Yoga for Runners.

The other day, my blog buddy Michael at Running Around the Bend wrote a great post about running and fitness bloggers and how a lot of the time these people are not experts on their subject matter. So I’m going to start this post today by saying that you should take everything I say with a grain of salt (hardy har). I am not yet certified to teach yoga, but I have learned enough in the years I’ve spent in the studio to know what works for me. As with any suggestion of exercise, however, if you have not familiar with yoga or you are physically limited in some way, please talk it out with your physician or check out a class before trying any of this at home. One of the best parts about a studio class is having an instructor there to adjust you as needed and I don’t want you to hurt yourself.

I received a great comment from Kristy at Mommy’s Running Around asking me if I had any suggestions of yoga poses for runners. Boy do I ever! I have actually never taken a class that is specifically geared towards the runner – though I know they do exist – but the fact is that I was a yogini LONG before I was a runner. I’ve attempted probably every single yoga pose in existence over the past 6 years, so when I started to run I did a lot of research to see which of them would work the best with my new-found sport. As a result, I have a little arsenal of yoga postures that like I do at home on nights when I can’t make it to the studio and would rather watch bad reality TV than a Yoga Journal video on YouTube. Here are some of them…

I like to start off with a few rounds of Sun Salutation A to get everything activated.

Sun A

That’s not me, but you get the idea. One thing that is important to always remember in yoga is to not worry about what anyone else is doing and focus on yourself. That back bend she is doing in this sequence? Your spine might not be that flexible and that’s fine (and perfectly normal). Don’t tweak your back just because you think what she is doing is right. The “right” way is the “safe” way.

1. Downward Dog

If you start off with the sequence above, you will work a few of these in right off the bat. As runners, one thing we deal with is the shortening of our muscles while our feet pound the hard pavement/treadmill/trail/whatever other surface you find yourself on. Down dog is great for lengthening these muscles, especially if you gently pedal from one foot to the other when you are in the pose.

2. Plank to Chaturanga {Yoga Pushup}

Also found in Sun A, I have found that this flow of movement has been instrumental in strengthening my core. A strong core (and strong upper body in general) is an often overlooked, but very important thing for a runner to have.

3. Lunge/Lizard Pose

The low lunge is a great muscle stretcher and hip opener and if you want to take it an extra step, you can drop to your elbows on the inside of that lunging knee. This pose can be done with the extended leg knee up or down, but if you go knee-down make sure to try and keep the weight just above your kneecap.

4. Wide Leg Forward Bend

3WideLegStandingForwardBend

Fantastic stretch for the legs and lower back, plus by keeping your arms and core engaged, they get a bit of a workout too.

5. Tree

Good balance is important for runners. I practice a lot of different balancing postures at home, but for the sake of this post, my best suggestion is Tree pose. There are tons of variations so it’s easy to find one that will work for your body.

Yoga_TreePose_300x350

My favorite way to modify my tree is to bring my clasped hands overhead with palms up, and add in a back bend for an additional stretch. A safety note that is SO important to keep in mind when practicing Tree: Your foot belongs above or below the knee. Not directly on the joint. Your knees don’t bend that way, y’all!

Seriously though I see so many pictures online of people doing this and I always wish I could correct them.

6. Bound Angle {Cobbler’s Pose} 

One of my favorite post-run hip openers. For an extra awesome stretch, you can bend forward at the waist and bring your forehead toward your toes.

boundanglepose

I see London. I see France. Sorry. I’m 5.

7. Pigeon {My Favorite!}

No other pose gets into my hips quite like Pigeon can, plus – like Tree – it has loads of variations so there’s a little something for every skill level.

To get into Pigeon, you will want to start in a low lunge. Keeping your hips square, move your heel over to your opposite wrist and drop your knee. Extend the back leg straight and lay the top of the foot flat on the floor. If your hips are popping up a lot, using a block is always an option. The most important thing is finding a place where you can stay for a little while, but still feel the pose working. For some people this means keeping your shin parallel with the top of your mat. For others it means angling the leg. Again, there is no right answer.

