Best Yoga Poses for Runners
Training hard to get that PR in your next race? Want to reduce discomfort caused by tight muscles? How about learn to control your breathing or gain more mental strength to help push you through those long runs? One simple answer could help you solve these problems…yoga. I know what some of you may be thinking… Yoga just isn’t for me. I’m not built to stretch like Gumby. I can barely even touch my toes! This is a common misconception. Yoga is for everyone! It has something to offer for anyone who is willing to give it a try.
Many runners are guilty of improper, or lack thereof, stretching. You get back from a long run and your just too tried or forget to stretch. This can lead to a lot of muscle tightness and soreness, all of which could cause injuries further down the road. Here are some of the best yoga poses that can help alleviate some of the main culprits that cause muscle aches and pains among runners.
Just remember when attempting these poses, yoga is not a competitive sport. So leave your PR times and record breaking mentality off the mat. Only go as deep into a stretch as you are able, listen to your body in order to avoid injury from over stretching. If you have any injuries or medical problems always consult with a physician first, before attempting these or any other poses.
What you’ll need:
- Yoga mat and blanket/towel
- Yoga Straps (optional)
- Yoga Blocks (optional)
Get ready to grab a mat and strike a pose!
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
- Stretches hips, thighs and ankles
- Relaxes muscles in the upper body
- Stretches back torso
Begin kneeling on all fours. Bring your knees out as wide as you can and your big toes together to touch. On an exhale, lean forward, resting your torso in between your thighs. Place forehead on the ground and extend arms out in front of you with palms facing down. Try to keep your buttocks rested on your heels. For a modification, you may place a rolled blanket in between your thighs and calves. Hold for 5-8 breaths.
Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- Stretches Hamstrings and calves
- Creates length throughout the spine
- Decreases back pain by strengthening back and upper body
- Strengthens smaller stabilizing muscles in the foot
Starting in child’s pose, take a deep breath and on the exhale, tuck your toes under and lift your knees off the ground. Press down into your hands and shift your hips up and back, towards your heels. Once in this position, try pedaling your feet back and forth a few times in order to reach a deeper stretch. Practicing this stretch regularly allows for better upper back flexibility and release of tension held in shoulders and back. Hold for 3-5 breaths.
Lizard (Utthan Pristhasana)
- Stretches hamstrings, hip flexors, quadriceps and groin
- Increases hip flexibility
- Strengthens thighs and legs
Begin in downward dog. Exhale and bring left foot to the outside of the left hand at a 90 degree angle. Be sure to keep spine in a straight alignment and chest up. For a modification, you can lower your right knee to the ground. Repeat on opposite side. Hold for 4-6 breaths.
4. Half Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
- Hip opener
- Stretches glutes and groin
- Chest opening stretch
- Improves posture
- Reduces lower back pain
Begin in downward dog. Extend right leg upward towards the sky. Bend right leg and bring it in towards your belly. Then, slowly slide your ankle towards your left wrist on the ground and place your leg in a parallel position. Be sure to keep your right foot flexed to protect your knee. Extend your left leg out straight, square your hips down into the mat. You may place your palms on the ground and straighten your arm or go down to your elbows for a deeper stretch. Repeat on opposite side. For a modification, you can place a rolled towel or yoga block underneath your upper thigh/buttock for more support. Hold for 4-5 breaths.
Fire Log / Double Pigeon (Agnistambhasana)
- Opens and stretches hip
- Stretches groin
- Relieves tension
Begin sitting with legs bent and feet flat on the ground. Slide your right foot underneath your left leg, keeping your right foot perpendicular to the ground. Stack your left leg on top of your folded right leg. Left ankle should be beyond your right knee. Keep your upper body/spine straight and place your hands at your sides, either resting on the ground or on top of knees. Repeat on opposite side. Hold for one minute.
- Stretches inner thigh, groin and hips
- Hip opening stretch
Instructions: Begin on all fours. Lower upper body onto forearms. Bring both knees out as wide as possible, keeping knees bent at 90 degree angle, so they stack even over your ankles. Be sure to flex your feet and keep your spine straight and long. Hold 5-10 breaths.
Reclining Bound Angle (Supta Baddha Konasana)
- Stretches knee, thigh and groin
- Opens the hips and release tight abductors
- Relaxing pose used to decrease stress and blood pressure
Lying flat on your back, touch the soles of your feet together. Place your hands out to the sides and relax your muscles and body. For a modification, you may place rolled towels / blankets or yoga blocks underneath knees for more support and avoid over stretching if there is any discomfort. Hold for one minute.
Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)
- Releases lower back and sacrum
- Opens hips, inner thights and groin
- Relieves lower back pain
- Lengthens to help realign spine
Instructions: Begin lying flat on your back. Exhale and bend knees, bringing them in towards your belly. On an inhale, grasp ahold of the outside of each foot with the corresponding hand (Grab left foot with left hand, right foot with right hand). Draw your knees to the outside of your body, keeping your shoulders planted on the ground. For a modification, you may use a belt or yoga straps, wrapped around the arch of your feet, to hold each foot. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Supine Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
- Stretches back and glute muscles
- Releases lower back tension
- Realigns spine
Instructions: Begin on your back with legs fully extended. Raise your left knee and hug it into your chest. Slowly bring your left knee across the right side of your body. You may place your right hand on your folded knee to keep your leg closer to the ground. Turn your head towards your left side and extend your left hand out to your left side on the ground. For a modification, you may place a folded towel/blanket underneath your bent knee for support. Repeat on opposite side. Hold for 4-6 breaths.
These poses are just some of many that can benefit runners. Yoga has a wide variety of styles to be explored and the benefits are endless. From increasing strength and flexibility to increasing mental focus, all these factors come into play when it comes to becoming a better runner. Try incorporating yoga into your regular cross-training routine and find out for yourself all it has to offer.