Yoga for runners: Position 16 - Salabhasana

Salabhasana (Sanskrit for Locust) is a short, intense posture, done first lifting one leg, then the other and, finally, both legs together. It's part of the spine-strengthening sequence of a Bikram class, designed to work each part of your spine independently.

Salabhasana: Step by Step

1. Lie on the floor, face down. Ensure you keep your lips, nose and forehead in contact with your mat throughout this pose. Have your palms facing the floor, and rock your body from side to side as you slide your hands, forearms and elbows underneath your body (keeping your palms facing the floor). This may be uncomfortable at first, but this position helps stretch and strengthen the elbows. 

2. Inhale and, using your glutes, lift your right leg off the floor at about 45 degrees as you exhale. Extend the leg; it can help to imagine someone is pulling your toes to lengthen your leg. Hold for 10 seconds (remember to keep breathing!), and then repeat with the left leg.

3. Ensuring your arms and elbows are still under your body, glue your legs together and keep them as straight as possible. Shift your body weight to your torso and shoulders; take a deep breath and as you exhale, extend and lift both your legs. Keep breathing and use your glutes and lower back muscles to keep your legs off the floor. Hold for 10 seconds.

4. Exhale to bring the legs slowly back to the floor - it's tempting to release them with a thud, but exiting the posture in a controlled way is safer for your spine.

Salabhasana: The Benefits

The Locust pose helps strengthen the muscles around the upper spine (cervical and thoracic if we're being scientific, which sometimes we do to try to impress you all) and flexibility of the lower (lumbar) spine. 

And as you may have realised by now, it's not Bikram if there isn’t a plethora of added benefits: the Locust also helps stretch out your arms, wrists and finger joints (great for RSI or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from computer usage), and the locked-leg position helps build strength in your hamstrings and quadriceps group.

Olga Allon, director of Hot Bikram Yoga in London says, "The power of Locust comes from your glutes, which protect your spine; many running injuries stem from having weak glutes. Locust can also help ease sciatic and disc pain.

"Runners can be lax about stretching, so this posture will keep your spine flexible and supple. The strength-building element in your upper back and arms will help when driving forward up hills or when doing sprints in speedwork. Using your own body weight as a resistance is an incredibly effective way of building strength without bulking up.

"It's very tempting to have look around the class to see how high other yogis are lifting their legs, but it's essential you keep your head in the specified position. It's not about height, it's about perseverance and having incredible concentration throughout the pose."

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