Whether you’re tying on running shoes for one of the first times or training for a longer race, runners of all levels can benefit from incorporating yoga into a workout routine.
But you don’t have to go to a yoga class to reap the benefits the practice can provide. There are many poses you can incorporate into your running routine that will increase strength and flexibility as well as help prevent injuries.
When practicing yoga, it is important to focus on the breath, following the inhales and exhales as you hold each pose. I often use this breath awareness when I’m running, deepening my inhales and exhales as I run hills to help relax both my body and mind.
As a yoga teacher, the most common complaints I hear from the runners I teach are about tight hips and hamstrings, IT Band soreness and shoulder stiffness.
Here are a few poses you can do before or after a run — or even in front of the TV at night — that target those specific areas.
I have also included a balance pose, since balance is so key for runners, especially those who run on trails.
Hold each pose for about five breaths. If you feel sharp pain, back off; stop the pose completely if you still feel pain.
Stepping forward from a table position, with hands on the floor below wrists and knees on the floor below hips, step one foot forward, making any adjustments necessary so you can feel the stretch in your opposite hip flexor, and so that your knee is not forward of your ankle. Lift your back knee off the floor and press out through the heel for strength-building. Switch sides.
Root down through your right foot while lifting the left, bending the knee of the lifted leg and turning it out toward the left. Place the sole of the left foot against the right leg, either on the ankle, below the knee or above the knee, making sure to not place it directly on the knee joint. Slightly tuck your tailbone to engage your abs and bring your arms over your head, relaxing your shoulders down. Gazing at a fixed spot will help with balance. This can also be done next to a wall for those who struggle to hold the pose. Switch sides.
Step forward with the right foot so the right foot is about three feet in front of the left; both feet should be lined up with the hips, so they might be up to one foot apart in width. Both feet should be facing forward. Place hands on your hips and bend at the waist as you draw your hips back slightly, trying to keep them level. Draw shoulder blades toward one another, and stop folding when you can feel the stretch in your hamstrings. Place your hands either on the floor, on either side of the right leg, or you can rest them lightly on your leg. Keep a micro-bend in your legs if your hamstrings are tight.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor, hips-width distance apart. On an inhale, press your back into the floor; on an exhale, lift your torso, drawing your thighs toward each other so they don’t splay out. Tuck your shoulders under a bit for a broader opening in the chest, but keep your neck still while holding bridge.
Lie on your back with knees pointed to the ceiling and feet pressed into the floor. Cross your right ankle above your left knee, and bring your hands behind the left thigh, pulling the thigh toward your chest while gently drawing your right knee in front of you, feet coming off the floor. Switch legs.