By: Erica Quam, Certified Iyengar Yoga Instructor. Erica Quam has taught yoga to athletes and active individuals for more than 11 years. Erica first began teaching to her athletes during her 15-year career as a college swim coach. She believes yoga can help prevent injuries and reduce stress, while building strength, flexibility and confidence.
These five yoga poses for runners are great for your hamstrings, your spine and your whole body. We focus on dynamic, movement-based pre run yoga poses as they properly warm your tissues. For post run yoga, you'll do static stretches and poses that will help you wind down and get re-energized for your next activity.
Pre-Run Yoga Poses for Runners
Downward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog helps you warm up your calves and whole body before you go on a run. To get into this pose, start in Child's Pose as that will help you get the right distance between your hands and your feet. Extend your arms forward with your hands shoulder width apart. Inhale, open your chest, exhale, extend the legs up, lift your hips up. Then lift your hips a little bit more.
Now you're going to start to "walk" your dog. Lift your heels all the way off the ground, extending the back of the legs, and then bend the left knee while stretching the right heel down to the floor. Lift back up, exhale, lower both heels down, stretch the back of both calves. Repeat this on the other side. Inhale, lift up. Exhale, bend the right knee, stretch the left heel down.
Go back and forth with this sequence, about five stretches per side.
Your second pose is Pigeon. This is a great warm up to open your hips and stretch your piriformis muscle, which can be tight and/or weak in runners. To get into Pigeon, start in Downward Dog. As you inhale, reach the right leg up and back, exhale, bring the right knee forward, taking the right heel out to the side. And then go back into Downward Dog pose, extend the leg back, lower the right foot down.
Repeat on the other side. Extend the left leg up and back, in, now bring the left knee forward, let the left heel come in towards midline, lower the left hip down. Exhale, reach the left leg back. Repeat for five times on each side. This should be more of a dynamic movement than static — you won’t hold each pose for every long on each side.
Post-Run Yoga Poses For Runners
Hamstrings tend to be pretty tight in runners. For this stretch we are going to use a yoga block, or you can use your hands interlaced behind your thighs. Using the block to stretch your hamstrings is really good option as it trains you to engage the quads so that you can release and really stretch your hamstrings.
Lie down, bend both knees, bring your right knee in to your chest, and then either place a block behind your thigh, or interlace your fingers behind your thigh. As you exhale, extend the leg up towards the ceiling.
Hold the pose. Keep your left knee bent. In your extended leg, press your heel and foot up towards the ceiling, and see how far you can move the thigh away so that you're broadening your hamstring. You're engaging the quad muscle to broaden the hamstring, and should feel a nice stretch, holding that for five or ten breaths.
Repeat on the other side.
Assisted Hamstring Stretch
This assisted hamstring stretch is one of my favorite stretches for runners. For this stretch you can use a yoga strap, or you can substitute a belt or towel. Start at about a leg's distance away from the wall, keeping your left leg extended, bring your right knee into the chest, and place the strap on the ball of your right foot.
Extend the right leg up, and then slide down on the belt along your foot as much as you need to until you can straighten your leg. It does not matter how far your foot goes away from your body — just focus on having a nice, straight leg. Keep your left foot pressing into the wall, and extend the right leg up. Take the strap into your right hand, rotate your thigh out, and then take the right leg out to the side, and down to the floor. Go as far as you can while keeping left hip and the left sitting bone grounded on the floor. off. Hold this pose for five breaths.
Inhale, come back into the center, and then take the strap in your left hand. Take the right leg across toward the left side, inch by inch, you can come all the way onto the left little toe side of the foot, take the leg even further over to the side. Rotate your chest to get the full twist. Press into the strap, inhale, come back up. Lower the leg down and take a little pause between sides so that you can see that one leg feels maybe longer than the other.
Repeat the same stretches on the other side.
Legs Up the Wall
Our last yoga pose for after a run is Legs Up the Wall. You can do this pose really simply without any props, but you can get increased benefits from the pose by using a bolster or a couple of blankets or towels. To get into this pose, sit sideways, with your hip in against the wall, and then rotate around so that you take your legs up the wall. Lie down. You can adjust the blankets or the bolster if you have them. Move them underneath your hips and allow your tailbone to drop down towards the floor.