Yoga For Runners
Get the most out of your running season by creating the habit of stretching out properly after every single run! Stretching reduces your risk of injury, increases blood flow and improves flexibility and performance. I have compiled some of my favourite yoga poses and stretches below which cater towards soothing tight quads, calves and hips. I recommend stretching for about 10-15 minutes after each run. This blog post was created specifically for runners but I encourage you to try these stretches after any sort of workout – happy yoga-posing!
Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
Benefits: Engages every part of your body, strengthens your core, opens your chest, shoulders and hips while also strengthening your legs.
Instructions: Take a wide stance, feet parallel to each other. Your right foot should be positioned at a 90 degree angle from your left foot. Your right foot should face the front end of your mat. Raise your arms to shoulder height. Reach your right arm forward and place your right hand next to your right foot. Float your left arm up so that it is aligned with your right arm. Hold for 10 breaths as tolerated, repeat on your other side.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)
Benefits: Deeply stretches your posterior chain (back, hamstrings, glutes, calves, achilles), improves chest and shoulder mobility, builds upper body strength. This posture is also known for stimulating the brain and nervous system, improving memory and concentration!
Instructions: From a table top, or “crawling” position, tuck your toes under, press your hands into the ground and begin to lift your hips upwards towards the ceiling. Spread your fingers wide apart with middle finger facing forward, keeping your hands shoulder width apart. Your body weight should be pressing out through your fingers and palms, shoulders relaxed, with your hands flat on the ground at all times. Allow your chest to fall between your shoulders, back towards your legs, in order to deepen your stretch. Keeping your arms straight (but elbows not completely locked), lift your hips up and back, pressing your heels and palms into the ground as you position yourself into an inverted “V” position. Lift up through your tailbone to keep your spine flat and long at all times. Your feet should be hip width apart with toes facing forward. Press your heels into the ground to feel a stretch in the back of your legs. Especially for those with back issues, keeping a small bend in your knees, in order to to keep your back flat, is completely acceptable and often encouraged, for this pose. Your first downward dog of the day may feel stiff. Play around in this position by bending your knees to loosen up. You can also shift your weight from side to side to stretch your legs out.
Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge)
Benefits: Stretches your anterior chain (shoulders, chest, abdomen, hip flexors, legs) and strengthens glutes, hamstrings and quads.
Instructions: From Downward Dog, step one leg forward between your hands. Lower your back knee and, keeping your forward knee in place, slide your back leg further back until you feel a gentle stretch in your hip flexors and quads (front of your hip). Turn the top of your back leg to the floor and lift your torso upright. Keeping your core tight, sweep your arms out to the sides and up overhead. Drop your tailbone down towards the ground and look upwards. Hold for 10 breaths, as tolerated, release and repeat on the other side.
Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend)
Benefits: Lengthens your spinal column and stretches the backs of your legs as well as back muscles.
Instructions: Take a wide stance on your mat, feet parallel to each other with your hands placed on your hips. Lengthen your body from the waist up. Exhale and fold forward, hands still placed on your hips as you fold. Align your hands with your feet, placing them shoulder distance apart. Relax your shoulders and neck. Slowly walk your hands behind your feet for a more intense stretch as you lift your hips up towards the sky. Remember to keep your back flat at all times!
Benefits: Deep stretch of the hip flexors, hip joint and groin.
Instructions: This stretch can feel quite intense. I always recommend easing into this pose by making sure your body is warm, as well as trying some less intense hip opening stretches first. Begin in downward facing dog. As you step your right foot forward, begin to bend your knee and bring your right foot over towards the left side of your mat. Keep a slight bend in your right knee and let your shin lower towards the mat. Slide your opposite leg (left) back, lowering your hips towards the floor to feel a stretch in your right glute and left hip flexors. Puff your chest up and gradually start to walk yourself forward to lower your torso on top of your feet. Fold forward if it feels comfortable for an even deeper stretch. Hold 10 breaths as tolerated and repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Releases tension and tightness in the hips, less intense alternative to traditional pigeon pose. Stretches your glutes and hamstrings, while keeping your back flat and safe.
Instructions: Lay on your back with your knees bent with legs hip width apart and feet flat on the floor. Cross your left leg over your right, to position your left ankle on your right thigh. Grasp your right thigh with both hands, by reaching your left arm through the space between your thighs and reaching your right arm around the outside of your thigh. Clasp your hands together just below your right knee and gently pull your leg toward your chest. Keep your neck and back flat on the ground at all times. If you find your head lifting off your mat, try using a pillow or yoga block behind your head to assist. Hold for 10 breaths as tolerated and repeat on your other leg.
Reclining Cow Face
Benefits: Helps to increase range of motion in your hips by loosening tight glutes and hamstrings; keeps your back safe because your back remains flat and supported on the ground.
Instructions: Lay on your back and cross your knees, sending your feet out to your sides. Hold onto your left foot with your right hand and your right foot with your left hand. If you aren’t quite as flexible, or if more comfortable, hold your shins. Pull your heels in towards your body, then out to your sides and slightly upwards. Hold for 10 breaths, then switch your legs and hands to the reverse leg position and repeat.
Reclining Hand to Big Toe
Benefits: Stretches hamstrings, while keeping your back flat.
Instructions: Lay flat on your back with both legs extended on the floor. Bend one knee to lift your foot up off the ground and loop a stretching strap / belt / towel around the arch of that foot. Hold both ends of the strap with the same side hand (i.e. if you are stretching your right leg, hold the stretching strap with your right hand). Slowly try to straighten your knee as you extend your foot upwards towards the sky. As your hamstring loosens, try to gently gently pull your foot farther to feel a deeper stretch – but do not strain! You should feel a gentle stretch (but not pain!) down the back of your thigh. Hold for 10 breaths as tolerated and repeat on the other leg.
Cool Down Poses:
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Benefits: Great cool down and calming position; stretches your legs, hips, thighs, knees, ankles. Also relieves neck and back tension. Great for stress relief and fatigue!
Instructions: Sit on your shins with your knees spread out wide. Stretch your arms out in front of you and lower your chest to your mat while you sit your hips back onto your heels. Walk your hands over from side to side for an active version of the pose. Your elbows should be lifted above your mat. You should feel a stretch along the sides of your body as you walk your arms from side to side.
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
Benefits: Is a comfortable seated position for a gentle stretch of your adductors. This pose opens your hips and strengthens your core and spine, promoting grounding and inner calmness. This pose is similar to what some called “Easy Pose,” which is a great base for meditation!
Instructions: In a seated position, draw the soles of your feet together. Sit up tall and grab onto your ankles/ feet. Slowly move your chest forward. Keep your core tight and back straight for as long as you can before folding over onto your feet for a deeper stretch. Hold for a minimum of 10 breaths.
Other Healthy Running Tips:
- Replace running shoes as soon as they wear down to prevent injuries
- Drink plenty of water, especially during hot summer days
- Begin your run with a dynamic warmup (e.g. walking lunges and butt kicks)
- Don’t forget to stretch out after your run!
- Seek immediate treatment as soon as possible after an injury, even if it you think it’s “just a small tweak” – the sooner you receive treatment, the faster your body heals properly, and the quicker your return to running!
Author: Claire Ford, BA (Hons)
Clinical Receptionist | Social Media Rep | Toronto Health & Fitness Advocate