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I started practicing yoga after I developed painfully tight hip flexors a few years ago during marathon training. But, I’m far from a yogi and have a lot to learn. So, this weekend I attended the highly informative San Francisco Yoga Conference hosted by the magazine Yoga Journal. (Conferences are held around the U.S. and include many free sessions open to the public.) I signed up for the Beginner’s Conference, which included workshops and lectures on everything from basic anatomy to the philosophy of yoga.

The five-course program was taught by experts from around the country, but what I found most helpful: a workshop entitled “Hips & Shoulders” led by Jason Crandell, an ex-hockey player. Crandell’s practical, informative and laid-back style of teaching appealed to me, as did his athletic perspective. He explained the basics of how the hips and shoulders work and what poses can best build flexibility and strength. It’s easy, he reminded the class, to forget that both of these complex joints work in 360 degrees, requiring development in all directions. By breaking down a pose like pigeon or eagle into simple steps, Crandell clearly explained how the pose should be done and why—for me a vital element frequently missing from yoga classes.

I also appreciated Crandell’s pragmatic approach to yoga. He doesn’t insist his students spend hours every day practicing yoga to get its benefits. Instead, he suggests one class a week and a few at-home sessions of just 15-20 minutes three times a week to see improvements.
After two hours with Crandell, I left the class feeling like I had new, much more flexible hips. Perhaps I’ll take his advice and try to mix short yoga sessions in more regularly after my runs. The benefits certainly felt good.
If you can’t practice with Crandell in San Francisco or at one of his workshops around the U.S.—see his teaching schedule here—try his DVD “Yoga for Well-Being,” which includes restorative moves beneficial for runners.