Runners, Use These 7 Yoga Poses to Help Improve Your Running Ability

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Nothing beats a Sunday morning run through the park, but as any runner will tell you – those runs can also result in aches and pains. Thankfully, yoga for runners can help.

Balancing the benefits of running with practicing yoga, can help to protect your joints, while improving flexibility and strength. Many runners now practice yoga to increase their ability to run further, without injury.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to yoga poses (asana) that you can incorporate into your warm-up or cool down to stay fit and healthy during your runs.

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The Connection Between Yoga and Running and Why Yoga for Runners Can Be Helpful

Surprisingly, yoga is a great practice for runners. Even though they are two different exercises, a yoga practice holds similarities that benefit running.

For example, it is common for runners to experience meditation, and breathwork (pranayama) during their runs. By focusing on the breath during a run, you fall into a meditative state with the movement of the body and the rhythm of the breath working as one.
 

 
 
This can lead to heightened clarity and decreased mental resistance, which increases stamina during your run. Mental resilience is needed to run for long durations, and quite often the mind gives up before the body is tired.

Engaging in a regular practice of yoga can develop your ability to focus, which results in a higher capacity to run for longer durations. Breathwork is a common feature of many yoga classes and highly beneficial to the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

Developing your ability to deepen and control your breath increases your efficiency for deeper inhales and large exhales to clear the lungs of CO2 while running.
 
 

How Exactly Is Yoga for Runners Beneficial?

It’s common for runners to experience painful ankle or knee joints due to high impact, or tight quadricep muscles (which can lead to postural misalignment in the hips), and back pain.

You may be all too familiar with the aches and pains that can arise from running but don’t worry – this is where your regular practice of yoga comes in!

The benefits of combining yoga and running are many:

  • Yoga develops your ability to use your breath for longer runs
  • Stretching and maintaining flexibility counterbalances the muscle strengthening of running
  • Practicing meditation increases your mental stamina and ability to focus
  • Yoga helps you to maintain strong postural alignment
  • Yoga poses focus on holistic balance – strengthening the muscles around the joints to help protect your joints from impact injury
  • Twists and spinal mobilization in yoga poses help to strengthen the spine and encourage good alignment
  • Yoga help to improve cardiovascular endurance

 
 

Try These 7 Yoga for Runners Poses to Improve Your Running Abilities:

 

1. Cat/Cow (Marjariasana/Bitilasana)

Cat/Cow is good to get movement into your vertebrae. These poses can release tension from the back, while also strengthening mobility and spinal alignment.

Counter the build-up of tension during high-impact running with a slow Cat/Cow flow.

Let’s try it:

  • Come to a tabletop position on your yoga mat with your wrists under your shoulders, and your knees under your hip bones
  • Inhale, drop your belly, arch your back, and look toward the ceiling while drawing your shoulder blades together
  • Exhale, round into your back, tuck your tailbone, and look toward your belly button
  • Focus on lengthening through your spine, and combine your breath with the movement
  • Repeat the flow for as long as feels good

 
Variations: If you experience pressure on your knees, you can fold the mat over so it’s twice as thick or lay a folded blanket under your knees.
 
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2. Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana)

lizard

Lizard Pose is such a good yoga for runners pose because it helps to balance the strengthening of the quadriceps with flexibility.

Utthan Pristhasana stretches the quadriceps, hip flexors, and hamstring muscles, which helps you to maintain a healthy range of motion and mobility. This is a great pose for tight hips!

Let’s try it:

  • Start in Downward Facing Dog (Adho Muhka Svanasana)
  • Exhale and bring your left foot to the front of your yoga mat, and inhale
  • Exhale and bring your elbows down to the mat with your palms facing downward, and your fingers spread wide
  • Roughly align your left heel with your left elbow
  • Keep your left knee stacked over your left ankle
  • Keep your right knee off the floor, while keeping your neck, back, and right leg in one straight line
  • Inhale and lengthen through your upper body, and exhale to release any tension
  • Hold for a few deep breaths before switching sides

 
Variations: Drop your right knee into the mat for stability in the static stretch.
 

3. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

childs

Although it’s a Restorative Yoga pose – you’ll likely be surprised by how much Child’s Pose helps your running ability!

Balasana helps keep your feet and ankles supple, and stretches your shins, glutes, and lower back.

Let’s try it:

  • Come into a tabletop position on your yoga mat, but keep your knees and feet together
  • Exhale and bring your hips back until you are resting your glutes on your heels
  • Keep your palms on the mat and reach your arms out as far as you can
  • Align your arms to be parallel with your spine
  • Close your eyes, and lengthen through your upper body by walking your hands forward, but keep your hips grounded
  • Draw your awareness inward, and focus on slow, steady breathing

 
Variations: Try opening your knees so your torso falls in between your inner thighs if you feel compression in your hips.
 

4. Frog Pose (Supta Mandukasana)

frog

Frog Pose is the ideal yoga for runners pose because it is so great for lengthening the quadricep muscles, and keeping them supple. It stretches out the shins and improves flexibility in the feet and ankles.

