Yoga and running are great teammates. Whether you’re hitting the mat before a run or looking for a way to unwind afterwards, there are many yoga poses that are ideal for runners.
If you’re chasing your PB then mastering the perfect yoga routine can really give you the edge. Take a look below at the 10 best yoga poses for runners:
1. Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
If you want a deep stretch ahead of a big run then it’s time to try the Seated Forward Bend Pose.
This asana might look simple however it’s highly effective as you stretch out the whole back of your body.
Seated Forward Bend Pose really gets to work on tight hamstrings, which runners know is one of the most important muscle groups to focus on.
The pose offers a stretch from your calves to your spine and everything in between!
As well as it being great yoga for runners, Paschimottanasana is also thought to have amazing mood boosting benefits, so a good asana if you’re looking for poses to help with your overall sense of wellbeing.
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2. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Another of the great yoga stretches for runners, targeting those tight hamstrings, is Downward Facing Dog.
World-renowned yoga instructor Travis Eliot highlights the benefits of the pose in his book A Journey into Yin Yoga.
He describes how Downward Dog:
Stretches the calf muscles, strengthens the arms and shoulders, and elongates the torso and spine”, all key areas for runners.
For tight hamstrings in particular he suggests spreading your feet the full width of the mat, as it makes the pose even more powerful.
Make Downward Dog part of your after-run yoga routine to loosen up and relax your body.
3. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Running can put real pressure on your hips, that over time can take its toll on your performance.
Luckily Bridge Pose is here to help you build strength in your hip muscles.
Certified Yoga Therapist Kim McNeil recommends the pose, describing that:
With our urban lifestyle where we’re often chained to a desk all day, and when we take on sports like running and cycling with a vengeance, the hip and spinal extension in Bridge Pose is a must for most.
We know how important the gluteal muscles are for runners too and this pose can really help to target that posterior chain.
4. Tree Pose (Vriksasana)
Abdominal muscles are another of the most important muscle groups required for running.
Tree Pose works on your torso to build strength, while also focusing on your balance.
A popular balancing pose, Tree Pose… stretches the thighs, torso, and shoulders. It builds strength in the ankles and calves, and helps to remedy flat feet
Running is a one legged sport. Unless we run or do yoga, we’re not standing on one leg for any length of time as an adult. Which is a shame, because there is no better way to build functional balance skills.
Watch below for guidance on how to perform Vriksasana effectively:
5. Low Lunge Pose (Anjaneyasana)
Similarly to the Bridge Pose, Low Lunge Pose is a great one for working on those all-important glutes.
Runner’s lunge yoga is a powerful tool for developing stamina and really building up endurance in your thighs when you’re training for a long distance run.
If you spend hours and hours each day at a desk, then the Low Lunge Pose can help to loosen up your muscles for your evening run.
The pose really works to give you a full range of motion in your lower body.
6. Sleeping Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
Sleeping Pigeon Pose is a really powerful hip opener, so another wonderful asana if you’re suffering from tight hips.
This restorative pose can help to unwind the tight muscles while also helping to build strength.
Stretch your psoas muscle, the most important muscle in your hip flexors muscle group, while practicing this pose.
Experienced yoga teacher Jason Crandell warns of how important it is to master the pose properly to enjoy the full benefits.
If practiced incorrectly he warns that you can lose the stretch, making the pose ineffective.
7. Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
Every hardcore runner knows that focussing on your upper body is just as important as your legs when it comes to preparing for a run.
So why not add Upward Facing Dog to your yoga workout?
Sage Rountree in her book The Runner’s Guide to Yoga: A Practical Approach to Building Strength and Flexibility for Better Running highlights the many benefits of practicing ‘up dog’.
As well as offering stretches for the hip flexors, she also describes how the Upward Dog Pose can loosen a tight chest as you stretch out the upper body and shoulders.
If you’re looking for the perfect yoga sequence for runners, she suggests transitioning from the Cobra Pose, or moving between Upward and Downward Dog postures.
8. Scissor Down Belly Twist
Iliotibial Band (IT Band) Syndrome can plague many runners.
Renowned running coach Jeff Galloway says that it’s one of the most common running injuries that he encounters.
He has seen how much it can limit runners and how difficult it can be to treat.
Scissor Down Belly Twist is a great asana for any IT band issues that you might be experiencing.
Acclaimed yogi Gail Boorstein Grossman demonstrates the pose in her book Restorative Yoga for Life: A Relaxing Way to De-stress, Re-energize, and Find Balance.
She goes on to explain that:
Everyone can do this pose to some degree, but it is especially good for runners and cyclers, as it helps to open up the iliotibial band, the ligament that often becomes aggravated during running and cycling.
Grossman says that closed twists such as this one are great as they put real pressure on the abdominal muscles that we know are important for runners.
She recommends staying in the pose for a minimum of three minutes to enjoy the full benefits.
9. Reclining Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
If you’re preparing for a marathon then you want your body to be in optimum condition.
So it’s essential that as well as training you take the time to rest.
Reclining Spinal Twist is ideal as it has so many restorative benefits.
Running can create tension in your lower back which can inhibit your performance and cause you pain and discomfort.
Running publication Canadian Running sees the benefits of the Reclining Spinal Twist as a way to relieve that tension, while also stretching the hips and rotator muscles allowing your body to rest and restore.
See below a step by step guide to mastering the Reclining Spinal Twist:
10. Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
We know that Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose can relax and rejuvenate your mind and body, particularly if you’re looking for yoga poses to help improve your sleep.
However serious runners also rave about the benefits of the pose, describing how it not only loosens up their hamstrings but also helps to relieve tension in their back and neck.
In the aforementioned book The Runner’s Guide to Yoga: A Practical Approach to Building Strength and Flexibility for Better Running, Sage Rountree highlights how great the pose is for recovery.
Rountree adds that you should stay in the pose for at least 10 minutes, up to twenty minutes if you can manage it.
She recommends trying to relax entirely while practicing the pose to feel the full benefits, using only as much energy as you need to hold your legs up the wall.
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Don’t forget to pin these 10 top yoga poses for runners for later!