Yoga for Runners – Part 3


5 Best Yoga Poses for Runners from Love, Life, Surf

My preparations for the NYC Half this weekend have obviously involved a lot of running. But it’s also involved strength training and yoga.

Yoga has been a key part of my routine – helping to both lengthen and strengthen my muscles. While I swear that I write about more than just yoga, I want to share some great yoga poses for runners. These postures really focus on specific parts of runners’ bodies that need additional love and  build on my previous Yoga for Runners posts – Part 1 and Part 2.

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.

psoas stretch

crescent lunge

Crescent Lunge is a great stretch for runners because it targets your psoas. Your psoas is located deep in your abdomen and connects your spine to your thigh and makes up part of your hip flexor. Your psoas contracts when you lift you knee and lengthens with you swing your leg back in your stride.

As a side note – when you sit at a desk all day, your psoas stays in a contracted position so this is a great stretch for everyone who sits in front of a computer!

  • Start in downward-facing dog. Step your right foot forward to a low lunge, drop your left knee and untuck your left toes. Stack your right knee over your ankle and place your hands on your right thigh. You can stay here and slowly press your hands into your thigh to help lower your hips. You should feel a stretch in the front of your left thigh.
  • To take it one step further, hook your right thumb over your left. Inhale and reach your arms overhead. Sink your hips and press firmly into the toes of your left foot. Reach your sternum forward and then up for a slight backbend.
  • Hold for 5 breaths. Switch sides.

IT band stretch

I don’t know if this pose has an official name but it’s a great stretch for your IT band so let’s just call it an IT band stretch. You can use blocks for this pose. I should be using blocks in this pose.

  • Start in downward-facing dog. Step your right foot behind your left wrist so that you’re stepping across your body.
  • Draw your outer right hip back so that it’s squared off with your left hip.
  • Ground down through your left foot, particularly the outer left foot. Lengthen along the inseam of your left leg.
  • On each inhale, lengthen your spine and reach the crown of your head forward. On each exhale, fold over your leg.
  • Hold for 5 breaths. Switch sides.

Warrior 3

Oh Warrior III. I love to hate you. Not only is it a strong balancing posture, it’s a great pose for strengthening your hips and glutes. And we all know that runners all could use some stronger hips and glutes.

  • Start in downward-facing dog. Step your left foot forward and rise up to a high lunge, arms raised overhead.
  • Transfer the weight into your left leg. Bring your weight forward over your left leg, reach your arms forward and lift your right leg up to hip level. Engage your core.
  • Keep your left leg strong by engaging your quads which will lift your kneecap. Level your hips by dropping your right hip in line with your left. See that your right toes are pointing directly down towards the floor and hug your foot toward the midline. Flex your right foot as if you were standing on the back wall.
  • Hold for 5 breaths. Switch sides.

Warrior 3 with prayer hands

Supported warrior 3

Here are two modifications for Warrior III that still offer the benefits of the pose and work the same muscles.

  1. Bring your hands together at your chest in prayer .
  2. Bring your hands down to the floor or to blocks for a supported Warrior III.

supported bridge

I loooooove supported bridge pose. It’s a  great way to work on backbends without a ton of effort. With the block supporting you, it also allows your glutes and piraformis to relax.

  • Come to lie on your back. Bend your knees and plant the soles of your feet on the floor. Your heels should be close to your hips so that your fingertips graze your heels.
  • Press down through your heels to lift your hips. Place a block under your sacrum, NOT your lumbar spine. You can take the block at any height that’s comfortable for you – low, medium or high.
  • You can bring your hands to clasp underneath you. Your chin comes towards your sternum.

Pec minor stretch

Wait, what? What does a pec minor stretch have to do with running? And what in the world is the pec minor?

The Pec Minor is a small, triangular muscle that runs from the 3rd, 4th and 5th ribs and attaches to the scapula. It’s generally overshadowed by the Pec Major – the big muscle in our chest. The Pec Minor tends to be short and tight in most people, especially those of us who use a computer or text all day, and causes the shoulders to roll inwards.

