Yoga is a brilliant practice for runners to engage in and can be used as a cross-training activity on no-run days. It can help increase strength, improve flexibility, improve your breathing and help you recover after a run.
When runners do yoga regularly they tend to find that it stops them becoming sore and tight after runs because it helps stretch and loosen muscles, ensuring that joints stay healthy and don’t experience as much tightness. This means that yoga can also help to improve your running as your recovery is quicker and improved strength and flexibility can help you run stronger and faster!
In this article we’ve detailed 8 yoga stretches that are great for runners and are a great starting point if you’re looking to incorporate yoga into your exercise and stretching routine.
The butterfly stretch is great for opening your groin, hips and stretching your inner thighs. It also allows you to stretch out your back.
Start by sitting tall on your mat and place the soles of your feet together. Lock your fingers together and place them around your toes. Staying tall, roll your shoulders back and look forward past the end of your nose. Then slowly begin to lean forward until you feel a stretch. Breathe in as you stretch up and feel your spine growing longer, and then as you breathe out allow your body to sink lower, taking your chest towards the floor.
This is a really effective pose for stretching the piriformis, which is a small, hard-to-stretch muscle deep in your glutes. It also works your hips and IT band. The piriformis tends to become tight in runners and is often missed in standard stretches, so this is a great way to make sure you don’t miss it.
From a seated position, bring your left foot back towards your right hip; place your right knee on top of your left, with your right foot by your left hip. Grab your feet with your hands, taking your left foot in your right hand and your right foot in left and lean forward, staring past the end of your nose. If you want a deeper stretch, flex your feet. Alternatively you can place your hands on the floor in front of you and lean forward to intensify the stretch. Once complete then switch legs and repeat with the left knee on top this time.
This pose is great for stretching and strengthening the legs and particularly focuses on the hamstrings.
To start, step your left foot back wide and your left toes will turn in at a 45 degree angle. Your right foot should face forward. Breathe in, stand tall and then lean out over the front foot. Drop your hands to your shin and drop your forehead so it’s facing your leg. With every inhale, feel your spine growing longer and with every exhale allow your body to sink lower. As you come up breathe in and roll up slowly, pressing into your front foot for support. Change sides and repeat again.
This is a great stretch for the outside of the hips and the inner thighs.
Lie on your back and bring your knees in toward your chest at a 90-degree angle. Place your right ankle on your left thigh, interlock your fingers and place them behind your left thigh and pull your left thigh towards your chest. Hold for five breaths then repeat on the other side. If you flex your feet this will give you a deeper stretch.
This pose will open the shoulders, neck and hips and stretch your IT band.
Start by sitting tall with your legs extended in front of you. Cross your right foot over your left leg and stand it outside your left thigh. Bend your left knee, tucking your left foot by your right buttock. Place your right hand on the mat, just behind your buttock. Breathe in and lift your left arm in the air by your left ear. Breathe out and twist, bringing the left elbow to the outside the right knee, while doing this look back over the right shoulder. To release, breathe in, look forward, release your arms and uncross your legs. Once complete repeat again on the other side.
The seated forward fold allows you to stretch your spine, hamstrings and back.
Sit on your mat, with your legs out in front of you, heels slightly flexed and bellybutton pulled to the spine for support. Breathe in, sit tall and raise your arms in the air. Breathe out, lean forward and reach for your toes. Allow your arms to rest on your thighs, shins or at your ankles depending on how far you can reach. Allow your head to drop and gaze forward. Relax your upper body and if you can, straighten your legs, flex your feet, and engage your quadriceps, by lifting your kneecap to keep your knees from locking. With every breath in, feel your spine growing longer and with every breath out, allow your body to sink lower.
This is a great stretch to incorporate near the end of your routine as it stretches your hamstrings gently, improves your circulation and will gently stretch your lower back.
To start, sit next to a wall and lie onto your back, bringing your knees into your chest. Straighten your legs and place them onto the wall while shuffling your bum closer to the wall. Allow your heels to rest on the wall. Extend your arms over your head for an added stretch.
Child’s pose stretches your hips, thighs and ankles gently and is a great pose to finish with, taking a moment to relax and breathe.
For this pose kneel on the floor, knees together and sitting back on your heels. Bend your body forward so that your body moves on top of your upper thighs and towards the floor then let your forehead rest on the floor in front. Your arms can either be to the sides of your body, or if it’s more comfortable then stretched out above your head. Take as many breaths are you like in this position and relax.
Incorporating yoga into your exercise routine is a great way to improve flexibility, increase strength and avoid tightness after a run. Yoga and running are also both great for peace of mind and if you embrace both then the benefits to your overall health and wellbeing will be huge as they both give you time to clear your mind, feel motivated and challenge yourself.
As with all new exercise routines be sure and start out slowly and do what you can. Each time you practice these moves you will see improvement, but don’t push too hard, too soon or you could injure yourself. Of course if you are unsure then always seek the advice of a professional.