Watercolour background artwork: Ali B
Watercolour background artwork: Ali B
And let me tell you, it ain’t pretty.
I’m talking big juicy blisters under the pads of my toes.
I’ve even resorted to painting my toenails dark red in an attempt to hide my bruised and blackened nails.
But a couple of battered toes aren’t too bad of a sacrifice when training in such a high impact sport. Unfortunately, some people suffer from joint pain and injury while training. Knees are a common casualty of runners and high endurance athletes, which is why it is important to develop even strength throughout the muscles of the legs so that the knee joint is stabilized.Click for full post
Let’s break it down very simply.
Your femur is the long bone in your upper leg.
Your tibia is the bone in your lower leg, also known as your shine bone.
The round bone where these two meet is called your patella, or knee cap.
Together these comprise the knee joint, one of the largest and most complex joints of the human body.
Surrounding your femur are tendons (which attach muscle to bone), ligaments (connects bone to bone/cartilage) and the muscles of your hamstring and quadriceps.
Your hamstrings consist of three muscles that originate in your pelvis and run along the back of your leg.
Your quadriceps consist of four muscles that are situated at the front and side of your thigh. These four muscles come together to form a tendon that connects to your tibia by crossing your patella.
By understanding how the knee joint works and moves it is easier to imagine how a muscular imbalance in the thigh may cause the knee joint to track off course. This causes stress on the joint and can lead to injury or inflammation of the meniscus (the shock absorbing cartilage in your knee).
So how does Yoga help?
Yoga can be an excellent preventative or even restorative practice for athletes with knee or joint issues.
Yoga asanas strengthen the muscles that support the knee, which helps to stabilize it and therefore prevent injury.
Yoga also improves balance and core strength, allowing you to move tactfully while running.
Aside from the benefits of stretching and strength building, yoga helps to increase an athlete’s awareness of their body, making them more sensitive to the warning signs of potential injury.
Phew! That was a lot of information.
If you are more of a visual or kinesthetic learner check out the most recent video I filmed for the globe and mail: Utkatasana/chair pose which is particularly good for building even strength in the legs, providing stability for the knee joints.
Have you been to a yoga class and the teacher tells you to “engage your root lock”?
‘What the hell is a root lock?’
You glance around the class hoping to mimic a student who knows what this means, but you see no change in what the other yogis are doing?
If you’re confused by the term “bandha” you’re not alone. Even if you have been practicing yoga for many years you may have never experienced the sensation of engaging the yogic ‘locks’ or Bandhas. Discovering these three zones can unleash new potential in your practice; especially when it comes to your inversion practice (hello handstands!).
There are three bandhas, or locks, within the body. Bandha means binding or bondage; it is the practice of contracting the muscles and organs of a specific region of your body and thereby controlling the flow of energy within the body.
Practice a few rounds, taking breaks between each round to return to a steady unforced breath.
This is just an introduction to the Bandhas. Each bandha can be elaborated on with great detail, particularly when getting into the energetic influences of these three locks.
Having a basic understanding of where to focus your energy when the teacher mentions any of the three bandhas is a great start. You can practice engaging each of the locks to get familiar with the sensations and control over each area of your body.
Once you become more aware of these three areas, you will begin to notice the effects of engaging them while you are in different asanas. (Downward facing dog is a great pose to practice engaging all three bandhas). When you bring the concept of the Bandhas to your inversion practice you will notice how the drawing up of energy will help with your alignment and steadiness.
Swami Muktibodhananda, 2013. Hatha Yoga Pradipika
I made the switch from snowboarding to skiing.
I was motivated to convert after a trip to Elfin Lake hut last winter. I watched as the skiers quickly climbed hills with their skins, while I slowly trudged up the mountain on snowshoes with my snowboard strapped to my back.
Two weekends ago was my first time ever on skis. We hiked to Keith’s hut and skied Anniversary glacier. The next day my legs ached. Apart from being covered in bruises from all of the falls I took, my muscles were really sore-skiing gave my legs a serious work out!
So, with the start of the ski season, I’ve designed this little flow to help all the skiers stretch-it-out after enjoying some (hopefully) powder filled days!Click for Skiers Yoga Flow
• From downward facing dog; as you exhale, bend your knee (alternatively/one at a time) towards your torso, lifting the heel off the ground
• Keep one leg straight and strong with the heel rooted down while you bend the opposite leg at the knee
• Keep the hands pressed firmly into your mat, pressing equaling through both hands
• Continue alternatively bending each knee until you feel you’ve warmed up the hamstrings sufficiently, then return to downdogVariation II – Knees to chest
• After walking the dog; Come to downward facing dog
• Inhale and lift your heels up off the mat, sit bones high to the sky, legs straight
• Press your hands firmly into your mat, and as you exhale bend both knees at the same time, releasing your thighs as close to your torso as possible while maintaining a straight spine
• Hold and breathe
• When you’re ready, inhale and straighten the legs
• As you exhale slowly release your heels to the mat, coming back into downward facing dog