Yoga for Runners

 

As many of you know, yoga is a key part of my fitness routine. I first started doing yoga as something to help improve my running. I figured that it would be a good way to work on my flexibility and breathing. Yoga also offers many other benefits including improved balance, conditioning, coordination, and mind-body awareness.

While my yoga practice has become about more than just the physical asanas or postures, it is still an important aspect of my practice. After I return home from a run, I often spend about 10-15 minutes flowing through different poses. I prefer that to plain old stretching.

Yoga for Runners

A few people have asked me to share some of my favorite yoga poses for running. Below are 6 yoga poses that I typically do after a run. They target the key muscles used for running and thus, the ones that are most likely in need of some love – hamstrings, calves, hip flexors, ankles and groin.

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. 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.

 

Standing forward fold

After I come home from a run, one of the first poses I take is some form of standing forward fold to stretch out my hamstrings. One of my favorite variations is rag doll. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, bend over and grasp opposite elbows. Slightly bend your knees and let the weight of your arms and head fold you over. This is a great pose for your hamstrings and it helps to loosen your back.

 

Downward Facing Dog

Downward Facing Dog is probably one of the most recognizable yoga poses. It’s great for your hamstrings, calves, ankles and it opens up your shoulders. Before settling fully into the pose, I like to bend my knees and pedal through my feet at first to stretch my calves first.

Downdog split

There are a couple of variations of downward facing dog that you could take. The most common is 3-legged dog where you lift up one leg straight-up back and behind you. You can keep the leg straight or you can bend at the knee and let the leg fall behind you. This helps to open up your hip flexors.

 Downdog twist

The other variation I like is a downdog twist. It offers a great stretch along your hamstring and your whole side of your body. This pose is a bit more intense so don’t rush into it.

 

Triangle pose

Triangle pose helps to lengthen your hamstrings and calves and stretches your hips, IT band and outer shins. The twist helps to open up your shoulders, chest and spine. Make sure that the heel of your front foot lines up with the arch of your back foot. You can always use a block under your hand that touches the floor if you can’t quite reach the floor.

 

 Extended Side Angle Pose

 Extended side angle helps to create length and extension in your body. It strengthens and stretches your legs, knees and ankles. It’s a great stretch for your inner thighs. You can always use a block underneath the hand that’s on the floor or take your forearm to your thigh (instead of extending it down to the floor).

extended side angle variationsThere are also a few different variations of extended side angle that you could take. You can extend your top arm out along the side of your head towards the front or you can take a half or full bind.

 Lizard pose

Lizard pose, oh how my hip flexors hate you even though they know you’re really good for them. Step your foot forward to a low lunge. Bring your hands or forearms to the floor (you can also place them on the block). You can have your back knee on the ground or lifted (for a more active pose). You can either keep your foot planted flat on the ground or you can roll on to the edge of your foot like in the bottom right picture above. This helps open up your hips a bit more.

 

Pigeon pose I usually end with Pigeon Pose. It’s one of my favorites. It’s main focus is the thighs and the hips. If your hips don’t touch the ground, please use a folded blanket or a block to help support your hip (on the side with the bent knee).

What are some of your favorite post-run stretches

You might also like:

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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Comments

  1. says

    Downdog twist?! I haven’t tried that one yet. Looks fun!
    Yoga has actually/finally helped me to build running endurance. Its something I’ve struggled with for a long time, endurance. So yay! It came in time now that I need it more than ever. All great moves. Going to try the twist in the morning.

    but my fave – downward facing dog. Stretchhhhhhhh. ;)
    Christine @ Oatmeal Bowl recently posted..Lake Tahoe Marathon Training: Week 2My Profile

    • says

      Downdog twist is yummy. Such a great stretch but definitely can be a little intense too depending on how tight you are. So happy to hear that yoga has helped with your running!!

