Running is a fantastic way to stay in shape and keep the body and mind healthy. But many runners experience injury because they continually work the same muscles in a very repetitive way over an extended period of time. The muscles shorten and the joints weaken from this continuous overuse of the body. Runners often experience injuries in the IT band, the knees, hamstrings, hip flexors, and shoulders.
Yoga is the perfect complement to a running practice, so if you’re a runner and you’re not doing yoga, it’s time to start.
Why is Yoga Good for Runners?
A yoga practice is going to include a focus on improving balance, increasing flexibility, and strengthening the muscles and bones. Yoga will help relax tight, tired muscles and will calm a stressed, nervous mind. In addition yoga improves awareness in the body and endurance of the mind, helping to make those long runs a little easier.
7 Yoga Poses to Start Doing Today
The below sequence is designed with runners in mind. It focuses on building core and upper body strength as well as stretching tight hamstrings and hips, and releasing tension in the back.
Plank Pose strengthens the entire body, but focuses on the core muscles, including the abdominals, the muscles around the spine, and the hips. Have a strong core is important for runners as it gives you a strong foundation and helps improve your posture as you run. This allows you to run more efficiently and more effectively. Having strength and stability in the core is necessary as when you’re running your core is primarily responsible for keeping you balanced and upright as you lift one foot of the ground.
Begin on your hands and knees in Table Top Pose. Tuck your toes under and step your feet back, creating a straight line from your head to your heels. Keep your wrist, elbows, and shoulders in one line. Lengthen down through your heels and gaze down. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
Without additional cross-training, runners may find that they lack upper body strength. Upward Facing Dog will strengthen the wrists, arms, and shoulders. It also stretches and expands the chest and lungs improving breathing capacity. This mild backbend stretches the spine, improving posture.
From Plank Pose, slowly lower yourself onto your yoga mat. Place your hands with your palms down directly under your shoulders. Hug your elbows in close to your body and press into your hands to lift your upper body off the mat. Straighten your arms and push into the tops of the feet to lift your torso, hips, and thighs off of the mat. Keep your chest lifted and look forward or up. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute.
This pose is really a runner’s best friend. Not only does it strengthen the arms and shoulders, but more importantly it will stretch the hamstrings, calves and the bottoms of the feet. This pose creates length in the spine, improving posture and relieving tension in the back.
From Upward Facing Dog, roll over the toes sending the hips up and back. You may need to walk the feet up a bit to form an upside down letter V with the body. Keep your hands directly in front of your shoulders and your feet hip distance apart. Relax your neck and gaze at your thighs. Be careful to not overstretch the backs of the legs here and if your legs feel tight put a slight micro-bend in the knees.
Lizard (Utthan Pristhasana)
This intense hip opening pose will stretch and lengthen the hip flexor that gets extremely tight and short from running. Running puts a lot of pressure on the outer hip joints, and this pose will stretch the hips and keep the hips joints healthy and improves the range of motion.
From Downward Facing Dog step your left foot forward in between your hands. Bring your hands to the inside of your left foot and move your left foot several inches out to the left. . Keep your right leg lifted off of the mat and your toes on the mat to stretch the bottom of the foot. If that’s not comfortable, lower your leg down to the mat and rest the top of the right foot on the mat. If you can, lower down onto your forearms. Hold for at least 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Half Monkey Pose (Ardha Hanumanasana)
This pose is frequently called Runner’s Stretch in non-yoga environments so it is one that you’re hopefully already doing! This pose is great for stretching out the backs of the legs, especially the hamstrings which get really tight with a regular running practice. This pose also stretches the low back and can help relieve stress by calming the mind.
From Lizard Pose, drop your back leg onto the mat, stacking your knee under your hip. Straighten the front leg, resting on the heel. Hinge forward from the hips, bringing your torso down towards your thigh. Remain in this pose for at least 30 seconds.
Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
This pose packs in a ton of benefits for runners. Triangle Pose stretches the hips, groin, hamstrings, knees, calves, and ankles. It will also open and stretch the shoulders, arms, and chest. In addition, triangle pose strengthens the core muscles, legs, knees, and ankles. With the slight twist in the spine, it will help relieve back back and lengthen the muscles along the spine. It’s also a really great way to improve balance.
Stand with your feet a comfortable distance apart in a Wide-Leg stance (about 3 feet). Turn your left toes out towards the front of your mat, aligning the left heel with the arch of your right foot. Ensure your hips remain open towards the long edge of your mat. Reach your left fingers toward the mat, and lift your right arm overhead, stacking the shoulders on top of each other. Gaze up at your right hand, keeping your chest open and lifted to the right. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)
This pose is going to strengthen the legs, low back, and entire core which will help you stay strong during your runs and improve your posture. Bridge Pose also stretches the chest, neck, and muscles along the spine.
Begin by lying on your bacl. Bend both knees and bring the soles of your feet to the floor as close to your sitting bones as possible. Rest your hands face down at your sides. Press firmly into both feet, and lift your pelvis up towards the ceiling. Lift your spine of the floor pressing into your shoulders. Engage your arms and legs to lift your hips higher, keeping your knees hip width apart. You can stay here or roll onto the sides of your arms and shoulders and interlace your fingers underneath your tailbone. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute.
The main benefit this pose offers for runners is that it will improve flexibility and range of motion in the spine. This will help prevent back pain and lengthen the spine. In addition this poses strengthens and stretches the obliques, opens your hips, chest, and shoulders. As an added benefit, it detoxifies the liver and kidneys and stimulates the digestive system.
Begin seated on your yoga mat with your legs bent and the soles of your feet on the mat. Slide your left foot underneath the right leg and bring that foot towards the outer edge of the right thigh. Step the right foot over the left leg and bring the sole of the foot to the mat on the outside of the left thigh. Intend to keep both sitting bones on the mat. Stretch your right hand back behind you, bringing it several inches behind the tailbone. Inhale your left arm overhead and on your exhale twist to the right, bringing the right arm to the outside of your left thigh. Gaze out over your right shoulder or down towards the mat. With each inhale, straighten and elongate the spine and with each exhale try to deepen the twist. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute and then repeat on the other side.