Running has started niggling at my knees and ankles, making Fixed Firm pose in the Bikram series a challenge all over again! I sought out the expert advice of UK based Olga Allon – Bikram Yoga studio owner, runner, triathlete, mum, yoga practitioner, writer for Runner’s World UK… the list goes on. You can follow her on @olgaallon and @hotbikramyoga
Below is Olga’s A to my Q. Thank you Olga!
I’ve just started to run in intervals during trail hikes and noticed that Fixed Firm is harder on me: the tightness around my knees is more pronounced. Also, my left knee and Achilles Heel are feeling some tightness in general. What is your advice to loosen and balance this out?
It is not surprising that after intense running, especially interval training you will start to feel tightness around your knees, ankles etc. Running involves repeated contraction of specific muscles. This can leave the muscle fiber shorter in length than normal and as a result, a feeling of tightness. There is also the impact of running and weight bearing on specific joints and the knees take a great deal of this pressures. All this, if not reversed, can lead to tightness and soreness.
Fixed firm is a posture that works specifically with stretching out your knees, ankles and quads to begin. Once they can stretch enough, the postures will allow you to stretch out your spine and reinforce the ‘s’ curve shape in the spine – which further helps to alleviate the pressure on the spine caused by the impact of running.
So this posture can be done in stages. The first stage is to kneel down with the feet either side of the legs pointing directly backwards. For some people, this is incredibly tough. If you feel the tension too much on your knees or ankles, you can lean a little forward with your hands on the floor in front of you and that will take a little pressure off the knees and ankles and into your hands. As your knees start to open more and more, you will be able to sit more upright with your bottom touching the floor between the feet and the feet alongside the legs – top of the feet flat on the floor. You can open your knees as much as you need to but as your flexibility improves, you will be able to bring your knees closer together eventually touching.
When your bottom is on the floor, that is your indication that you are ready to go onto the next stage of the posture of leaning back onto your elbows. Eventually with your upper body on the floor, arms stretched over your head grabbing opposite elbows and your chin down back of the head on the floor.
Stretching these areas is the process we use to restore muscles to their resting length and will realign muscle fibers too. Without this, we run the risk of permanent shortening and that can affect the functioning of joints and muscles. Doing these postures regularly will help runners maintain the range of motion in the joints and will prevent tightness and imbalances between muscles groups.
I am a keen runner. I run approximately 12-15 miles per week and am participating in a half marathon and a triathlon this year. Bikram Yoga is my constant that allows me to enjoy running and be injury free. Of course the running has an effect on my overall flexibility but I know that as long as I maintain a constant and regular practice this works for me.