As a runner, yoga is an excellent way to increase strength, enhance flexibility, and understand and control your breathing and, ultimately, it helps you to recover after a run. Better still, yoga promotes mindfulness and calm, which helps to settle your brain after a long day. You can incorporate yoga into your exercise routine easily in the evening or morning after a run, or as a wellness and healing exercise on no-run days when your body is rejuvenating and readying itself for more running or exercise.
Runners that regularly practice yoga have found that yoga prevents tension and muscle pain and sensitivity after a run, and is an excellent way to stretch muscles both before and after a run to prevent injury. When you add yoga to your routine, you’re helping your body to heal and become stronger.
Below, we provide step-by-step instructions for completing some of the best yoga poses for runners.
Perfect for opening your groin and hips and stretching your inner thighs and back, which are some of the most vital areas when running, the Butterfly Stretch is very effective. To begin, sit tall on your mat with the bottom of your feet pressed together, and then lock your fingers together and stretch until they reach around your toes. Staying sat upright, roll your shoulders and lean forward to stretch your back. As you stretch, make sure you continue to breathe naturally. You should feel your spine elongating and, as you breath out, your body will sink, and your chest will drop towards the floor.
The piriformis is a small muscle in your glutes that is, usually, very difficult to stretch, however, the Cow-Face Fold does just that. Begin the pose in a seated position. Hold your left foot in your right hand and your right foot in your left hand and lean as far forward as you can into your knee. If you don’t feel that you’re stretching enough, flex your feet to see if you feel the burn. Otherwise, position the palms of your hands flat on the floor and lean forward. Once you have completed the stretch, repeat the process but, this time, with your other knee on the bottom to stretch your body evenly.
As a runner, you rely on the strength of your legs. The Pyramid Pose stretches and, over time, strengthens your legs, especially your hamstrings. To begin, step your left foot backward and, in doing so, turn the toes of your foot inwards to around to a 45-degree angle. Keep your right foot facing forward and breathe in and out naturally but deeply, just as you do when running. Standing as tall as you can, lean into the foot in front and drop your hands to your shin. With your forehead dropped and facing your leg, push into the pose to feel the benefit. With every breath, feel your spine elongating. Every time you exhale, let your body sink. As you finish, breath in, stabilize yourself and then repeat.
The perfect way to stretch your outer hips and inner thighs, the Figure Four Pose is a very effective yoga pose for runners. Lying on your back on your mat, bring your knees in towards your chest until they are at a 90-degree angle. Next, place your right ankle on your left thigh and, interlocking your fingers, reach out and wrap your fingers behind your left thigh and pull it towards your chest. Hold the pose for at least five seconds before repeating with the other leg. For further intensity, flex your feet.
The Half Lord of the Fishes Pose is a twist that opens your shoulders, neck, and hips and stretches your IT band, which runs through you’re your entire thigh. To begin, sit tall with your legs out front in front of you. Cross your right foot over your left leg and rest it on the outside of your left thigh. Then, bend your left knee and, while doing so, tuck your left foot behind your right buttock. Rest your right hand behind your right buttock, take a deep breath in, and lift your left arm to your right ear. Breathing out, complete a twisting motion where you bring your left elbow to the outside of your right knee, looking back over your right shoulder as you go. To release the pose, take a deep breath in and, looking forward, release your arms and straighten your legs. Once you have finished, repeat on the other side.
As you approach the end of your yoga routine, gently stretch your hamstrings and back while boosting circulation with the Legs Up the Wall yoga pose. To begin, position your yoga mat in front of a sturdy wall and sit down as you would normally. Lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest. Then, straighten and elevate your legs, so they rest on the wall. Shuffle forward on your mat until your legs are as straight as possible, resting your heels on the wall with your legs at an almost 90-degree angle.
Finish your yoga routine with the Child’s Pose, which stretches your hips, thighs, and ankles while giving you a short moment to breathe. To start, kneel on the floor with your knees together and sit back on your heels. Bend your body forward, so your stomach meets your upper thighs and then rest your forehead on your yoga mat. To feel the most benefit and stretch your arms, too, reach your arms out in front of you, so the palms of your hands are flat on the floor. Take as much time as you need.
Incorporate yoga into your routine to improve running strength and flexibility and, importantly, help rejuvenate your body after an intense run. If you haven’t practiced yoga before, take plenty of time and start out slowly to avoid injury. Don’t worry if you can’t do all the poses perfectly. It takes time!