Running is one of the most popular ways to stay fit, but it can bring a lot of tension to your body. These yoga moves can help you restore and relieve any tightness that comes up between your daily jogs, and can even help you build up strength and improve your running abilities.
Adho Mukha Svanasana — Downward Facing Dog Pose
Downward Facing Dog, or Adho Mukha Svanasana, allows you to get a deep stretch in your calves and hamstrings. At the same time, it strengthens the legs, helping you build power for your next run.
Start from a tabletop position, with your hands below your shoulders and knees below your hips. On an exhale, engage your core, curl your toes, and lift your knees off the ground, working towards straight legs. Stretch your tailbone back and up towards the ceiling.
Your head should remain active, with your gaze focused in between your legs. Continue to push through your index fingers and thumbs.
Before settling into stillness, allow yourself to focus the stretch on the back of your legs by bending one knee and then the other. You may also choose to bend both knees at the same time, and then push back through your heels towards straight legs. Once still, hold the pose for 30 seconds to a minute, and release back down to your knees.
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana — Upward Facing Dog Pose
Upward Facing Dog, or Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, provides a multitude of benefits for practitioners, from opening the chest and shoulders to strengthening the side body and arms. For runners, however, the most beneficial aspect of this pose is the effect that it has on the spine. The back can take a beating while running, and this pose helps to stretch out the spine and encourage proper posture to alleviate pain.
Lie on your stomach, with the tops of your toes pressed into the floor and your gaze facing down. Place your hands on the side of your body near your waist, with your palms pressing into the floor and elbows pointing up.
On an inhale, press your palms firmly into the ground and begin push your torso slightly forward and then up. Lift your head, torso, hips, and knees, so that your weight is on your hands and the top of your toes.
Be mindful of your shoulders, ensuring they are rolled back and away from your ears. Your gaze should be forward or slightly up, being sure not to force your head back too far.
Breathe through the pose for about 30 seconds. You can release by rolling back down to your stomach, or push back into Downward Facing Dog.
Uttanasana — Standing Forward Fold Pose
Practicing Standing Forward Fold, or Uttanasana, is one of the easiest ways to achieve a nice stretch in the hamstrings. It also helps to release tension in the back and neck, all while giving the practitioner a moment to quiet the mind, making it an excellent post-run pose.
Begin standing, with your feet hips-width distance apart. On on inhale, bring your arms above your head. On an exhale, bend at your waist and begin to reach forward and down, keeping your spine elongated as you descend.
If your flexibility allows for it, bring your fingers or palms to the ground. If you are unable to reach the ground, you can bring opposite elbows into opposite hands, letting them hang in space. You can also use blocks to bring the ground closer to you.
Allow your head to remain heavy, with your gaze behind you. On each inhale, lengthen through the spine, and on each exhale, gently fold even further.
Hold the pose for about 30 seconds to a minute, continuing to deepen on each exhale. To release, come back up with arms extended and spine elongated, just as you went into the pose.
Anjaneyasana — Low Lunge Pose
Low Lunge, or Anjaneyasana, works deeply into the hips and quads, as well as strengthens the core. It also helps you work on your balance—an important skill for all runners to enhance and maintain.
Begin in Downward Facing Dog. On an inhale, sweep your right leg up behind you, and on your next exhale, step it forward between your hands. Bring the left knee down to the ground. If necessary, slide it back so you feel more of a stretch in the quads. Your back foot should be untucked.
Ensure that your right knee is stacked over the ankle. On an inhale, engage your core and begin to lift your chest, sweeping your arms up beside your ears. Elongate your spine, and drive your tailbone down.
Keep your gaze forward. If you would like an added stretch in the back (as well as a small balance challenge), goal post your arms at shoulder height and do a small back bend.
Hold the post for about 30 seconds. To release, bring your torso forward and palms back down to the ground on either side of your foot. Lift your back knee, and then step back into Downward Facing Dog. Repeat the pose on the opposite side.
Trikonasana — Triangle Pose
The benefits of Triangle Pose (or Trikonasana) for runners are numerous. It strengthens the thighs, ankles, and core, helping you increase your power for your next run. It also helps to stretch the legs, groin muscles, hips, and shoulders, giving your muscles some much needed restoration. Finally, the twist of the pose can bring relief to the back and spine.
Start standing at the top of your mat, and turn to the side so that your right foot is closer to the top edge of the mat. Step your left foot out about three to four feet.
Turn your right foot 90 degrees, so that your toes are pointing towards the top of your mat. Turn your left foot slightly in, so that it is at a 45 degree angle. The right heel should be in line with your left heel or arch.
Raise your arms to your sides, so that they are parallel to the ground with your palms facing to the side of the room. On an exhale, begin to reach forward with your right hand in the direction of your right foot. Shift your hips back, so that your tailbone tilts towards your left foot.
On that same exhale, begin to tilt your torso down towards your right foot, while still keeping your hips squared towards the side of the room. As you tilt, shift your arms so that they create a vertical line towards the ground.
