up. Lengthen the spine.

Runner’s Lunge: Keep your knee above our behind the ankle. Make sure that it never comes forward of the ankle. Try to press into your heel and draw the back hamstring up. Lengthen the spine.

Take a few breaths in runner’s lunge and then begin to feel your inner thighs engage. Draw your belly button up towards your spine and then lift the hands up, lift your torso up and reach your arms into the air for a full crescent lunge. Continue to push weight into your back leg and straighten the back leg by lifting the hamstring as high as you can.

Crescent Lunge: This is the same as runner's lunge, except your are lifted upright. Engage your inner thighs and core. Lift the arms up into the air. Press into the back foot and straighten your back leg.

Crescent Lunge: This is the same as runner’s lunge, except your are lifted upright. Engage your inner thighs and core. Lift the arms up into the air. Press into the back foot and straighten your back leg.

Warrior III Pose

Warrior III is a difficult posture, but it allows you to get deep into the back of the leg while building strong hips, back, and core. Start by coming to standing with the feet together. Step forward about a foot and a half with your right leg. Engage your core and left leg and flex your left foot. While drawing forward with your chest, hinge forward at the hips, eventually making a “T” with your body. Keep the arms by your sides at a low “V” or reach them forward for more core work. Try to remain here for 5 breaths, but if you wobble and fall, just come right back in.

Warrior III: Step one foot forward and lift the back leg up by hinging forward at your hips. Keep your spine straight, push out through your back heel and reach your arms forward. Try to make yourself feel as long as you can from fingertip to heel.

Warrior III: Step one foot forward and lift the back leg up by hinging forward at your hips. Keep your spine straight, push out through your back heel and reach your arms forward. Try to make yourself feel as long as you can from fingertip to heel.

Bonus round: Try coming into this from crescent lunge!

Seated Head to Knee Pose

If you have tight hamstrings or calves, grab a strap or towel. Come to a seated position and extend both legs out in front of you. Take a moment to remove the flesh from the seating bones (I know, beautiful cue, but it’s necessary). Draw your left leg in so your foot makes contact with your right leg and the left knee flops out to the side. If the left knee is uncomfortable, take a pillow or blanket and place it under the knee. Flex your right foot, reach your arms into the air and inhale. On your exhale, hinge forward at the hips reaching your arms to your toes. If your hands can’t make it to the toes, grab your strap or towel, wrap it around the ball of your right foot (keep it flexed) and hinge forward at the hips. Avoid any rounding of the back by trying to bring your chest up. Breath here, keep your right foot flexed and when you are ready, switch sides.

Seated Head to Knee Pose: The key to making this posture good for plantar faciitis prevention is to really flex your extended foot. Keep your back long and try to draw the chest forward.

Seated Head to Knee Pose: The key to making this posture good for plantar faciitis prevention is to really flex your extended foot. Keep your back long and try to draw the chest forward.

When treating and dealing with plantar faciitis, be careful of the foot tissue and don’t do any yanking or extreme stretches of the foot so you don’t tear the fragile tissue. There are more extreme stretches that target the feet, but these five postures are a good starting place. Have fun and keep running! Namaste! 🙂

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Get Your Yin On!

Yin yoga is a slow moving and deep practice where postures are held for up to three minutes (sometimes more!) in order to get deeper into hard-to-get muscles and connective tissues. It is my go to yoga practice when I am sore from long or hard runs (like I am today). The benefits of this yoga are endless. Aside from just the stretchy goodies, you are also able to connect a little deeper to the breath, to your body, and to your mind. This all sounds nice and all, but yin yoga is often overlooked by runners because it is a little uncomfortable, especially for those who struggle with flexibility. It is important to remember that the more uncomfortable a posture is, the more we should be doing it. That does not mean that your practice should be painful. Pain is a different sensation and we want to avoid that in our yoga practice. However, a little (or a lot) of discomfort can be good for us.

