By: Janelle Martel
While running is a great form of cardio and can help to strengthen your leg muscles and core, and can be a great form of moving meditation, running can also leave you prone to tight hips, hamstrings, and quads. Yoga before or after running is an excellent complement to running, as a regular practice can help to open up these tight areas, boost your balance, improve flexibility (which reduces injury) and help to strengthen your core and glutes, making you a stronger runner. No matter where you’re at in your running journey, these yoga poses for runners are a great addition to your practice.
An awesome seated yoga pose, butterfly pose is a great way to open up your hips after a run. Because it’s a seated pose, it provides restorative benefits, and can also help to stretch your psoas, inner thighs, and lower back, all of which can become tight after running.
See picture above for butterfly pose. Begin seated on the floor, with legs outstretched in front of you. Bring the soles of your feet together, letting your knees fall open like a butterfly, keeping the bottom edge of your feet pressed into the mat. Allow your feet to peel apart like a book to stretch your feet and ankles, slowly let your knees fall to the floor, but not forcing them. If this stretch is too intense, you can sit up on a block, blanket or bolster to more gently open the hips, ensuring that you’re still keeping your back straight.
Half-pigeon is another wonderful hip opener. While the front leg may seem as though it is the one getting an awesome external rotation, the back leg is also working to stretch the psoas and hip flexor.
To bring your body into the pose, sit down on your mat and lengthen your left leg long behind you. Pull your right shin so it’s parallel to the front of the mat, flexing your right foot to protect your knee. Work on keeping your hips square as you relax them. You can use your hands to support you in this upright posture, or to take it further, lower down onto your forearms for a deeper stretch. You may need to use a block under your back leg to help support your body. After 30 to 60 seconds (or longer!), switch your legs.
Happy baby is a reclined yoga pose that helps to open the hips and release the lower back, glutes, and groin, which can become tight as they’re used to stabilize your body during running.
Begin laying on your back on the mat, bending your knees into your belly. Use your hands to grip the outer blades of your feet, drawing your knees into your armpits, and keeping your feet flexed. Hold your body here, relaxing into the stretch, and continuing to pull your knees into your armpits, resisting with your legs. You can even rock gently back and forth here, massaging your lower back. If necessary, use a strap rather than holding onto your feet to make this pose accessible.
Downward dog is a great pose for showing your legs some love: this pose works to stretch your calves and hamstrings, as well as your foot arches. This feel-good pose also works to lengthen your spine and open your shoulders, and can be great as part of your pre-run yoga practice to help warm up your body.
Begin on your mat on your hands and knees, knees directly under your hips. Spread your fingers and push into your palms as you lift your tailbone to the ceiling, working to straighten your legs. Here, you can pedal the feet to work deeper into your calves. Remember that the goal with downward down is not to get your heels to the floor, but to keep length in your body.
Cow face pose is a seated pose that is great post-run (or anytime you need a little recovery) and can help to release tight muscles in the glutes and the hips. When you take the full pose, it also provides a great shoulder opener.
To begin, start seated on your mat. Gently move your left knee to the center of the mat, stacking your right knee on top. Work here on keeping your back straight and your knees alighted, allowing your hips to open up and your tailbone to drop towards the floor, sitting on a block, blanket, or bolster if necessary. Take the pose further by lengthening your spine, bending forward over your knees, but keeping your spine straight. This pose typically has a triceps stretch too which is great for opening up your chest, but you can certainly leave your hands on the floor and focusing on opening up the hips instead. If you choose to take the upper body stretch, extend the right arm above your head, bending your elbow as you bring your left arm behind your back, fingers reaching to clasp each other. Ensure to repeat this pose on both sides.
Bridge post is a gentle backbend that works to help open the chest. The bonus of this pose is that it’ll also help to activate and strengthen your core - including the glutes - which is extremely important when running.
Begin laying on your back, bending your knees and pulling your heels as close to your glutes as possible - you should be able to lightly graze your heels with your fingers. Keeping your hands on the floor, engage through your glutes, lifting your hips towards the ceiling. If you want to deepen the pose, you can work on rolling your shoulder blades towards each other, grasping your hands together against the floor to further open your body. Wherever you are, ensuring that your neck is relaxed and ears are pulled away from the shoulders, chin gently tucked to the chest to protect your neck.
Forward fold is another great go-to after running as it provides a great stretch for your hamstrings. Plus, it also gently releases the low back, which can be much-needed after a run or any time you need to show a little love to your body.
Begin standing with your feet hip-width apart. Start by lengthening your back, hinging at your hips. Inhale to extend and then exhale, folding your body, bringing your nose towards your knees or shins. From here, you can grasp elbows, or place hands on top of a block or the floor. Work on keeping the legs straight, but take care to not lock out the knee joints.
Lizard pose provides a stretch for all those muscles that tend to be tight in runners: hip flexors, hamstrings, and quads.
Begin in a downward-facing dog. On an exhale, bring your right foot to the outside of your hand, dropping your back knee to the mat and keeping your hips square to the front of the mat. Work on lowering your forearms to the mat, keeping your right knee in line with your right ankle. Keep in mind that this can be quite an intense stretch in the hips, so feel free to keep your arms extended or use a block to help you work your forearms to the floor. Ensure to repeat on both sides.
A seated spinal twist feels great on your back post-run and will help to mobilize your spine, as well as relax any tightness in the neck and shoulders.
Begin seated on your mat, with your legs extended in front of you. Bend your right knee, pulling it over your extended left leg so your right foot is next to your left thigh. Bend your left leg, bringing your left heel towards your left glute, keeping your hips square. Reach your right fingertips to the floor behind you, bending your left arm and hooking to over your bent right knee. Breathe into the twist, working on keeping your spine long and hips even. If you’re unable to keep your hips square here, keep your left leg extended out in front of you in the twist. Repeat on both sides.
A more engaging pose than some of the others, tree pose also provides recovery in the form of a stretch for your quads, groin, and shoulders. Tree pose is also an important yoga pose for runners as it works balance and strengthens your ankles, which helps reduce the risk of injury.
Begin standing on your mat, weight even in both feet. Shift your weight to your left foot and bend down and grasp your right ankle, pulling your right foot to either the inside of your left calf or thigh. Avoid putting your foot directly on your knee, as this stresses your joint. Work on finding your balance, centering your hips over your body. Bring your hands to your chest and, if possible, extend them overhead. If you have the flexibility, you can even bring your hands to prayer position overhead. Work on holding the post for up to a minute, and repeat on the other leg.