Place your right fingers on the ground. If you are unable to reach, you can also place your palm along your shin or ankle, or on a block. Regardless of where you place your palm, be sure not to put too much weight into your hand.
You can bring your gaze down to the ground, or up to your left hand. Continue to elongate your spine on the inhale, and lightly twist up on the exhale. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute, and then come back up on an inhale. Repeat on the opposite side.
Baddha Konasana — Bound Angle Pose
It can be tricky to get a good stretch in the inner thighs, but Bound Angle Pose, or Baddha Konasana, helps you achieve just that. The pose is also excellent for opening up your hips and stretching your groin muscles.
Start seated, with your legs out in front of you. On an exhale, bend your knees and bring your feet towards you. Place the soles of your feet together in front of your pelvis, letting the outside edges rest on the mat.
Allow your knees to drop to either side at a comfortable level. Do not force them down so that they are touching the ground—let them hang in space if that is what is accessible. Grab hold of your feet, and bring them as close to your pelvis as comfortable, while still keeping them on the ground.
Breathe through this posture, ensuring that your spine remains elongated and shoulders relaxed. Hold for about a minute, and then release back to a comfortable seated position.
Ardha Matsyendrasana — Half Lord of the Fishes Pose
Half Lord of the Fishes Pose, or Ardha Matsyendrasana, involves a deep twist that lengthens and stretches the spine, which in turn helps to release tension after a long run.
Start in a seated position, with your legs out in front of you. Bend your right leg and bring your right foot alongside the outside of your left hip, with your leg fully on the floor. Bring your bent left knee over your right, with the sole of your foot fully on the ground by your upper right thigh.
Elongate your spine, and then twist your torso and shoulders over to the left, placing your left hand on the ground behind your glutes. Bring your right arm up, bend at the elbow, and then place it along the outside of your left thigh, with the lower half of your arm extended up. Bring your gaze over your left shoulder. Stay in this pose for about 30 seconds, and then release and repeat on the opposite side.
Kapotasana — Pigeon Pose
Pigeon Pose, or Kapotasana, is best known for deeply opening up the hips. Beyond that, it also stretches the thighs, groin muscles, and abdomen.
Start in Downward Facing Dog. On an inhale, lift your right leg up behind you, keeping your hips squared to the ground. On on exhale, bend your knee and bring it into your torso, towards your right wrist. Place your entire right leg on the ground, creating a ‘7’ shape.
Keep your right foot flexed. Your left leg should be on the floor directly behind you, with the tops of your toes touching the ground. Try to drive your right hip down towards the floor. If there is a lot of space between your right glute and the ground, you can place a block there for support.
Continue to elongate through your spine as you breathe through this posture. You can remain with your torso upright, or you can do down into Sleeping Pigeon for a deeper stretch: begin to walk your hands out in front of your, lowering your torso to the ground. Place your forehead on the ground or on a block.
Remain in this pose for 30 seconds to a minute. Release, and then repeat on the opposite side.
Virasana — Hero Pose
Hero Pose, or Virasana, provides a comfortable stretch to the quadriceps, as well as the knees and ankles.
Start on your knees, with your glutes off your heels and the tops of your toes touching the ground. Keep your inner knees together, but begin to guide your feet away from each other, slightly wider than hips-distance apart.
On an exhale, slowly sit back, bringing your glutes between your heels. If it is uncomfortable to bring your glutes all the way down to the ground, you can place a block or folded blanket beneath you for support.
Rest your hands comfortably on your thighs, and breathe through the posture. Keep your shoulders away from your ears and spine elongated. You may choose to soften your gaze as your stay here for 30 seconds to a minute. To release, bring your palms to the ground and gently guide yourself back up.
Supta Padangusthasana — Reclined Hand To Big Toe Pose
Reclining Hand to Big Toe Pose, or Supta Padangusthasana, allows you to stretch your hamstrings and quadriceps, while gently opening up your hips. It can also bring relief to any lower back tension you may have.
Lie on the floor on your back, with your legs extended. On an exhale, bend one knee and bring it into your chest. Ensure that the opposite leg remains active by flexing the foot and extending through the heel.
Loop a strap around the arch of the foot of your bent leg, and keep the strap ends in both hands. As you inhale, straighten the leg up. Once the leg is extended, adjust your hands on the strap so your arms remain straight, but keep your shoulders on the ground.
Some may need a strap for this pose, but if your hamstrings are more open, you may be able to reach your big toe without the strap. Only choose this option if your shoulders can remain on the ground.
You can deepen the stretch by bringing your foot slightly towards your head. Remember to keep the grounded leg and foot active by extending through the heel. After holding the pose for about a minute, repeat with the other leg.
Try out some of these yoga poses to counteract some of the stresses that come with running. With consistent dedication, you can create a well balanced workout routine that helps you stay fit and less prone to injuries.