  2. says

    I actually found your blog when I was looking for yoga blogs, and started reading without initially realising you were a fellow runner! I’ve been doing yoga for just a few months, and it is helping my running immeasurably. For me the biggest benefits have been improved core strength and better hip flexibility. I normally do Tiffany Cruikshank’s post endurance training refresh on yogaglo after long runs, and legs up the wall, or figure four pose (I think that’s what it’s called) feel amazing :)
    Tyra recently posted..I am glo’ingMy Profile

  3. says

    Great set of poses and perfect to do post run. I cannot do pigeon for the life of me…my hips just don’t open, so I don’t force it. I’ve found I cause more harm than good with it! But the rest, all good. You look awesomely strong in all the pics!
    misszippy recently posted..Do you have an aerobic base?My Profile

    • says

      Downdog twist is a great one but definitely not one that you can jump into right away. I make sure to warm up my body before doing it otherwise the twisting and stretch is pretty intense. Huh, I usually end with sun salutations but have never thought of starting with it. Maybe that would help me find my running mojo??
      Christine Yu recently posted..Friday Round-Up: Striving for Your DreamsMy Profile

    • says

      Thank you Nicole! I really do love yoga. I started with it solely for the physical aspect – increasing my flexibility and balance, etc. but it’s become a lot more to me than just that. If you can, I’d definitely give it a try – find a good studio (most will offer a free first class or heavily discounted first class to get you to try it.) I’d love to hear if you do!
      Christine Yu recently posted..Friday Round-Up: Striving for Your DreamsMy Profile

  4. Holly says

    I’ve added 10 min of yoga post run and I love it. I don’t think I look as good as you do in the poses though! I have not seen lizard before but will be adding it…thanks!

  5. says

    I like the forward fold!!! I always start and end my boot camp classes with that move!!! A lot of the other moves you featured, I’ve done but not nearly as well as you!
    BTW – I hope you’re liking your short hair better now – it looks super cute!!
    Kim recently posted..The Gift of TimeMy Profile

    • says

      So glad that you found this post and I hope that you find it helpful. Lizard is a great stretch for the hip flexors and rolling on to the outer edge of your foot definitely gets into different parts of your hip. The downdog twist is newist to me too but it’s such a great one. Definitely warm up a little before moving into that pose.
      Christine Yu recently posted..Friday Round-Up: Striving for Your DreamsMy Profile

  6. says

    Hi, Christine-

    I’ve seen you in passing on Sverve a few times, and your tip on this post drew me in. SO glad it did! I’m a lifetime runner but am very negligent in my stretching, both pre- and post-run. Never done yoga, either.

    Oh, the horror, right?

    I have to admit that these moves look quite doable. So I’ll plan to do a little stretching tomorrow morning with my laptop propped open in front of me. :) Thanks for the kick in the pants!
    Sue – The Spin Cycle recently posted..Navigating Silicon Valley: A Multiple Choice QuizMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Sue! I’m so glad that you stopped over. I hope that you find this post helpful. Most of the poses are pretty doable as a beginner (and I’ve linked to Yoga Journal which will give you some more information about each pose). I do admit, I can be negligent about my post-run stretching/yoga too but I find that if I can remember to do even 10 minutes, it makes a huge difference.
      Christine Yu recently posted..Friday Round-Up: Striving for Your DreamsMy Profile

  7. says

    I’ve been running for years now, but have not tried yoga. It’s on my list of things I want to try because I know it can benefit me greatly in terms of flexibility and posture. I’m going to bookmark this page for the future. I feel like I need to start in a studio to get some guidance on poses and such. Stopping by from SITS – thanks!
    Kerry recently posted..Does it Pay to Always be the “Rules Girl”My Profile

    • says

      That’s definitely the reason that I first started doing yoga – to improve my flexibility and posture. I would definitely recommend starting at a studio if you can. I think that it makes a world of difference to have a teacher demonstrate (or others in the class) what each pose looks like and have the teacher adjust you so that you know the proper alignment, etc. A lot of studios offer beginner workshops which might be a good option and less intimidating than going to a regular class. I’d love to hear if you do end up trying it!
      Christine Yu recently posted..Friday Round-Up: Striving for Your DreamsMy Profile

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