Running is a great workout. It’s a cardiovascular exercise that can be done almost anywhere; and it’s an amazing way to keep your legs strong and lean. But it does have its drawbacks. Running can create tight hamstrings and hip muscles and sore knees.
That is where yoga comes in handy.
Yoga for runners is a helpful way to loosen up those tight muscles and ligaments, while allowing the areas of the body that take a pounding to stretch and unwind.
Here is what you need to know about running and yoga:
Yoga’s mind-body practice will strongly appeal to the mind of a runner, who thrives on the meditative and solitary aspect of their running routine. Yoga can also greatly help bring balance to many of the imbalances caused by running. Most runners have developed subtle, but potentially harmful, imbalances in the way their feet hit the ground and the way they maintain their alignment throughout their stride. Yoga can restore these instabilities allowing the runner to experience a more agile and much safer workout.
And perhaps most importantly, yoga increases flexibility. While runners may have incredible endurance and powerful legs, they have terribly tight leg, hip and upper back muscles. Yoga’s ability to create more range of motion in the body makes it a wonderful compliment to running.
While all yoga postures can be beneficial to runners, these three are especially helpful:
- Downward dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana): This classic yoga asana (posture) will stretch tight hamstrings, which are a trademark of devoted runners, as well as elongate the back. Simply start on all fours and slowly lift your hips towards the ceiling as you straighten your legs. Resist the urge to bring your feet closer to your hands so that your ankles are flush to your mat. Instead, allow your heels to keep reaching down towards your mat as you ground yourself down with all four corners of your hands. Hold for at least five deep breaths.
- Bound-angle pose (Baddha Konasana): This hip opener is a formidable solution to tight and sore hip flexors, abductors and adductor muscles. Start by sitting down on your mat, bringing the soles of your feet together and with your feet as close to your body as possible. Lift and lengthen your spine as you inhale and exhale deep through your nose. Allow your groin muscles to soften and release as you hold this posture for a minimum of five breaths.
- Pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana): Another hip opener that also relaxes the mind and stretches out the lumbar spine. Start in downward dog and bend the right knee and bring it forward. Take the right knee just outside the right hand while releasing the top of the left leg to the floor. Then square your hips to the floor and bring your torso down towards your leg so that you’re doing a forward fold over your right leg. Keep your left foot pressing down onto the top of your mat as you breathe into the tightness of your hips and continue to square them off. Hold this posture for a minimum of five breaths.
If you have an existing running injury, seek out a yoga instructor who is experienced in rehabilitation or specializes in working with people who have injuries.