If you are a runner like me, you know that certain areas of your body are more prone to tightness after a run. Luckily, running and yoga complement each other very well! There is nothing more satisfying than releasing the tightened muscles after a good run with some delicious yoga poses. When we take care of our flexibility, we improve our mobility and avoid injuries.
Here are six yoga poses for runners to help you stay strong and flexible (and injury-free) on the track!
1. Downward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog is a great pose you can do immediately after a run, or incorporated into your yoga routine. It stretches your hamstrings and calves, which will feel heavenly after a run! It also lengthens the spine and stretches the shoulders, making it a good all-around pose for opening the body.
Tip: Feel free to move in your Downward Dog. Stretch one leg at a time, move your body from side to side and experiment where your body needs some release today.
2. Shoelace Pose
Shoelace pose creates compression in the hip joints, and targets the outer hips and gluteal muscles—an area which can get quite tight for runners. Shoelace is a typical pose especially in Yin practice, and as such, it works on the fascia by slowly releasing and lengthening it.
You can try to stay 3-5 minutes on each side. Depending on your body, you will feel the stretch on your lower back, glutes, and the outer part of your thighs. For a deeper opening, lean forward as much as your body allows.
Tip: If there's any tension or pain in your knees, sit on a pillow or a block to elevate the hips.
3. Half Pigeon Pose
Running moves the legs in a relatively limited range of motion, and to balance this, it's good to release any tension with deep hip openers.
Half Pigeon targets both legs simultaneously; the folded front leg is in an external rotation, while the straight back leg is stretching the hip flexor and the psoas. Both of these openings are extremely beneficial for runners for creating space, for stabilizing the hips, and releasing tension.
Tip: You can keep your upper body upright by supporting yourself with your hands (this is also a moderate back bend), or go for the Sleeping Swan version (pictured above) by lowering your upper body to the floor.
4. Lizard Pose
To open those hips some more, Lizard pose is good for stretching the hamstrings, hip flexors, and quadriceps. It's a more active pose than Half Pigeon, and can easily be done outdoors or on an uneven ground.
Tip: You can place your palms on the ground, or if available for you, lower yourself down onto your forearms for a more intense stretch.
5. Saddle Pose
Quadriceps, a muscle group on the front of your thigh, is working very hard when we run. This is one of the largest and strongest muscle groups in our body, and in running, this is the primary muscle group moving us forward.
Tightness in the quads can cause injuries in the knees, so regular stretching and maintenance is important. Saddle pose stretches the front of the leg all the way from hip flexors down to the front of the ankles.
Tip: This can be a very intense pose, so listen to your body. Do one leg at a time, or prop yourself higher with a block or a bolster.
6. Forward Fold
Folding forward doesn’t just work your hamstrings, it offers a wonderful release on your lower back and shoulders as well. Let gravity help you with this one, and with every breath, release yourself a little bit more towards the floor.
Tip: For a more intense opening of the hamstrings, cross your legs and fold down.
Yoga and running provide a sense of balance between explosive strength and a good range of motion through flexibility. A good and injury-free practice (in both yoga and running) requires us to take care of the body in multiple ways—not only focusing on strength or the muscles, but also remembering the importance of flexibility and recovery in our practice.
Image credit: Mandy Martini