I have outlined a beginner friendly yin practice that can be done by any inflexible, running yogi. This sequence concentrates a lot on the outer hips, IT band and hamstrings, which are all areas that need some extra love when you run. You’ll need a space without distraction, a relaxing music playlist, a strap, towel or belt, and a timer. Pillows, blankets and blocks can also be helpful, especially if your knees tend to give you trouble. Each posture will be held for three minutes, which you can time either through songs on your playlist or on a phone timer. Carve out about 45 minutes for this practice (this is very short for a yin practice, so feel free to hold the postures longer and take more time, too). This is a perfect practice after hard or long run day for recovery.

Start on the spine in supine bound angle pose. To get into this posture, get nice and comfortable on your back, then bend your knees and bring your feet together with the knees out. Bring your right hand to rest on your stomach and your left hand to rest on your heart. Remain here with the eyes closed and just breath. Try to lengthen your breath and use your hands to feel the breath entering and exiting the body.

Start with the feet together, knees apart and take a moment to close the eyes and relax here.

Start with the feet together, knees apart and take a moment to close the eyes and relax here.

After a few minutes in this pose, stretch the body out, point and flex your toes and take a few deep breaths. Release the arms to the sides of the body with the legs extended on your mat. Bend your right knee, place the foot on the inside of the left leg and allow the right knee to fall out to the side. Then, reach your right arm up over your head as far as you can, trying to lengthen the right side of your body. Reach your right arm over towards the left side of your mat until you feel sensation in the right side of your body. If your right knee is uncomfortable, place a block or pillow under it. After a few minutes here, switch sides.

Bend your right leg so your foot touches the inside of your left thigh and your right knee splays out. Reach your right arm up and over towards the left side of your mat.

Bend your right leg so your foot touches the inside of your left thigh and your right knee splays out. Reach your right arm up and over towards the left side of your mat.

Again, take a moment to stretch the body out before jumping into the next posture. Then, you are going to come into a simple cross-legged position, but while still on your back. Start with your right shin in front of the left. If this hurts your knees, takes blocks or blankets under them to elevate a little. If you have tight hips, this will be a little uncomfortable for you. Release your ams to your sides and just breath. Be sure to do this on both sides.

This is a simple cross legged position, but on the back. You may not feel much when you first come into this pose, but after a few breaths you should feel your outer hips and inner thighs.

This is a simple cross legged position, but on the back. You may not feel much when you first come into this pose, but after a few breaths you should feel your outer hips and inner thighs.

Hug your knees into your chest, maybe draw opposing circles with the knees. Then, place your feet on to your mat at mat width with your knees up. Just allow both legs to fall over to the right side. Reach your left arm overhead, turn your head to the right and just relax into the posture. As always, blocks or pillows can be used under the knees if there is any pain there. When your are done, switch sides.

Bring your feet to mat width  and have your knees up. Then allow your knees to fall all the way over to the right and reach your left arm up.

Bring your feet to mat width and have your knees up. Then allow your knees to fall all the way over to the right and reach your left arm up.

Place both feet on the mat with the knees up and grab your strap, belt or towel. Sling your strap around the ball of your right foot while holding each side of the strap in one hand. Extend your leg into the air, flex the foot and pull gently on the strap. You should feel a pretty deep stretch in your hamstring and in your calf. If you start to feel this in your lower back, or if the stretch is too intense, bend your extended knee a little. Repeat on the left side.

This is a pretty traditional hamstring stretch. Put your strap around the ball of your foot and extend the leg up. Lengthen the opposite leg on the mat and close your eyes. Be sure to keep tension out of your shoulders.

This is a pretty traditional hamstring stretch. Put your strap around the ball of your foot and extend the leg up. Lengthen the opposite leg on the mat and close your eyes. Be sure to keep tension out of your shoulders.

So, throughout this practice we’ve been working on external hip rotation and on IT band and hamstring stretches. This posture is what we have built up to. Start with both feet on the mat and the knees up. Take your left ankle on to your right knee so that the left knee opens out. Then, left your right knee, drawing it in towards your chest and take your left arm through the hole you made with your left leg and your right arm around your right leg. Lengthen your right leg into the air and clasp your hands on your thigh. If this stretch is a little too much, loop a strap, belt or towel around your right thigh and pull it in. Flex the right foot and try to relax through your face, neck and shoulders. Try to hold this one for the whole three minutes and then switch sides.

