If you are a runner, you are probably familiar with the aches and pains in the back, knees, legs, ankles, and hips that can sometime creep up on you during or after a run—or even as a result of consistent running sessions throughout an extended period of time.
Running and yoga are not generally thought of, by most, to be included under the same umbrella. However, the benefits of yoga, including increased flexibility, muscle strength, improved bone density, circulation and breathing, and plenty more, can be so beneficial for runners and running that you may never want to lose sight of this age old regenerative practice again.
Here are 8 yoga poses for runners that can help to improve your runs as well as improve your recovery post session.
1. Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) Ask anyone, yogi or not, to name a yoga pose and most likely they will mention Downward Dog. This is an excellent pose to check-in with your entire body because it stretches your arms, back and legs through one pose. Through this pose, you can get a general feeling for what areas are tighter than others and what you should focus more on. While doing this pose, and driving your heels toward the Earth, you can really open up the hamstrings and calves, stretch the feet and the achilles, which is excellent for runners. On top of that, this pose is regenerative and improves circulation throughout the body as the head is below the heart.
2. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana) Triangle will stretch the hips, groins, hamstrings, the muscles surrounding the knee, calves, ankle joints, shoulders, chest, and spine. It also strengthens the abdominal muscles, obliques, back, legs, knees, and ankles. This pose includes a light spine strengthening twist. This pose is great for runners because it helps to open the groins and hamstrings and improves balance by strengthening and stretching the ankles.
3. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana) Standing forward fold is a great opener for the hamstrings, calves, and hips and it helps to strengthen the knees and quadriceps. Having lose and flexible hamstrings is important for everyone because tight hamstrings can lead to back pain and tension which can then transfer to problems with the knees and hips.
4. Tree (Vrksasana) Tree pose requires strength, flexibility, and balance while strengthening the ankles, calves, thighs, and the spine while opening the hips and stretching the shoulders, chest, groins, and inner thighs. Tree pose can also relieve sciatic pain and reduce flat feet.
5. Reclining Pigeon (Sucirandhrasana) Reclining pigeon, a gentler modification of Pigeon pose, is excellent for tight hips. This pose is also great for stretching the IT band, the connective tissue that runs along your outer thigh from your hip to your shin. This pose can also be preventative for knee problems because a tight IT Band could eventually lead to issues with the knee. This is a great pose you can do at the end of any run.
6. Cobbler or Butterfly (Baddha Konasana) Cobbler’s pose is a great stretch for runners because it opens the groins, inner thighs, and knees, and boosts mobility in the hips. Cobbler helps to release tense areas in the hips and groins while strengthening the muscles of the back.
7. Child’s Pose (Balasana) Child’s pose is a gentle, comforting stretch and resting pose. It stretches the hips, thighs, knees, ankles, and low back. It releases back and neck strain and aids blood flow to the spine and brain. For runners and other athletes, child’s pose helps keep the ankles supple and flexible, while stretching the tops of the feet and the shins, which may help to avoid shin splints. Child’s pose also gently increases flexibility in the knee joint and opens the hips and thighs. If you have ever taken a yoga class, the instructor most likely reminds you to come to this pose at any time throughout the practice if you need a physical or mental break.
8. Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana) Low lunge is an excellent hip opener and also stretches the thighs and groin. It is very common for runners to have tight hips, which can lead to underactive gluteal muscles, thus resulting in potential low back and/or knee problems. This pose requires mental focus and can be performed with your front toe up against a wall in order to promote balance and stabilization. You can also use the wall to walk your hands up until you feel stable enough to extend them overhead.