Marathons had always inspired me to run. And from a hobby runner today I am a proficient runner, running in every possible race held in community or marathons held in nearby cities. Running gives me some inner satisfaction and winning a race was never so important. But as a firm runner, I had to better take care of my body which supports me accomplish my passion for running. Running perquisites come with some downsides, such as decreased flexibility, sore muscles, and tight hips. Fortunately, there is an easy way to combat these negative effects of running – Yoga. And Yes!! I started practicing Yoga.
Runners should practice yoga poses as it will help them stretch out muscles, improve posture, and prevent running injuries and discomfort. It also helps counteracts the pounding, tightening, and shortening of muscles usually experienced by runners.
Here I will share with you the 9 yoga poses every runner must do as these poses target your those body parts which create problems for runners, such as the hamstrings, the IT bands (the lateral thighs), hip flexors, and shoulders. Learn and practice these yoga poses regularly to feel restored, elongated, and flexible as well as remain pain and injury-free.
- Low Lunge pose or Anjaneyaasana
The low lung is a great yoga asana to open up the hips, the lateral thighs (IT bands), hamstrings, quads, and calves. It helps promote a broader and better fluid range of motion in the lower body, to help runners stave off plantar fasciitis or knee pain.
To perform low lunge yoga, put your left foot back first and right foot forward and lunge so that your front knee is over the front ankle and the back knee is down. Then, press the left heel to straighten the back leg, and lift through the knee to engage the thigh. Move your hands from the floor to the knee and, once your feet are steady, move your hands over head. Hold this position for 5 to 10 breaths and then change legs.
This Low-Lunge yoga works for all kinds of muscle groups i.e. thighs, groin, and abs. It also improves flexibility in the split-legged position which is similar to a running stride.
- Downward-Facing Dog Pose Or Adho Mukha Svanasana
Downward-Facing Dog Pose is a powerful yoga asana that stretches the back and everything from arch till the shoulders for runners. It specifically benefits the hamstrings and calves, muscles that are crucial for running. This yoga like Low-Lunge yoga also promotes a fluid range of motion in lower body and helps avoid plantar fasciitis and other running injuries. Additionally this pose also supports building your upper body strength and mobility.
To perform with this yoga, start with your hands and knee. Your hands lined up just in front of the shoulders and knees below the hips apart. Then bring your knees back about 5 to 10 inches and turn the balls of the feet to the floor, spread your fingers wide against the mat, and lift your hips towards the ceiling to form an upside-down V pose. Ensure to keep your palms flat and fingers wide spread.
Try to extend down your heels to reach them to the mat. Even if they couldn’t touch keep trying but don’t force and eventually with time heels will touch the mat. Also make sure to stretch out calves and hamstrings by engaging your quads, strengthening your thighs and pulling your kneecaps up. Allow your head and neck to relax and let go any tension from the neck and lower back. Hold the position for 5 to 10 deep breaths and then slowly lower down to your mat.
- Upward-Facing Dog Pose or Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
Upward-Facing Dog Pose is a useful asana for runners to strengthen your wrists, arms, and spine. It also helps open up the hips flexors and stretches the entire front of your body. This yoga promotes better breathing while on the run by opening up your chest and shoulders.
This yoga is very helpful for a healthy back, particularly if you are a regular runner or if you sit excessively. In addition, this pose also improves posture, by stretching and strengthening the anterior spine and the posterior spine
To perform this yoga start by lying on your mat with face down and your legs extended long and spread hips apart. Then bend your elbows and place your hands on the mat in line with your lower ribs with fingers spread. Then keep your chin low, straighten your arms and pull your chest up toward the ceiling by putting weight on your hand. Lift your entire torso up and legs off the floor, pressing your upper side of the foot. Make sure to firmly press your feet and hands.
- Cow Face Fold Or Gomukhasana
Cow-Face Fold is extremely effective for stretching the piriformis, a small, hard-to-stretch muscle deep in your gluts. Piriformis becomes tight and is usually a troubled spot for many runners which may hamper performance and leads to pain and injuries. This yoga is also great for stretching other rare areas such as hip and IT bands. Thus pose is ideal for dealing with all types of chronic knee pain.
To perform this yoga for runners, start in a seated position, bring your right foot back by your left hip, and then take your left knee and keep it on top of your right. (If your hips are tight, your top leg or knee might stand and not lay flat—that is OK, don’t force). Next, grab your feet with your hands (left foot in right hand; right foot in left), and lean forward slightly, looking past the end of your nose. For a deeper stretch, you can flex your feet. You may also place your hands on the floor in front of you and lean forward to intensify the stretch. Hold the position for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side, with the right knee on top. Make sure both your hips stay on the ground in this pose.