The restorative version (that I like best after running) is folding forward over the front leg and coming to the elbows or forehead and extending the arms.

shutterstock_pigeon

There are some more active versions as well though such as reaching back for the extended leg and pulling your foot toward your glute – fantastic stretch for your quad! – or a more advanced option is adding in a back bend.

IMG_9252_rotated

8. Seated Spinal Twist

spinal twist

We run miles focused on good posture and holding ourselves nice and straight. A gentle twist can really help wring out the spine and loosen up the neck. I also really like to do a reclined twist right before my Savasana where I extend my arms into a ‘T’ shape, cross one leg over the other, drop my knees to one side and look out over the opposite arm.

9. Legs Up the Wall

It’s exactly what it sounds like.

legs-up-the-wall-pose

I often do this in place of a traditional Savasana. As you can see from the photo, you can prop your lower back or just get your buns as close to the wall as is comfortable and extend your legs up. This pose is thought to speed recovery for your legs by improving your circulation and adding another great stretch for your hamstrings. It’s super relaxing too. I could take a nap like this.

I could take a nap right now.

Anyway, thank you so much to Kristy for the great post suggestion! I hope I helped! No two yoga practices are exactly the same, so if you would like to try any of these postures, make sure that you go about it mindfully and at your own pace. As I said, I am not a fitness professional; just a lady who does a whole lot of yoga and knows what works for her.

I would love to hear other pose suggestions from running  yogis/yoginis! What’s your favorite?

~ Salt

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21 thoughts on “Yoga for Runners.

  1. Nikki says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ve been looking for something like this. No yogini here but I do like me a good pigeon pose or legs up the wall session. I do a lot of little exercises at night before bed and I’d love to work some yoga in. Thanks so much for sharing! (found you through the Sweat Pink link love btw!)

  2. txa1265 says:

    Awesome post – I have never done yoga but I know a new studio opened up and my wife wants to try to go there, maybe I will join her at some point! I have excellent balance but terrible flexibility 🙂

    • runsaltrun says:

      You should join her! I really think that yoga goes so well with running. Plus you would just be awesome for going with her. I was able to convince my husband to come to a class with me once, but it was just not his thing.

  3. Change of Pace says:

    Love this post! I’m very much a beginner yogi, and I do it more for the excellent stretch than for a workout that challenging classes offer!
    I actually just wrote a post yesterday with my five favourite poses to go up while I’m away! Pigeon will always be one of my favourites- it’s soooo good on the piriformis!

    • runsaltrun says:

      Oh awesome! I’m excited to read your post! Two of the classes I take are definitely good for cardio too as well as stretching, but I love the easy, restorative stretching postures for when I’m home and relaxing. I try to practice a little in some form almost every day.

    • runsaltrun says:

      It’s definitely a big time dedication and that’s part of the reason I haven’t made it to YTT yet. With an almost-2 year old and a husband that works a LOT I don’t really have the time to get in for the 200 hour course (forget the 500 hour one). I hope we both get to do it sooner than later!

  4. piratebobcat says:

    I love yoga and think it’s so important to runners. One thing I’ve learned recently though (and I think it’s true) is that that version of pigeon is actually not the full version – my instructor has us do it sometimes while sitting and stacking out knees and shins and ankles on top of eachother. If that makes sense.

  5. mommysrunningaround says:

    Wonderful! Thank you so much. I had read an article months back about ROM and flexibility and speed. I need to find it, and I will share. Basically, they were able to improve 5k and 10k times in very short amounts of time. It made so much sense to me, that I have really started focussing on stretching. I have seen improvements in my own running. I was thinking that Yoga would be amazing for this, and then I stumbled on your blog, and you are fast for only running a couple of years!!!! Of course you are with that Yoga background!

  6. Anita says:

    My RMT mentioned that my hamstring issue was due to tight hips and gave me some yoga poses/stretched to do after running. #6, #7 and #8 are my all-time favorites and since I started incorporating these poses into my stretching after a run I haven’t had any issues with my hamstring. Another awesome post!

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