Yoga (or any mobility training you aren’t used to) can feel like a drag when you’re already investing so much time into running. Using “new” muscles for the first time can be painful, and doesn’t yoga take ages to get results?
Naturally, we tend to prefer exercises that we perform well at. For runners and lifters, enhancing flexibility is not always a top priority. Stretching can hurt our ego because it’s out of the norm.
But you know what hurts us more? Injury. And that’s precisely what you’re running towards when you treat stretching like an afterthought.
To spice things up a bit, we’ve compiled a list of yoga poses for runners that are easy enough to do inside your living room.
We’ll explore which muscles need some extra attention and how to give them the love that they deserve.
Runner’s Muscles (Yes They Get Tight)
These are the areas that you’ll be targeting when practicing yoga for runners. If your running regime is paired with a sedentary job, a yoga routine is essential if you’re serious about being able to move when you’re 80.
Well, they should be tight if you’re running correctly, anyway. The glutes are our largest muscle group, but arguably our laziest as well! We receive all our power from the glutes, and they can become extremely tight. After being ignored all day from sitting on a chair, running is somewhat of a shock to the system. Many of these poses are specially crafted to stretch out your glutes.
The hamstrings become incredibly tight from running. Like the glutes, they are a part of your posterior chain. They need some stretching out. Luckily, there are many yoga postures for runners that focus on stretching your entire posterior chain.
Your hip flexors connect your torso to your legs. They are notorious for tightening up in avid runners. Again, when combined with a sedentary job (where they’re in a contracted position all day long), you’re asking for trouble if proper stretching is ignored.
Many of us mindlessly stand in the classic standing quad stretch for a few seconds. But as one of our largest muscle groups, they need a lot more love than that! Within the vastus lateralis (the outside part of your quads) is your IT band. If you’re not running with proper form, it’ll cause pain in the knee. And for all runners, it’ll tighten up and must be given some mindful movement.
The gastrocnemius will become tight even if you’re not a runner. If you suffer from ugly squat syndrome, your calf muscles are likely the culprit. Runner or not, these muscles must be stretched daily. Luckily, yoga for runners gives some extra love to all of our posterior chain, including the calf family.
The Best Yoga For Runners
When you’re not bendy, this is really challenging. I get it. We all have varying levels of strength and flexibility. For runners? Yoga can be tough. But, with the right props, mindset, and commitment to the practice, it will get easier (just like your running did). Start with 30 seconds on each yoga posture and build up over time. Here are the best yoga postures for runners.
Pigeon pose is one of the best yoga postures for runners because it’s not only the king of all hip openers, but it will also give you a deep stretch through the piriformis (a muscle in your glutes).
- Place a bent leg in front of your body. Ideally, your chin bone is perpendicular to your hips.
- Place the other leg straight, directly behind you.
- Square your hips. If you had two headlights on each hip bone, you want both of them pointing straight ahead.
- For most of us, you’ll need to place a block under the glute with the bent leg.
- Lay down as far as you can, and place a bolster under your torso as needed.
- Don’t forget to breaaaaaathe!
Supine Pigeon (or eye of the needle)
If pigeon is too complicated (and trust me, I know it can be), try supine pigeon. You may hear some instructors refer to it as dead pigeon or eye of the needle. It doesn’t work as deep into the hip flexors, but it’s a great yoga pose for runners with tight glutes.
- Laying on your back, bring your bent knees to a 90-degree angle.
- Place one ankle on the opposite knee.
- In yoga, we hold onto the chin of the leg that’s parallel with your body.
- If that’s too challenging, grab behind your upper leg.
- And relax!
Hey, look! A yoga pose just for runners. Runners pose works deep into the hip flexors and quadriceps. It’s suitably named because it looks like the starting position of a track race.
- From a plank position place one foot under your shoulder
- Place both hands outside of your knee.
- Square your hips, square your shoulders.
- Straighten your back leg.
- Lift your shoulders until your torso is in a straight line with your back leg.
- Prop yourself up with blocks underneath your hands if necessary.
Low lunge is an adjustable stretch through the hip flexors. It feels nice, and it’s easy to stretch in this position while watching or listening to something else. If you have knee problems, roll a mat underneath your knee. If you’d like a deeper stretch in the quadriceps, you can use a strap to lift your back foot.
- From a plank position, bring one foot in line with the corresponding hip inside your hands.
- Place your back knee on the floor.
- Lift your torso and hands.
- Contract your glutes.
In Hatha yoga, the downward dog is the base of all inversion postures. It’s powerful yoga for runners as it stretches your entire posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, and calves), and the intensity is entirely adjustable. This move is so crucial that yoga teachers typically spend days perfecting this pose in their teacher training.