Did you know that September is National Yoga Month? With the end of summer (sad), yoga is the perfect time to reconnect our body, mind and breath. It always helps me ground and center myself, which I know I will need after our Hawaiian sabbatical.
The fall also ushers in fall running and racing. I know many people who are training for marathons, half marathons, triathlons and other races. I thought it would be a great time to share some more of my favorite yoga poses for runners. Plus, I couldn’t pass up the chance to shoot some yoga photos while we were in Hawaii!
Here are five great yoga poses for runners. They target the key muscles used for running and thus, are the ones that are most likely in need of some love – hamstrings, calves, hip flexors, ankles and groin.
Disclaimer: I am a certified yoga instructor but I am not your yoga instructor. Please exercise caution and be mindful of your own body. These views are mine alone, based on my own experiences. Please use props such as blankets, a yoga block (or 2!) and/or a yoga strap as needed. Always consult a certified yoga instructor for additional guidance and assistance.
Low Lunge is also known as Runner’s Lunge for a good reason. It helps to improve flexibility and strength in your hips, calves, quads, hamstrings and IT bands –> also known as everything that is usually tight in a runner’s legs.
You can come into the position from downward-facing dog. Step your right foot in-between your hands. Your hands should be under your shoulders and your right knee should be directly over your right ankle – not in front of it. Press back through your left heel to lengthen your back leg, staying on the ball of your foot. Stay here for 5-10 breaths. Step back to downward-facing dog and repeat on the other side.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Make sure you engage your thighs and lift through your knee.
- Come up on your fingertips to lengthen your spine and roll your shoulder down and away from your ears. You want to think about opening your heart towards the front of your mat.
- Draw in your belly button and tuck your tailbone.
- You want to keep your hips square so think about pulling your right hip back slightly and moving your left hip forward slightly.
From Low Lunge, I like to move into Pyramid Pose / Intense Side Stretch. I have to admit, I struggle with this pose. Like a lot. Mainly because my hamstrings are tight but that’s why we practice, yes?
From low lunge, straighten both of your legs. You may have to bring your back foot in a few inches in order to straighten your legs – I definitely have to. Once your legs are straightened, forward fold over your front leg.
Instead of just flopping down, you want to think about leading with your chest/sternum rather than just trying to get your head to your shin. Again, make sure that your hips are square by pulling back the front hip and moving the back hip forward. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
Don’t forget to breathe. Repeat on the other side.
Most of the time, I like to link those first two poses into a little bit of a flow. I will move between low lunge and pyramid pose and back again. This helps to create some heat within the body and is a great way to connect your movement with your breath.
- Inhale as you step your right foot forward to low lunge and open your chest.
- Exhale as you straighten your legs and fold over your front leg.
- Inhale as you re-bend your front leg into a lunge and open your chest.
- Repeat this sequence 5 times before switching sides.
This is one of my new favorite poses. It’s a great hip opener.
Come into Hip Opening Lunge as you did for low lunge – step your right foot forward in-between your hands, making sure that your right knee is directly over your right ankle. Stay on the ball of your left foot.
Then, slowly roll onto the outer edge of your left foot so that your toes point to the right. Then, slowly roll onto the outer edge of your right foot. You should feel a stretch in your right hip. Extend your right arm toward the back of your mat. Stay here for 5-10 breaths and switch sides.
For a deeper stretch, drop your left hip down towards the ground.
Stop at any point! Don’t push yourself. If this is too intense for you, stay with a low lunge.
Eagle pose is a funny pose. I usually feel all twisted up and constricted but I’ve come to embrace it recently. It’s a great pose to stretch your shoulders and upper back (yes! Runners need flexibility in our upper bodies too!) while strengthening the thighs, hips, ankles and calves. I particularly like the stretch I get in my hips and my IT band.
Standing firmly on both feet, shift your weight to your right foot. Bend your knees slightly and cross your left leg over your right, either wrapping your left toes behind your right calf or keeping them raised off the floor. You can also rest your left toes on the ground.
Bring your arms out in front of you. Cross your arms in front of you, right arm above the left and bend at your elbows. You want to press your palms together. If you can’t, you can press the back of your hands together instead.
*NOTE: I just realized that my arms are wrong in the above picture so…you want to do the opposite of what I’m doing See, I told you I get all twisted up in this pose!
Raise your forearms perpendicular to your mat and try to bring your arms up and away from your face. Stay here for 5-10 breaths and then switch sides.
Ankle-to-Knee pose or Double Pigeon is a great pose for your hips and hip flexors. It’s also called Fire Log pose because you stack your legs so they look like fire logs.
Like the name suggests, you want to stack your legs ankle-to-knee, trying to get your ankles and knees to line up on top of each other. Your feet should be perpendicular to the floor. In this pose, make sure to keep your feet active and flexed to protect your knees. I like to place my hands on the soles of my feet to remind me to flex my feet.
Shrug your shoulders down and keep your torso long. Fold over your legs.
This is an intense pose. If your hips are tight, you can always use blocks or blankets to help support you in this pose (between your ankle-knee and/or under your hip). Alternatively, you can do other hip-opening poses such as Pigeon Pose or Figure Four pose.
What are you favorite post-run yoga poses?
- Be sure to check out Yoga for Runners – Part 1 and Yoga for Runners – Part 3
- Here are 6 simple ways to incorporate yoga into your daily routine.
- Ask a Yogini: Should I Use Yoga Props?
- 8 Benefits of Practicing Yoga Inversions
- What is Pranayama?
Disclaimer: While I am a certified yoga instructor, I am not your yoga instructor. Please exercise caution and be mindful of your own body. These views are mine alone, based on my own experiences. Always consult a professional for additional guidance and assistance. Please use props such as blankets, a yoga block (or 2!) and/or a yoga strap as needed.
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