Place both feet on the mat with your knees up and then take your left ankle on to your right knee with your left knee out. Reach your left arm inside the triangle you made with your left leg and your right arm around your right leg. Extend your right leg up and clasp your hands on your thigh.

Place both feet on the mat with your knees up and then take your left ankle on to your right knee with your left knee out. Reach your left arm inside the triangle you made with your left leg and your right arm around your right leg. Extend your right leg up and clasp your hands on your thigh.

When you are done, hug your knees into your chest and open your arms out to a “T” position. Allow both legs to fall all the way over to the right side while keeping the left shoulder on the ground. Turn your head to look over your left shoulder. Switch sides. When you are done, take a moment to just lay comfortably on your spine and breath. Notice how your body feels after taking some time to slow down and relax.

Draw both knees into your chest and bring your arms out to a "T" position. Allow the legs to drop to one side and turn your head the other way.

Draw both knees into your chest and bring your arms out to a “T” position. Allow the legs to drop to one side and turn your head the other way.

I hope you enjoy this yin practice. If you are unable to carve out a full 45 minutes for this, try holding each posture for just 60 seconds. It is incredibly important to take some time to rest, slow down and connect. If you have any questions let me know! Namaste. 🙂

Bring some balance to your day

A little over a year ago, I tore the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) in my ankle. This is the most commonly torn ligament in the body and is the main place people have injuries from an ankle sprain. One of the major problems associated with this kind of injury is balance instability. I went to physical therapy and it was to my therapist’s surprise that even with my full tear to the ATFL, I was still able to balance on the injured foot with relative ease. She attributed this to my history of a vigorous yoga practice, and I think she was right. Yoga is great for building muscles around joints, so that when you do get injured, you have a backup system to rely on. Although my ankle still had a great deal of pain, I could balance without trouble, which helped me heal from my injury even quicker.

The ankle has many ligaments and tendons that can be stretched or torn when you roll the foot a little too far. Practice with balance can help strengthen your stabilizing muscles and potentially prevent injuries to this area of the body.

The ankle has many ligaments and tendons that can be stretched or torn when you roll the foot a little too far. Practice with balance can help strengthen your stabilizing muscles and potentially prevent injuries to this area of the body.

This week I’m going to touch on three cool (and helpful!) balance postures. There are 26 bones in the foot and ankle alone, making this a very complex area of the body, especially for injury prevention. Because of this, we always need to keep ankles (and knees) healthy, and one way to do that is by building the stabilizing muscles in your legs. Balance doesn’t have to be restricted to that, though. We can also stretch and open our bodies while we build the muscles necessary to keep us healthy while we run.

Tree Pose

Tree pose is often considered one of the classic yoga asanas. In almost any class you attend, you will be doing this posture, or some variation on it. But tree pose is not solely a balance posture. It is also a hip opener. To harness it’s hip opening powers, remember to draw the knee of the lifted leg back and down. You should feel a stretch in the inner thigh and outer hip.

Come into this posture by shifting your weight to one side and lifting the opposite leg. You can test the waters a little by keeping the toes on the ground and the heal of your lifted foot on your ankle. If you would like to go deeper, place the lifted foot on your calf or draw it all the way up above the knee. The only rule to tree pose is to make sure your lifted foot is not on the knee. We don’t need any extra pressure there.

Tree Pose: Place the lifted foot on the standing leg. Make sure that the foot stays above or below the knee.

Tree Pose: Place the lifted foot on the standing leg. Make sure that the foot stays above or below the knee.

Standing Pigeon Pose

Standing pigeon pose is a staple among runners. Before almost any race I go to, I see at least one person in this posture. Standing pigeon has a lot of fun variations including a forward fold, a few twists and an arm balance. Today I’ll be going over two of these variations. I’ll hit on this posture a little more in depth another time.

Start by shifting your weight on to one foot and lift the opposite leg while keeping the lifted leg’s knee bent. Begin to bend your standing leg and take the ankle of the lifted leg on to the knee of the standing leg. You’ll notice that as you bend your standing leg deeper, the hip opening of the stretch becomes deeper.

