Yoga has become one of the most popular activities in the United States with over 20 million practitioners. This is not surprising considering the many benefits yoga provides including, stress-relief, weight-loss, pain prevention, and muscle strengthening. Even though yoga may seem to be on the opposite end of the exercise spectrum from running, the two activities complement each other.
Yoga poses for runners can provide many benefits that cannot be achieved by running alone. Yoga develops strength and flexibility, which helps runners become more efficient and less prone to injury. In addition, yoga’s internal focus centers attention on your body’s movements, which will help you focus more on your movements when on the road. Holding challenging poses in yoga will also help build mental endurance when tackling long or difficult runs.
If you want to include more yoga exercises into your running routine, there are some yoga poses for runners that are especially good for runners that help you stretch, strengthen, and improve balance. There are several fantastic yoga poses for runners to incorporate into their training routine. Here are a few starters that are relatively easy to learn and implement.
1. Downward Facing Dog
The most common injuries for runners include shin splits, knee problems, and IT-band syndrome. One of the best ways to help prevent these running injuries is to lengthen and strengthen the hamstrings, quads, calves and hips. Downward facing dog is one of the best poses to achieve this, in addition to opening the arms and upper back.
To get into downward facing dog, follow these steps:
- Start from a push-up position with your hands beneath your shoulders and your palms flat on the floor.
- Lift your hips towards the ceiling until your body makes an upside-down “V” shape.
- Keep your palms flat and try to reach your heels to the floor.
2. Forward Fold
Any pose that requires you to reach for your toes will stretch your hamstrings and calves, which is important in preventing injury. Both a standing and a sitting forward fold will stretch these muscles. For a sitting forward fold, achieve the best results by reaching for your toes with a straight back before folding over your legs. For a standing forward fold, turn the tops of your thighs slightly inward as you reach for your toes and make sure you do not lock your knees.
3. Pigeon Pose
A tight IT band, which runs down the outside of the thigh from the pelvis to the shin, can be one of the biggest contributors to pain in the knees and hips. Pigeon Pose is the one of the best yoga poses to stretch your IT band.
To get into pigeon pose, follow these steps:
- Start in a seated butterfly position where your right and left heels are touching and close to your pelvis.
- Put your hands down in front of your right leg and keep your right leg in this position resting on the mat while you move your left leg behind you until it is lying straight on the mat behind you.
- Place your hands on your right leg and make sure your left leg is pointing down toward the mat.
- If you don’t feel a stretch or want something more intense, walk your hands out in front of you and let your torso rest over your right knee.
- Repeat with your right leg behind you.
4. Triangle Pose
Triangle pose is another good stretch to prevent injury as it helps to stretch muscles around your hips, knees, hamstrings, glutes, groin and shoulders. To get into triangle pose, follow these steps:
- Turn sideways on your mat and jump your feet approximately 3 or 4 feet apart.
- Turn your right foot 90 degrees facing out.
- Lift your arms up and extend them out parallel to the floor.
- Extend your torso to the right, pushing your right arm out over your right foot.
- Bend from your hip and lower your right hand down to rest on your calf or ankle and keep your left arm extended out and pushing towards the ceiling.
- Repeat on your left side.
5. Tree Pose
Balancing poses are especially good for runners because stronger legs and a better balance mean fewer chances of falling or twisting ankles when on uneven ground. Tree pose calls for balancing on one leg, which will strengthen thighs and foot muscles and develop better balance.
To get into tree pose, follow these steps:
- Stand with your feet parallel and hip width apart.
- Raise your left foot and place the sole of your left foot on your ankle, calf, mid-thigh, or upper-thigh with your toes facing down.
- Slowly raise your arms overhead and stay for at least several long breath counts.
- Repeat with your right foot placed on your left leg.
6. Chair Pose or Fierce Pose
One of the best poses for runners to strengthen their quads and gluteal muscles is the squatting-like chair pose. In addition to strengthening, this pose also protects the knee by building stability and strengthens the Achilles tendon, a common running injury site.
- To get into chair pose, follow these steps:
- Stand with your feet together and keep your weight equal in both feet.
- Lower your hips and go down as though you were sitting in an invisible chair.
- Keep your back flat and always make sure your knees are pointed over your feet.
- Raise your arms over your head and extend your arms while drawing your shoulders down.
7. Seated Spinal Twist
After a long run, many runners have stiff neck and shoulders. To ease this stiffness, try a seated spinal twist. To try the seated spinal twist, follow these steps:
- Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you.
- Cross your right foot over the outside of your left thigh and keep your right knee pointed up towards the ceiling.
- Place your left elbow to the outside of your right knee and put your right hand on the floor behind you.
- Twist your torso towards the right while staying seated on the floor.
- Repeat on your left side.
There you have it: seven simple yoga poses for runners that help improve flexibility and core strength. Keep practicing these poses as part of your regular workout routine and see the results!
What do you think? Are we missing any great yoga poses for runners? If so, leave us a comment below!1