Running is an excellent way to stay fit and healthy, but pounding away on the pavement can take a serious toll on the body. That’s why the practice of yoga can be super beneficial to runners. It improves flexibility, eases aches and pains and stretches muscles in a way that allows them to fully recuperate after a run.
But what are the best poses for runners? You want the poses that target the areas you put under a lot of pressure. These include the lower back, hips and muscles in the legs; calves, hamstrings and quads.
Yoga is the perfect complement to running. When performed correctly it will allow you to go for even longer and even allows you to become faster! If you’re a beginner to Yoga, the following exercises are designed with the novice in mind and will directly target the areas that need it the most.
To perform the poses for runners, you will need to learn the Mountain Pose. This is the foundation of all standing poses and is what you will be starting with before moving into the others.
Mountain Pose – Tadasana
Description: Begin by standing with feet together, heels and toes touching. While maintaining a straight back, hold your arms gently to your sides and turn your palms outward. Lift your toes, spreading them out and placing them back down so you create a wide base. Sway, side to side, until you place your weight evenly on all four corners of your feet.
The muscles in your knees and thighs should be contracted, rolling inward to create a widening of the sit bones, and your abdominal muscles should be tightened. Make sure that your shoulders are parallel to your pelvis, lengthen your neck so your crown extends towards the ceiling and your shoulder blades slide down your back. Hold for 30 seconds and relax.
Benefits: The mountain pose is the foundation of all standing poses and once mastered will allow you to progress onwards. It improves your posture and firms the buttocks, thighs and abdomen.
Common postural errors: Wrong alignment or ankles banging against each other. Tips: Practice against a wall first so that you learn how to form a true, straight line. If your ankles are hitting against one another, widen your feet slightly and find your centre of balance again.
5 Yoga Poses for Runners
Triangle Pose – Trikonasana
Why it’s good for runners: Not only does it stretch the spine, back, shoulders, ankles, hips, groin, hamstrings and calves, it also alleviate backaches, which can be a common complaint among runners.
Description: From the Mountain pose, move your feet until they are roughly three feet apart, with your pelvis, chest and head aligned. Inhale and raise both arms straight out to the side, until they’re parallel with the floor, palms facing down. Exhale, and keeping your legs straight, picot on your heels to turn your right foot all the way to the right and keeping your heels in line with each other.
Lower your torso to the right, as far as is comfortable and keep your arms parallel to the floor. Once your torso is fully extended, drop your arm so that your right hand rests on your ankle and extend your left arm to the ceiling. Extend your arms as far as you can in opposite directions and turn your head to focus on your left thumb. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Repeat instructions with opposite leg.
Common postural errors: Twisting your hips. Tips: Keep your leading knee centred over your foot and if you feel unbalanced, you can practice with keeping your back heel against a wall.
Low Lunge Pose – Anjaneyasana
Why it’s good for runners: This pose tones hips and stretches the knee muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Description: From the Mountain pose, step your right foot forwards, aligning your right knee over your heel. Then lower your left knee to the floor, making sure you keep your right knee steady and in the same place. Slide your left foot back along the floor until you can feel a comfortable stretch in your thigh and groin, resting the top of your left foot against the floor.
Lift your torso upright while inhaling, sweeping your arms up by your sides until they point at the ceiling. Push your tailbone down toward the floor and lift your pubis up. Tilt your head and gaze upward while reaching toward the ceiling, and hold for 1 minute before moving into the plank pose.
Common postural errors: The knee leans to one side rather than being straight. Tips: If your lowered knee is uncomfortable, place a folded blanket underneath it.
Warrior Pose I – Virabhadrasana I
Why it’s good for runners: It strengthens thighs, hips, back and ankles.
Description: Starting in the Mountain Pose, bring your left foot back so that is 3.5-4 feet behind your right foot. Align your heels before turning your left foot 45 degrees, keeping your right foot facing forward. Rotate so that both hipbones are squared forward and parallel to the front of your mat. Inhale and raise your arms straight up towards the ceiling, keeping them shoulder width apart, palms facing each other.
Draw your shoulder blades down towards your tailbone. Exhale and lean forward so that your right knee is directly over your right foot, and shin perpendicular to the floor. Gaze forward and hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Move back into Mountain pose and repeat with opposite leg.
Common postural errors: Moving too far forward so your front knee is aligned with toes. Tips: Apply more pressure in your right heel to stay centred.
Standing Forward Bend – Uttanasana
Why it’s good for runners: Stretches the spine, hips, calves and hamstrings while strengthening thighs.
Description: From the Mountain Pose, exhale and bend forward from your hips, sweeping your arms to the sides, with your palms facing the floor. While lowering your torso, keep your back flat and tuck in your abdominal muscles to lengthen your spine. Keep folding your torso forwards until they are parallel to your legs (Or as close as you can get). Grasp the back of your ankles and contract your thighs to keep your knees as straight as possible.
With each exhalation, draw your sit bones upwards, elongating your spine and lengthening the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute before moving onto Standing Half Forward Bend.
Common postural errors: Rolling the spine. Tips: If you find this difficult, then bend your knees as you bring your torso forward, and then straighten on each exhale afterwards.
Garland Pose – Malasana
Why it’s good for runners: It actively stretches your ankles, lower legs and pelvic muscles.
Description: Begin in Mountain Pose and keeping your heels on the floor, extend your arms directly in front of you, bending your knees and folding your body forward and downwards by dropping your pelvis and moving your thighs slightly wider than your torso. Exhale and lean your body forward so it fits snugly between your thighs.
Press your palms together as in prayer, and place your elbows against the back of the knees. Press your knees into your elbows, inhale and hold for 30 second to 1 minute. Exhale and straighten your knees, slowly returning to the mountain pose.
Common postural errors: Leaning forward or sinking shoulders. Tips: When you Squat, if your heels come up and don’t lie flat on the floor, try placing a blanket or towel underneath and start again.