Let’s try it:

  • Kneel on the mat on all fours, with your knees slightly wide apart
  • Exhale and bring your forearms down toward the mat, and inhale
  • Contract your core muscles, and press away from the mat with your forearms as you start to slide your knees away from midline into a straddle
  • Keep your ankles straight behind your knees
  • Close your eyes and relax into the posture, allowing your breath to be calm and steady

  

5. Reclining Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)

reclined spinal twist

Reclining Spinal Twist is a wonderful yoga pose for mobility in the spine, which is highly beneficial for runners.

Supta Matsyendrasana helps to stretch your back, hips, and glutes. This asana not only works on flexibility but also develops core strength which is needed for running.

Let’s try it:

  • Lay on your back, with your arms in a T-shaped position
  • Exhale and bring your right knee into your chest and over your left leg
  • Rest your right knee on the ground on the outside of your left leg
  • Keep both shoulders grounded into the mat, and look over to your right hand
  • Inhale and lengthen through your spine and your left leg
  • Release any tension on your exhale
  • Close your eyes, relax into the posture, and allow gravity to pull you closer toward the ground
  • Hold for a few deep breaths before repeating on the opposite side

 
Variations: Use a bolster to prop up your right knee if needed, so that you can safely relax in the static stretch. You may also find more comfort in holding your right knee down with your left hand.
 

6. Sun Salutation Series A (Surya Namaskar A)

Sun Salutations are classically performed at sunrise and sunset and are really the perfect yoga for runners sequence.

You can use Sun Salutations as a warm-up or cool down as they gently stretch, strengthen, and increase your entire body’s flexibility.

Sun Salutations are a sequence of postures combined into a “vinyasa” – which means that they are linked together in a dance with the breath. This well-rounded sequence includes forward folds, backbends, and core work.

Let’s try it:

  • Stand on the mat with your feet together, and your arms relaxed on either side of your body
  • Inhale and lift your arms on either side of your body toward the ceiling until your palms are parallel and facing each othermountain
  • Exhale and fold forward as far as is comfortable, and microbend your knees
  • Inhale and lift your spine halfway up, looking straight forward

half lift

  • Hold your breath, bend your knees and plant your palms fully into the yoga mat. Jump your feet back, and keep your neck, spine, and legs in one line with your wrists under your shoulders

plank

  • Exhale, bend your elbows and lower your body in one straight line into a Low Plank (Chaturanga Dandasana)

chaturanga

  • Inhale, push into your hands, lift upward through your chest, and draw your shoulder blades together while slightly lowering your hips

updog

  • Exhale and lift your hips toward the ceiling into Downward Facing Dog

downdog

  • Stay here for five long breaths
  • Inhale and engage your shoulders to prepare to float forward into a Standing Forward Fold
  • Continuing the inhale, lift back up into a Half Lift and look forward
  • Exhale, fold from your hips, and relax into a Standing Forward Fold
  • Inhale and rise back up into a standing position as you lift your arms on either side of your body until your palms are facing each other and parallel overhead
  • Exhale and relax your arms by bringing them back down by either side of your body

 
Variations: It takes patience and practice to nail this sequence, and the recommendation is to start with variations and build up as your practice develops to avoid injury.

It takes time to build the strength for the transitioning float back and forward. Build up strength gradually by replacing the float with simply stepping back and forward.

If the transition into Chaturanga feels too challenging or compromises your posture – then drop your knees to the yoga mat first. Once the knees are grounded, lower from your head to your knees in one line. This helps to gain upper body strength.

You may also benefit from replacing Upward Facing Dog with Cobra Pose.
 
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7. Half Splits (Ardha Hanumanasana)

half splits

Half Splits is an excellent yoga for runners pose that is perfect for stretching out the calves, hamstrings, and Achilles tendon. Ardha Hanumanasana helps runners by improving core stability, and back strength. This asana is great for tight hamstrings!

Let’s try it:

  • Kneel on the mat with your knees hip-distance apart
  • Inhale and stretch your left leg out in front. Rest your foot on the heel with your toes pointing upward
  • Exhale and fold forward from your hips, keeping your spine long. Rest your hands into the yoga mat to support you, but keep your core engaged
  • Try to keep your hips in line with your right knee, and your back straight
  • Close your eyes, and inhale to lengthen through your spine, and exhale to deepen the stretch
  • Hold for a few deep breaths and then switch sides

 
Variations: Use a yoga block for your hands if it’s uncomfortable to place them down on the mat.
 
 

Yoga for Runners: The Takeaway

If you want to maximize the benefits of yoga exercises to improve your running ability, build a daily practice! Research shows that the most beneficial way to practice yoga is daily.

So try and incorporate yoga into your daily routine. A few rounds of Sun Salutations in the morning is going to considerably benefit not just your running ability but your overall physical, mental, and emotional health.

It may even help with turning you into the next track star!

 

Take this yoga class designed specifically for runners

Yoga for Runners
With Louise Boyd
22-minutes Class | All Levels
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Comments

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Sam is a functional movement coach, ex-collegiate rower, and contributor to Start Rowing, with over 10 years of experience in the industry. She has a passion for health and exercise and loves being able to help others move more freely.

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