Standing pigeon: Take the ankle of the lifted leg on to the knee of the standing leg. Bend the standing leg. The deeper you bend the standing leg, the deeper you will be in the pose.

Standing pigeon: Take the ankle of the lifted leg on to the knee of the standing leg. Bend the standing leg. The deeper you bend the standing leg, the deeper you will be in the pose.

From here, begin to fold forward over your legs. If you know your hips are tight, have a block or some stacked books in front of your standing leg. As you fold forward, the stretch will become more intense. Place your fingers on the ground or on your block for stability.

Standing Pigeon variation: Bend over until your fingers touch the ground or a block. This will get nice and deep into your IT band and outer hip.

Standing Pigeon variation: Bend over until your fingers touch the ground or a block. This will get nice and deep into your IT band and outer hip.

Eagle Pose

Eagle is one of my favorite balance postures. It is great for stretching the outer hip, shoulders and upper back. I am often surprised how often this posture gets overlooked, since it manages to hit almost every part of the body. I almost always do eagle in my yoga classes. This is a very complex posture, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it the first time.

To start, bring your arms out to a “T” and then wrap the right arm over the left so that your hands touch opposite shoulders. If your shoulders are tight, stop here. To go deeper, lift your hands off your shoulders and see if you can wrap your arms around each again other so that your palms eventually are together. Make sure both of your feet are together and then bend your knees coming into chair pose (a squat with the feet together). Then, lift up your left leg, so you are balancing on your right and place your left leg over your right (the toes of the left leg can come down for stability if needed). See if you wrap your left foot around the back of your right leg so that your arms and legs mirror each other. Continue to draw the shoulders down your back and the elbows against your chest.

Eagle Pose: wrap the right arm over the left and see if you can bring the palms together. Then, bend the knees and wrap the left leg over the right.

Eagle Pose: Wrap the right arm over the left and see if you can bring the palms together. Then, bend the knees and wrap the left leg over the right.

Be sure to even these postures out on both sides. If you know that instability is a problem, use a wall or a chair to help you with balance. Balance can be fun, but it is also humbling. Everyone falls, and that is OK! The strength and flexibility you will build with these postures will not only help you with your running, but also with your daily life. Enjoy some balance!

Namaste! 🙂

Break it down: Bridge Pose

Bridge Pose: A great posture to undo some of the harm from being seated often and to build hip and core strength

Bridge Pose: A great posture to undo some of the harm from being seated often and to build hip and core strength

Bridge is a great posture to work your hip strength and to release tension in your back muscles. Since most of us spend a significant amount of time on the computer or in seated positions, our backs are usually rounded, causing tightness in our shoulders, back and chest. Here, I will give you some tips for working into bridge along with some fun variations to strengthen your hips, core and to restore your spine.

Sitting like this is terrible, no matter how much you run! Use bridge pose to help undo some of the harm caused from sitting!

Sitting like this is terrible, no matter how much you run! Use bridge pose to help undo some of the harm caused by sitting!

If you have a ponytail, remove it so the back of your head can be flat on the floor. Start laying on your spine with you knees up and your arms down by your sides with your palms down. Your fingers should be able to just barely touch your heels. Keep your feet hip width apart and your knees stacked above the ankles. Consciously make sure your knees do not splay out to the sides. Press into your feet elevating your pelvis off the ground. Now, let go through your glute muscles and allow your knees to remain above the ankles. This is low bridge.

Low Bridge: my feet are hip width apart and I am pressing down into my feet. Lift the pelvis up from the ground and use your core and hip strength to keep you lifted.

Low Bridge: my feet are hip width apart and I am pressing down into my feet. Lift the pelvis up from the ground and use your core and hip strength to keep you lifted.

If you would like to go a little deeper, wiggle your shoulders under you and clasp your hands. This will cause you to lift more through the chest and to intensify the backbend. Again, make sure that you are not tensing in your glute muscles in order to keep your knees in line.

Full Bridge: bring your shoulders underneath you a little and interlace the fingers. The higher you go up, the deeper the backbend you will be in.

