I’ve often heard that yoga and running are counterintuitive. One adds stress and tightens the body, the other lubricates joints and stretches while calming the body, essentially they are each other’s antithesis. What a silly notion! I think everything is about balance; why not practice yoga to counterbalance your running, or vice versa! I’ve geared this post towards the tight runners, and have included poses that help to stretch the large muscles in runner’s legs, twist out some toxins, help the hips to open, and relieve tension.
I am going to teach these poses as they stem from the Five Foundational Yoga Poses. So, if you are new to yoga or haven’t yet taken a peek at what my alignment philosophy is you might want to pop over to that post and do a quick catch up! The foundational yoga poses are all fabulous for runners as well, creating foundation and flexibility, while building strength!
For some reason there isn’t an agreed on Sanskrit term for this pose, as it is variations of a number of poses, so I’ve left the Sanskrit name out! This pose is a great groin and calve stretch (which are generally tight on runners!) and also can help create strength in your arms and legs.
Starting in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), hinge forward at the hips and mindfully place your hands on the ground in front of you (or on blocks if the floor is inaccessible). Keeping your hands grounded, step one leg back towards the short end of your mat and place the ball of your foot on the ground. Your feet should both be facing directly forward on what we could call ‘railroad tracks’ meaning that they are hips distance apart and parallel. The ball of your second toes should line up with each ankle. With your breath, you can sink into a deeper bend in your front knee, making sure to not let it drift over your ankle. Breath in the pose for at least five breaths, then switch sides!
Diamond Pose with Bound Arms (Vajrasana)
Diamond pose (also sometimes called thunderbolt) is a wonderful stretch for your feet, that can help relieve some of the tension in your arches that running can cause. Adding bound arms helps to open the chest and gives a great shoulder stretch.
Starting in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), lower your body to come sitting on your feet (or a block) with your toes tucked under. Bring one arm onto your mid-back palm facing out, reach your other arm up towards the sky, palm facing backward, then hinge at the elbow and begin to reach for the hand on your back. A great modification for these arms is to grab a strap with both hands and use it to link the space between hands together, walking your hands towards each other on the strap to deepen the stretch. Make sure to switch your arms for an even stretch!
Double Pigeon/Fire Log (Agnistambhasana)
Double Pigeon or Fire Log pose is a wonderful hip opener that also is a subtle groin and buttocks stretch, perfect for a bit of calm after an intense run.
Start in Staff Pose with your arms beside you. Bend your right leg and slide your right foot underneath your left knee so that your foot ends up even with left hip. Bend your left leg and pick it up to place the left ankle on top of your right knee so that the left foot is even with your right hip. Ideally the two legs will create 90 degree angles and stack on top of each other. However, there are many variations to this pose. For those with tighter hips, you can bend your knees and let your legs fall out to the sides forming a ‘butterfly’ like shape, then cross one ankle over the other sliding the feet up each leg as the hips begin to open. Remember to switch which leg is on top for an even stretch!
Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
Half Lord of the Fishes Pose is a great stretch for the upper back, shoulders, hips, and neck. Also, because it is a twist, it helps to detoxify the body, essentially wringing the toxins out of your internal organs, just like you would ring out a sponge! That being said, if you practice lots of twisting make sure to drink lots of water to flush your system.
Start in Staff Pose. Bend your knees and place the soles of both feet on the floor, then slide your right leg underneath your left leg so that the sole of your right leg reaches for your left buttock, this leg will lay flush with the floor. Lift your left foot over your right leg with the knee facing the ceiling and place it outside of your right thigh. Place your left hand just outside your left hip and twist to the left, letting your head and gaze follow. Bend your right arm and as your twist deepens, allow the outside of your right elbow make contact with the outside of your left knee, you can use this contact to deepen the twist if you feel comfortable. Switch sides and remember to breathe!
One Legged Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
Pigeon Pose is one of my favorite yoga poses! I write a whole post on just its gorgeous variations. The pose I’ve shown here is a more difficult variation that incorporates a more intense quad stretch however, the traditional One Legged Pigeon is a hamstring stretch and a quad stretch and builds core strength!
Start in Downward Dog. Bring your right leg off the ground, reaching for the ceiling, then draw the knee of your flying leg to your nose and place the right outside edge of your right leg on the ground behind your left wrist and lower your self to the ground. Your right leg should lay flush against the floor with the right knee just behind your right wrist. Your left leg should be straight behind you. With the top of the thigh facing the floor. This 90 degree angle of your right shin can be modified by sliding your right foot towards your left hip crease, keeping the right knee where it is (this is the front leg variation shown in the picture above). You can bring your hands off of the floor and bring the palms to touch in front of your chest or raise them above your head. If you feel stable in this position, you can reach with either your hand or a strap to the foot of the leg behind you, and bending the knee, draw it towards your body. Make sure to switch sides!
These five poses, along with the Five Foundational Poses, are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to asanas that can benefit runners! I feel that I could argue that just about any yoga pose can help!
This is what happens when your photographer is a great friend! As you can see, Adrienne, who is one of the lovely ladies in my yoga teacher training, is an incredible photographer. All of these pictures are untouched, and have such wonderful composition! If you’re in the Denver area and looking for an awesome photog check her out over at AlpenGlow!
Yoga poses for runners was the first yoga post that was requested! Do you have a yoga request, or love one of these poses!? Let me know in the comments below!