- Boat Pose Or Paripurna
Boat Pose is most effective for strengthening your abdominal muscles, hip flexors and spine. You may feel this yoga like a traditional crunch, but it strengthens and targets your core muscles at a greater depth. It also protects your lower back from injury and keep spine in alignment.
To perform boat yoga, start with sitting with knees and ankles together and soles of the feet on the mat in front of you. Then bit lean back and lift the body balance on your tripod of sitting bones and tailbone. Do not over-bend and also keep your lower back straight. Engage your core muscles and pull the belly button to the spine, then gradually raise and straighten your legs and arms into a V shape position. Maintain the spine as long and straight as you can. Hold this position for 5 to 10 deep breaths and repeat three-five times.
- Squat Pose or Malasana
Squat Pose is also known as Garland Pose that stretches out everything that tightens up from running i.e. the feet, calves, inner thighs, and lower back. This yoga is perfect for opening up the hips and groin area. This yoga is a bit tough and everyone cannot perform that deep squat so easily so be careful when doing this yoga pose.
To perform Squat Pose for runners, stand with the feet apart, nearly mat’s width apart, and your arms at your sides. To start to bend the knees and get into a squat position, with your knees tracking over the toes, legs should be at a 45-degree angle from the midline. Ensure to keep the feet parallel, spine straight and shoulder relaxed. Then press your elbow down the inside of your knees and bring your palms together in prayer position. Next, move your weight slightly into your heels. If your heels are off the ground, then support them with a blanket or a folded mat.
Keep in mind that hip flexibility and mobility is important for squat, so if your heels do not reach the floor, then don’t worry. Start slowly from where you are and eventually you can perform as desired. Hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths and then slowly straighten your legs and come back to standing position.
- Half Lord of the Fishes Twist Or Ardha Matseyendrasana
Half Lord of the Fishes Twists yoga pose helps to open the shoulders, neck, chest, and hips, as well as stretches your IT band. It also helps in strengthening the muscle that supports the spine. This yoga is great for runners to strengthen and stretch the sides of the body which are usually underdeveloped by the forward-moving action of running.
To perform this yoga pose, sit tall with both of your legs extended out in front of your body. Bend your right knee into your chest, placing your right foot outside your left thigh. Keep your right hand behind you, either place your palm or tented fingers and use the left hand around your right knee for support. Eventually, open the left palm with the outer left elbow pressing the outside of the right knee. Look back over the shoulder. To release, inhale, look forward, and slowly release your arms and legs. Repeat this yoga on the other side. Allow the twist in Half Lord of the Fishes pose start in the belly and not your neck.
- Locust pose or Salabhasana
Locust yoga pose is simple and essential pose for distance runners. This yoga pose is helpful to strengthen your entire back side of the body i.e. back, hamstrings and gluteus muscle, in other words improves entire posture. It also offers some protection from lower back injuries that may start to occur in thirties. While performing this pose do not force to over squeeze your gluteus muscle but try making it tight and firm.
To perform this yoga, lay on your stomach with your hands by your sides and palm facing down. Then inhale and at the same time lift your torso, arms, and legs off the mat. Ensure to look down and forward to prevent injury in the neck. Hold this for five to 10 breaths and on exhale lower your body down. Repeat this pose for nearly three times.
- Legs-up-the-Wall Pose or Viparita Karani
Legs-up-the-Wall Pose must be your last asana as it works great to finish off your Yoga routine as well as a post-run recovery pose. In this pose, your hamstrings get gently stretched which are affected the most while running. Legs-up-the-Wall Pose allows the built-up blood in the feet and legs to re-circulate in the whole body. This is also a gentle stretch for your neck, back, and calves. It also helps calm down the mind and the nervous system.
To perform this pose, lie down on your back next to a wall and slowly bring your butt to the wall and knees into your chest. Then, straighten your legs and place them straight up on the wall while bringing your butts closer to the wall. If you feel pain in your hamstrings, then move a few inches away from the wall, or place a folded towel or blanket under your lower back for additional support.
For a more intense stretch, extend your arms overhead, and release tension from your neck, shoulders, and entire body. Close your eyes and breathe deeply, hold this position for about 5 minutes. Then bend your knees and roll your body to one side, and rest. Take a few deep breaths before getting up.
Now you are aware about the 9 yoga poses for runners so perform this sequence of yoga before or after a run to help loosen up your tight muscles and prevent injury. Always ensure to perform yoga on both the sides for better flexibility.