Full Bridge: bring your shoulders underneath you a little and interlace the fingers. The higher you go up, the deeper the backbend you will be in.

For a little more core challenge, you can shift your weight over to one leg and lift the opposite. Draw the lifted leg close into your chest with the knee bent and then lift the leg and straighten it into the air. Hold for a few breaths (should get hard pretty quick) and then switch sides.

One Legged Bridge: for some fun, lift one leg into the air by bringing the leg into chest and then straightening it out.

One Legged Bridge: for some fun, lift one leg into the air by bringing the leg into chest and then straightening it out.

For a more restorative version of the posture, grab a block or a stack of books (higher the stack, the greater the backbend will be, so be careful). Place the block close so you can grab it while in the posture. Set yourself up the same way you did before with the knees in the air, feet hip width and your hands by your sides. Lift the pelvis up and grab the block. Slowly, slide it under your sacrum (this should be comfortable, if it is not, move the block around. It should NOT be on your spine). You’ll notice immediately that you can let go of your muscles a bit more and just enjoy the backbend. Have fun with this! Maybe lift one leg at a time, or be super adventurous and lift both!

Supported Bridge: Use your block under your sacrum for a more restorative version of the posture. Remember, the higher you place the block, the deeper you will get into your backbend.

Supported Bridge: Use your block under your sacrum for a more restorative version of the posture. Remember, the higher you place the block, the deeper you will get into your backbend.

When you are done, come back down to the ground and straighten out your legs so you are laying flat for a few breaths. Once you feel ready, draw your knees into chest and hug them in. You can sway side to side to massage the spine. This is a great posture to do before or after your run. Try it out! 🙂 Namaste!!!

Post Run Hip and Hamstring Sequence

When I am done with a run, I like to spend some time stretching to alleviate any residual tightness. I have found that consistent stretching of the hips and hamstrings helps my body remain injury free. The sequence below takes about 5 minutes and does a good job getting into some of the most tight areas for runners.

Start in low lunge (photos below) with the right foot forward. Make sure that your front foot is all the way forward between your hands and that you can feel a stretch in the front and outer hip. Your hands can remain on blocks or stacked books so that your upper back remains straight.

Low Lunge: Draw the front foot forward in between the hands. You should feel a stretch in the front part of your hips and groin.

Low Lunge: Draw the front foot forward in between the hands. You should feel a stretch in the front part of your hips and groin.

Low Lunge: Notice that my ankle is stacked below the knee and that I am leaning forward into the front leg.

Low Lunge: Notice that my ankle is stacked below the knee and that I am leaning forward into the front leg.

On your inhale, lengthen your front leg to straight, moving into a hamstring stretch (picture below). Your hands can remain on your blocks.

Hamstring Stretch: Straighten the front leg so that you come back about half way. Keep the front foot flexed.

Hamstring Stretch: Straighten the front leg so that you come back about half way and your seating bones are stacked above your back knee. Keep the front foot flexed.

On your exhale, come back to your low lunge. Repeat this for about 10 breaths. Once you are done, remain in your hamstring stretch, with your front leg straight for 3-5 breaths. Then, on an exhale, come back to your low lunge. Remain in low lunge for another 3-5 breaths.

Walk your front foot outside of your hands (so if you are on the right side, you are walking it over to the right). Roll the palm of your foot up so that you only have the outer edge and pinky toe on the ground. Allow your knee to fall out to the side. You should feel this stretch in the outer hip. Remain here for 7-8 breaths. When you are finished, go ahead and repeat this sequence on the other side.

Low Lunge with Knee Out: From low lunge, roll the outside of the front foot so the bottom of the foot lifts and the knee moves towards the outside.

Low Lunge with Knee Out: From low lunge, roll the outside of the front foot so the bottom of the foot lifts and the knee moves towards the outside.

You can use this sequence for a post-run stretch. If you foam roll, you can do that as soon as you are done with these stretches. I usually like to end with a short period laying on my back to let the benefits sink in a little and to just calm the body after my run. I hope you find this sequence useful and incorporate it into your own practice.

Namaste 🙂