Running is one of the great loves of my life, and it has been ever since we were introduced. It’s always been there for me—on good days and bad—to make me feel stronger, happier, and more confident. It never cares if I’m grumpy or tired or want to listen to solely Nicki Minaj for five straight miles; it just cares that I’ve shown up again. Running gives me an amazing cardiovascular workout while also giving me a chance to process my thoughts and tune out the world. When I run, I feel like I’m flying—I feel free.
Most runners share some version of my obsession. Whether it’s the runner’s high after mile two (real!) or the way you feel like you can tackle anything afterwards (totally worth waking up early for), if you start running, it can be hard to stop. There’s something addictively therapeutic about lacing up your shoes, heading out the door, and hitting the trail.
What Happens To Your Body When You Run
What can be less-than-pleasant, however, are the sore muscles or injuries that can accompany frequent running. I know, I hate to burst my own self-introduced bubble, but running isn’t all roses and sunshine. Even though running is a great form of cardiovascular exercise and reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease, it’s also a high-impact exercise that lends itself to overuse injuries like shin splints or plantar fasciitis.
And while running does strengthen your joints and helps you burn calories fast, it can also technically shorten your muscles from the continuous impact of pounding the pavement if you don’t counteract it with stretching. So how do you lengthen your muscles, keep them pain-free, and prevent injuries from running? By complementing running with a consistent yoga practice.
Benefits of Yoga For Runners
It wasn’t until this year that I realized just how important cross-training is for staying injury-free while running and also staying challenged with my workouts in general. I had an a-ha moment when I realized I was dealing with frequent knee pain and poor upper body strength—because I was only running and not incorporating any stretching or upper body work into my routine.
Related: 4 Common Running Mistakes To Avoid
In addition to incorporating strength training, plyometrics, high intensity interval training, Barre, or other workouts into your week, all runners would benefit from adding a regular yoga practice as well. Why? Practicing yoga helps a runner’s body heal and recover faster from runs, in addition to improving flexibility and balance. By developing a consistent yoga practice, you can help bring your body into better alignment, stretch tight muscles, and prevent overuse injuries or muscle shortening.
Yoga Can Help Runners:
- Prevent injury
- Speed up muscle recovery
- Reduce aches and pains
- Lengthen muscles that have been tightened or shortened from impact
- Improve flexibility, balance, and range of motion
11 Essential Yoga Poses For Runners
Yoga poses that are good for runners include hamstring and calf stretches, hip openers, poses that engage the glutes, and back and chest openers. Running is a total-body activity, but it primarily puts stress on the lower body. Because of this, many yoga poses that are good for runners focus on stretching the lower body and opening and strengthening the upper body. Give these yoga poses a try after your next run and let us know how you feel afterwards!
1. Downward Dog
Ahh, downward dog. For runners, this pose can illicit an immediate feeling of relief. This is because downward dog provides a stretch that extends from your low back all the way to your hamstrings and through your feet—common areas that get tight from frequent running.
2. Upward Dog
The complement to downward dog, upward dog gives the arms, shoulders, and chest a nice opening. This is also a pose that requires some upper body stability and strength. This can provide balance to a runner’s body, which sometimes consists of a stronger lower body and not-as-strong upper body.
A whole yoga pose specifically designed for runners, this has to be one of the most restorative poses after a long run. Running too much can result in hip pain or tightness, and this pose works to relieve that built-up tension.
Relieve sore hip flexors and open up your chest and shoulders in this powerful pose that helps center and re-align your whole body.
Triangle pose helps soften and stretch multiple muscles in your legs, and also opens up your chest and spine. Runners tend to hunch their upper backs or round their shoulders, and this pose helps open up through the chest and relieve tension.
Overly tight hips get some much-needed relief with pigeon pose. Our hips are often at the center of other aches and pains; if they are out of alignment not only will our running form suffer, but we can experience back and knee pain, too.
Frequent running does quite the number on the hamstrings, but this pose is the cure. Oftentimes it’s hard to even tell how tight your hamstrings are until you do a pose that opens them up—they can get particularly compacted! If this pose is too challenging for you, it can also be performed with the help of a towel, or even lying down.
8. Dolphin Pose
Dolphin pose not only gives you a nice stretch through your low back, but it also helps stretch out sore feet. Foot pain can lead to improper pronation and form on a long run, which can in turn lead to complications like stress fractures. Side-step those issues by giving dolphin pose a try.
9. Bridge Pose
Your glutes are the largest muscle in your body—and they definitely go to work when you’re running. Give tight glutes some relief with bridge pose, which will also open up your hamstrings.
10. Camel Pose
Runners tend to adopt a hunched over posture, so heart-openers like camel pose are ideal to fix your postural alignment and improve upper body flexibility.
End your yoga practice with this popular floor pose. Stretch your hip flexors, quads, and spine in this feel-good pose that might be as relaxing as it is beneficial.