Yoga for Runners, written by Christine Felstead. Second Edition, Human Kinetics, 2022. Reviewed by trail runner Laura Clark. Laura is an avid mountain, trail and snowshoe runner who lives in Saratoga Springs, NY, where she is a children’s librarian.
I must admit I approached this review with some trepidation. In fact, I tried to hand it off to a friend, but no luck. Guess she figured I needed it. My earliest memories of yoga are sessions with my husband. He seemed to embrace it but I was bored out of my mind. He was also into meditation, which explains a lot. I prefer to reflect in my own way — running the trails, aware of the natural world I am passing through. The thought of sitting and thinking (or really, not thinking) seems impossible to me.
But as I am getting older, I decided that perhaps my friend might have a point. After flipping through the pages of large, full-color pose illustrations and descriptions, I quickly realized that this was no 70’s generalized yoga practice. Instead, Christine Felstead, a long-distance runner and yoga instructor, has adapted standard routines to target areas of potential running weaknesses: posture, core strength, knees, hips, upper body, hamstrings, feet and ankles. What really sold me, more than the guilt trip was the fact that I recognized many of the poses. Pre-pandemic, I had taken a strength/weight class taught by a member of my running club and was amazed to discover that I had been doing some yoga positions all along. I realized I could do this! And, in fact, had been performing similar routines. Starting out with something familiar seemed much less intimidating. And I imagine you, too, will spot many poses you might have desperately turned to in times of injury and regret.
Best of all, there is no need to get lost in a jungle of poses as all are compartmentalized into chapters dealing with the aforementioned body parts. So, if you have an achy back or a twitchy knee, there is no need to get lost in a myriad of routines. In fact, with its multiple indexes, this is the way the book is designed to be used. Hamstrings a problem? Then check out Sequence 10, a 45-60 minute hamstring strengthening routine. Feel the need for more strength and stamina for an upcoming ultra? Try the 75-90 minute Sequence 6. Barely enough time in the day to work in a run? Then Sequence 1: TV Yoga or Sequence 4: Runners’ Hot Spots (10-15 minutes) might be just the ticket. Each individual pose contains a miniature picture, brief description and page reference where more detailed information may be found.
Unlike most manuals, Felstead positions her index up front and center—the first thing you see. Say you are interested in the Downward Dog Pose. You are readily able to pinpoint the page with the full description, but even more interestingly, can learn that it additionally appears in 29 other sequences. Probably a generally useful one for you to learn!
As always, yoga goes beyond mere practicality. Embraced fully, with the properly illustrated breathing techniques, the goal is to facilitate an inside-out full body workout with ample space for mindfulness, stress reduction and access to that elusive flow experience. Follow Feldstead’s recommendation to schedule your sessions just like you would program a run and an enhanced running experience awaits!