Stretching this muscle will help you stand up taller and open up your chest, making breathing easier.

  • Stand by a wall. Place your hand on the wall so that your arm is at a 45 degree angle. Press you hand into the wall and begin to turn your torso in the opposite direction, so that your arm goes behind you.
  • Before you initiate the stretch, make sure that the head of your shoulder is integrated into the shoulder socket and not falling forward.

That’s it!

What’s your favorite pre- or post-run yoga pose?

p.s. My leggings are Teeki :-)

Are you thinking about a yoga teacher training program? Check out my post over at Athleta on Choosing a Yoga Teacher Training: 6 Questions to Answer.


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.

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  1. says

    My sister and I were just talking about how we need to do more stretching and strength training to keep our bodies in their best condition for running. I can’t wait to try these poses. I’ve been having the tiniest bit of knee pain lately and I think some attention to my hips would help that. BTW, I LOVE those leggings :)
    Shana Norris recently posted..CAOK 2014.My Profile

  2. says

    Cresent strecth – YES! I also need that Pec Minor one too. I took a Yoga for Runners class once where we went on a group run and then did 45 min of yoga afterward. It was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken. I so wish I could do that at least once a week. Thanks for this little reference guide – I need it!
    Now, what kind of pose can you do for nervous anticipation before a race? :-)
    Allie recently posted..The Rundown – Two-A-DaysMy Profile

  3. says

    I love balance poses and warrior 3 is a favorite. Thanks for this great series for us tight runners. The two activities really do complement each other well.

    Congrats on writing for Athleta! Will check it out.
    misszippy recently posted..Running 2.0My Profile

  4. says

    I’ll need to try the crescent lunge….sounds like I need it! Surprisingly, I do the pec minor stretch a few times a week. A PT taught me this stretch a few years ago and I LOVE it!
    Maureen recently posted..Saying GoodbyeMy Profile

  5. says

    Thank you for these. I’ve been doing the one for ITB more frequently again. I love pigeon pose but can’t seem to get my leg placement quite right. I realized recently how very inflexible I’ve become since quitting ballet.

    • says

      One tip for pigeon – don’t stress about your front shin being parallel to the front of the mat. If it’s there, great. If not, just something to work on. Do take a peak at your back leg to make sure that it’s coming straight out of your hip and that your foot isn’t sickling inwards. I find that it’s helpful to tuck the back toe to help square off the hip (usually means bringing the hip of the bent leg back in space a little and the hip of the leg extended in the back forward in space a little). You can also think about drawing your inner thighs towards each other for a bit of a deeper stretch.
      Christine Yu recently posted..Friday Round-Up: Follow Your HeartMy Profile

    • says

      Definitely yes! I don’t like saying that this pose is only good for runners or swimmers or whatever since yoga is so great for everyone. I sit a lot too and it’s important to stretch out the front of the body – psoas, hip flexors in particular and then the pec minor stretch (since we all tend to hunch forward at the computer). You want to open everything back up – chest and hips. :-)
      Christine Yu recently posted..Yoga for Runners – Part 3My Profile

  6. says

    Yes, yes, and more YES, says the running coach! :) I love that you included Warrior 3 – I’ve been working with my runners more and more on balancing (even simple one legged balancing) to build proprioception and hip/stabilizer strength. This is a great reminder to include some of the yoga balancing poses in as ‘peak poses’!

  7. says

    I just started doing yoga about three months ago and about 4 weeks ago a chronic issue I had been dealing with in my right leg started to go away, it used to wake me up at night, I could only sleep in certain positions, running was hit or miss now it is about 90% better, never wakes me up at night and I can sleep how I want. I blame yoga and am a believer now. I love downward facing dog, and anything that stretches running muscles in my hips and hammies.
    Christy@ My Dirt Road Anthem recently posted..Three Things ThursdayMy Profile


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