Yoga is a great stress buster but it also packs serious perks for runners, like improving flexibility, easing aches and pains, and helping you recover from long runs and races faster.
Here are 10 poses we can do to stay strong and balanced while we train.
Instructions: Start on hands and knees. Place your palms a handprint’s distance in front of your shoulders. Tuck your toes under and lift knees off floor. Pull your hips up and back away from your hands. Keep knees bent and focus on lengthening your torso — press down into your hands, pull up on your arms — then shift your weight onto your legs. Without losing that sense of direction or length in your torso, begin to lift thighs up as you reach your heels back and down, which will straighten your knees. Engage your quads by pulling your kneecaps up. Hold for five to 10 breaths. Lightly lower both knees back to floor.
Benefits: Down Dog stretches the hamstrings and calves, and creates length in the spine.
Instructions: Lie on your abdomen, facing floor. Bend your elbows and place your hands on mat in line with your lower ribs, wrists aligned under your elbows. Reach legs back and press tops of your feet down into the floor. Press down into your hands and straighten arms, pulling your chest up toward ceiling and lifting fronts of your thighs and hips away from floor. Take a few breaths, and roll back down.
Modify this pose by keeping your toes tucked instead of pointed, which will help activate and lift your thighs. If your lower back feels tight, rest your knees on the mat, which will help lengthen your tailbone.
Benefits: Up Dog opens the hip flexors and stretches the whole front of the body. It’s also a chest and shoulder opener, which can help expand breathing.
Instructions: Stand with feet wide apart. Turn left toes in slightly and roll right thigh open to turn your right foot out 90 degrees. Align your feet on mat so that heel of your right front foot is in line with arch of your left foot. Press down into feet and pull up on your thighs. Inhale and stretch arms out to your sides at shoulder height. As you exhale, shift hips toward your left heel and simultaneously stretch torso forward toward your right foot. Place your right hand on your shin, ankle, or a stable support (like a yoga block or the seat of a chair). Take five breaths. Then press down into your feet and lift up with your thighs to come to standing. Turn your feet in to parallel. Repeat on left side.
Benefits: Triangle Pose stretches the hamstrings and inner thighs. It allows you to open and expand laterally (to the side), which is a great release for runners who move solely in the sagittal (vertical) plane.
Sugarcane in the Half Moonlight
Instructions: Start standing with feet together near a table or chair placed to your right. Bend your left knee and hold onto your foot with your left hand, or a belt. Lift muscles of your standing leg and contract muscles of your standing hip to support yourself. Fold forward from your hips, resting your right forearm on table or chair. Look toward right kneecap, which should be facing forward, aligned with your standing foot. Maintaining that alignment, open your left hip, lifting your left knee out to left side. For balance, you may lower your right hand to chair seat, yoga block, or floor depending on your flexibility. Hold for five breaths. Carefully release your left foot and lower it to floor, then place your hands on your hips and come up to standing. Repeat on other side.
Benefits: This pose packs a one-two punch — it opens up the standing hamstring and the opposite leg’s hip flexors and quadriceps. Take as much support as you need so that you can breathe normally without any strain.
Bound Angle Pose
Instructions: Sitting on floor, bend your knees and touch soles of your feet together. Start by placing your hands behind you for support, lengthening your spine up toward ceiling. If your knees are high off floor, or if you feel like your tailbone is being pulled underneath you, try sitting on a folded blanket. Think about spreading your inner thighs open toward inner knees, and imagine drawing outer knees toward outer hips. Place your hands on your ankles and hinge forward over your feet. Hold for five to 10 breaths. Come back up to sitting and use your hands to close your knees together.
Benefits: Bound Angle is great for opening the inner thighs.
Hero Pose with Eagle Arms
Instructions: Start with knees together, feet just outside of your hips. Sit down between your feet with soles of your feet facing the ceiling. (You may need to sit on a block or a folded blanket.) Press feet down and release 10 times. Add Eagle Arms by wrapping your arms around each other (double wrap if you can). Lift elbows toward ceiling and move wrists away from nose, squeeze and release your arms.
Benefits: Hero Pose will stretch the tops of your shins and feet, which can get tight from running, and get your blood flowing in your legs. Eagle Arms will give you a good arm stretch and relieve tension in your neck and shoulders.
Reclined Pyramid Pose
Instructions: Lie on your back and your put right foot in a yoga strap (use the tie to a robe or a towel if you don’t have one). Keep your left leg on the floor and raise the right leg with foot in strap. Walk your arms up strap until arms are straight, then pull arms back into their sockets to gently stretch (not yank!) your right leg. Repeat with left leg in strap.
Benefits: This will open your hamstrings and calves without straining your lower back.
Reclining Cobbler’s Pose
Instructions: Sitting, bring your feet together and spread knees wide. Sit your hips as close to your heels as possible. Prop up your knees with blocks or folded blankets, then lie down on your back.
Benefits: This pose opens the hips and releases tight adductors while also releasing tension. Be sure to prop knees up, so your adductors can release rather than overstretch.
Reclined Wide Angle Pose
Instructions: Lie down with your back and hips on floor and legs propped up on wall. Bring your hips as close to wall as possible. Spread your legs as wide as is comfortable against the wall and lift your arms over your head to rest on floor, holding opposite elbows.
Benefits: This pose is a more intense adductor and hamstring stretch that relieves tension without taxing your lower back.
Instructions: Place a chair at the top of your mat. Sit on mat with both legs straight out in front of you. Fold left leg, bringing foot as close to your body as you can while opening your knee out. Fold your body forward over your straight right leg. Rest your forehead on chair, resting your arms over the chair.
Benefits: This pose releases the entire back of your leg and also relaxes the entire body. Take a few deep breaths to calm your nervous system.