Whether you are new to running or have decades under your belt, there’s no denying that a strong core, good posture and a healthy respiratory system will help you reach your potential and minimize the risk of an injury. It’s also no secret that running can cause soreness and stiffness, especially around the hips and legs. That’s where yoga can help you increase your performance, and reduce your risk of injury. Check out these yoga poses that stretch and help relieve muscle soreness and stiffness after running, as well as increasing core strength and improving posture…
How Can Yoga Help Runners?
There is actually no scientific evidence that stretching before a run can minimize your risk of an injury, and if you are cold and force yourself into stretching poses, you can actually do more harm than good. Instead, you should warm your muscles up, getting oxygen to start moving more fluidly around the body, by walking before your run. And the stretching should come afterwards, when your muscles are already warm and full of oxygen. As well as helping you recover after running, yoga also increases flexibility, improves joint and muscle health, eases aches and pains, improves posture, focus and respiratory function, and increases strength.
Yoga Poses For Runners
Just about any yoga class will help you stay healthy, strong and limber for running, but these poses work particularly well after a run, when you are warmed up and ready to stretch!
Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
This can be done standing up or seated. If you are standing, start in mountain pose with your big toes touching and about an inch between your heels. On an inhale, lift your arms up over your head, opening your chest and looking up. Make sure your knees are lifted and your core is engaged. Release your shoulder blades down your back. On an exhale, fold forward from the waist, leading with the heart, and keeping your back straight. Keep a bend in your knees if your legs are tight, and if you are comfortable enough to straighten them, make sure you still have a micro-bend in them (don’t lock the knee joints). Allow your spine and neck to lengthen, and release your head towards the floor. Your hands can rest either on the ground, either side of your feet or on your shins, or you can hug your legs or take hold of your elbows or behind your ankles. Relax and feel the release along the spine and the stretch along the back of your legs for at least five breaths.
If you are practicing a seated forward bend, start in staff pose, with your torso and back straight and your legs out straight in front. Point your toes to the sky and lengthen the backs of your legs. Inhale and open your chest looking up and lean forward on an exhale, leading with your heart. Slide your hands down your legs and either hold the bottoms of your feet or rest your hands on your shins as you release your head, lengthening your spine and neck. If you have a yoga strap, you can practice this pose with the strap around your feet and walk your hands down the strap on an exhale. Hold here for at least five breaths.
This is a fantastic pose for runners for a number of reasons. To begin with, it’s great for stretching your psoas, thighs and core, as well as practicing balance and strength. Start in uttanasana (forward bend) and bend your knees, placing your hands down on the mat or ground on either side of your feet. Step one leg back as far as you can, placing the ball of your foot down with your heel raised. Keep your front foot on the ground and look forward. Keep your front knee bent and, on an inhale, lift your arms up overhead. Make sure your front knee is directly over your ankle (not drifting to either side), and you can see your toes in front. Make sure your back leg is straight and sink your pelvis forward and down to feel the stretch around your back thigh. Hold for at least five breaths and repeat with the other leg.
From crescent lunge, place your back heel on the ground, with your toes pointing slightly forward. Your front heel should line up with the middle of your back foot. Turn your hips so that you are facing sideways and lift your arms out, one pointing forward and one pointing backwards, keeping your arms strong, but relaxing your shoulders away from your ears and letting your shoulder blades relax down your back. Turn your gaze over your front middle finger. Make sure you still have a good bend in your front leg, and your knee is directly over your ankle. Your back leg should be straight and your shoulders and hips should be in a straight line with your legs as if you were in between a narrow space between two walls. Engage your thighs as if you were pulling your heels towards each other. Engage your core and very slightly turn your tailbone towards the ground to make sure you are not arching and collapsing into your lower back. Hold for five to 10 breaths. Don’t repeat on the other side until you’ve practiced reverse warrior…
From warrior two, turn your front palm towards the sky and place your back palm on your back thigh. On an inhale, lift your front arm up to the sky, and on an exhale, bend from your side towards the back of the room, sliding your hand down your leg. Turn your gaze to the sky and take at least five breaths. This is a great pose to stretch the side of your body. Once you’ve finished on one side, move into warrior two and then reverse warrior on the other side.
Extended Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
Triangle is a great balancing pose that stretches the legs, side of the body and is actually very relaxing and therapeutic at the same time. It specifically targets the thighs, knees and ankles, stretching and strengthening them, as well as stretching and releasing the hips, groins, hamstrings, calf muscles, shoulders, chest and spine. It improves digestion, relieves stress and releasing tightness in the body after running.
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