Yoga for Runners: Position 8 - Dandayamana Bibhaktapada Paschimotthanasana

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Despite its ridiculously long Sanskrit name, this pose will feel relatively simple after the demanding Standing Bow and Balancing Stick.

Described by Bikram himself as "kryptonite for sciatica", the pose otherwise known as Standing Separate Leg Stretching is a runner's sweet dream and worst nightmare rolled into one. Why? Because it stretches the hamstring group, easing muscle inflammation which causes dreaded sciatic nerve pain. If by a stroke of luck you're one of the few runners without shortened hamstrings, you'll be able to enjoy the 'sweet dream' element of this pose, the wonderful back stretch.

If, like me, your hamstrings feel like unyielding slabs of concrete, you'll feel a very intense stretch down the backs of your legs from the origin of the muscles under your glutes to the insertion at the back and either side of your knees. This is the worst nightmare part. 'Very intense' is a polite way of saying that for those with tight hamstrings this pose ain't fun.
But it's necessary. So breathe deeply and get involved. As Bikram teachers are fond of saying, the poses that hurt the most are also the ones you need the most.

Dandayamana Bibhaktapada Paschimotthanasana: Step by Step

1. Stand with your feet together, heels and toes touching, arms by your side.

2. Inhale, and as you exhale, take a large step to the right with your right leg, and extend your arms to the side so your wrists and elbows are in line with your sholuders. Turn your palms to face downwards. You should look like a bit like da Vinci's Vitruvian Man at this point. Turn your toes slightly inwards so you're mildly pigeon-toed.

3. Inhale, and on the exhale, swan-dive forward, keeping your chin up and your back straight. Hinge at the waist, suck your stomach muscles in and keep your gaze forward for as long as possible.

4. Depending on your flexibility, you can either grab your ankles, sides of your feet from the outside or the backs of your heels as per position two (Half Moon pose). Whatever level you're at, ensure your grip is such that your fingers and thumb are glued together, don't let the thumb stray to grip further out. The 'Bikram grip' is all about thumbs and fingers together.

5. Inhale to secure your grip, and tip your weight forward into the balls of your feet. It feels like you're going to stack it, but if you grip hard enough and pull, you'll create traction that stops you from tumbling over.

6. If you are flexible enough, bend your arms slightly and keep pulling, and also shuffle your legs apart some more. Keep your gaze forward; tucking your chin in and under doesn't allow the spine to stretch fully. It's almost like you're trying to look forward and up.

7. Remember not to curve your spine, but to keep it straight and long so that you're able to stretch properly. Inhale and on the exhalation, pull harder. Your aim is to have your forehead and nose touching the mat, but don't worry if you don't get there. As long as you feel your hams and spine stretching, you're doing a good job.

8. Exit the posture the same way you went in, and return to standing posture before repeating.

Dandayamana Bibhaktapada Paschimotthanasana: The Benefits

"This posture is a welcome relaxation after Bow and Stick, as the forward bend allows for fresh blood and oxygen to reach your head. Any dizziness caused by the previous poses will vanish in this posture," says Olga Allon, Director of Hot Bikram Yoga in London.

"But don't be deceived, it's tough for anyone with tight hamstrings and hips (i.e., runners). This pose really stretches out the hamstrings and the tendons around the knee which can get tight and inflexible when running."

"The angle at which your legs are spread also gives a secondary stretch to the adductor muscles (inner thighs) which in turn  help release tightness around the hip joint. Runners will find this pose a challenge, but they will also reap the greatest benefits. Breathe into any resistance, but do not push yourself in to the realms of serious pain with this stretch."

Bikram specialist
Olga Allon teaches at London's Hot Bikram Yoga.

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Yoga for Runners: Position 9 - Trikanasana
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Yoga For Runners: Position 7 - Tuladandasana


 
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