Yoga For Runners: 5 Essential Poses
While “yoga for runners” isn’t a specific style of yoga, there are certain yoga poses that are more beneficial for runners. There are also different approaches that runners can take to incorporate yoga into their running routine to benefit their overall running performance.
Learn everything you need to know about yoga for runners, how to best complement your running cycle with yoga, and what yoga poses are absolutely essential for runners.
Yoga is great for runners because it functions as an active recovery that relieves muscle soreness, tension, and tightness that builds up in the hips, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, calves, abdominals, and biceps.
While you might think barre or Pilates could offer the same benefits to runners as yoga, you’ll actually find that yoga will help to improve your flexibility more than barre or Pilates.
The types of yoga that are best for runners include Vinyasa, Hatha, Restorative, and Yin yoga. Each style of yoga will offer something slightly different to runners:
- Vinyasa: This style of yoga is best for runners who want to increase strength, stability, and range of motion. It’s fast-paced and follows a series of poses that will leave you feeling warm, balanced, and connected to your breath.
- Hatha: This practice slowly guides runners through postures with a focus on breath and control to create a balanced body and mind.
- Restorative: Restorative is a slower yoga practice that helps runners release tension in the body and the mind and experience deep relaxation. These classes often require the use of blankets, bolsters, and yoga blocks to support the body without any physical effort, allowing you to release the mind-body connection.
- Yin: Yin is another slow yoga practice, incorporating an “active” stretch component while holding poses. Props are also used to help engage with the hold. In Yin, traditional poses are held for extended periods of time (45 seconds to 2 minutes). Classes are relaxing as you let gravity do most of the work but also challenging as you focus on your breath and allow for a deeper stretch in each pose.
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There’s no golden rule for how often runners should do yoga. When it comes down to it, how often runners should do yoga is a personal choice and will vary based on training schedules. At a minimum, runners should aim to practice yoga once a week for 30-60 minutes. If training schedules and time permit, runners could aim to do yoga 2 to 3 times per week for 30 to 60 minutes a class.
For example, a weekly training plan for runners who want to incorporate yoga into their routine could look something like this:
- Monday: Run (duration and distance determined by you)
- Tuesday: Hatha yoga class (30 to 60 minutes)
- Wednesday: Run (duration and distance determined by you)
- Thursday: Vinyasa yoga class (30 to 60 minutes)
- Friday: Rest or Light Activity Day (such as walking)
- Saturday: Run (duration and distance determined by you)
- Sunday: Restorative or Yin yoga class (30 to 60 minutes)
If you’re looking to incorporate more yoga into your running routine but don’t want to commit a full day to only doing yoga, consider the following:
- Warm up: 5 or 15-minute Vinyasa Flow yoga class. This will serve as a dynamic warm-up to get your muscles warm and ready for a long run.
- Run: Go for your usual run. Whether that’s 15 minutes or 15 miles, your muscles will be happy about the quick warm up ahead of time.
- Cool down: 15 to 30-minute Yin, Restorative, or Gentle yoga class. This will serve as your static stretches as you cool down and will help alleviate any tightness that builds up during your run.
There’s also the option to include 1-2 strength training sessions during the week, as they have proven benefits for runners. In this case, we recommend switching out the Vinyasa and/or Hatha yoga class for a strength training session.
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Yoga is a great complementary activity to marathon training. The intensity of marathon training is well-balanced when cross-trained with yoga. Yoga helps marathon runners increase overall strength, better control their breathing, improve levels of calm and focus, reach runner’s high earlier on, and recover faster.
Many marathon training plans include 1-2 rest or recovery days each week, which is perfect for incorporating slow yoga. These recovery days could include a more restorative practice such as Gentle or Restorative Yoga. Aim to practice yoga for 30 to 60 minutes on your active recovery day.
Here are the most essential yoga poses for runners to help alleviate tight muscles and increase mobility. You can even combine these poses to create a simple yoga routine for yourself as you cool down after a run.
Downward dog is one of the best yoga poses for runners because it stretches tight hamstrings, glutes, and calves.
- Start in a tabletop position with your palms and knees on the floor.
- Keep your hands planted in place and straighten your arms and legs as you send your hips towards the sky, creating an upside-down ‘v’ with your body.
- If your heels can’t touch the ground, keep your knees bent slightly and gently try to touch one heel to the ground at a time, alternating between feet.
- Maintain an even amount of pressure and weight being distributed onto your hands and feet.
- Breathe deeply and hold this pose for 10-30 seconds.
A low lunge in yoga is one of the best poses for tight hips as it stretches and elongates the hip flexors and allows you to go as deep or as gentle as you’d like in this pose.
- Start in downward-facing dog.
- Bring your right leg up towards the sky behind you.
- As you breathe out, bring that leg back down and plant your right foot on the mat in between your hands.
- Drop your back knee to the ground and straighten your foot so that the top of it is on the ground and relaxed.
- Engage your core and use both hands to push your upper body upright until both legs are at a 90-degree angle (your front knee should be in line with your front ankle and not hinged forward over your big toe).
- Put your hands on your hips or gently place them on top of your thigh on your front leg.
- Keep your inner thighs engaged so your front knee doesn’t flare out to the side.
- Breathe into the stretch and hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
- Come out of the pose the same way you got into it and repeat on the other side.
Pigeon pose is another important yoga pose for runners because it opens the hips and stretches the glutes.
- Start in a tabletop position with your palms and knees on the floor.
- Bring your left leg forward and bend your knee so that your left ankle is between your right hand and your right hip and the outside of your left calf is resting perpendicularly on the ground. (If this is too difficult for your front leg, bring your left foot closer to your right hip.)
- Press into your hands for stability and strengthen your back leg (your right leg) so the top of your right foot is touching the ground.
- Press into your hands and straighten your arms (leaving a slight bend to not lock out the elbows).
- Raise your chest so your upper body is upright.
- Breathe deeply and hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side.
Reclined hero pose is an excellent yoga pose for runners to stretch out their quads. You’ll also get a bit of a hip-opening stretch with this pose.
- Start in tabletop position with your knees and feet hip-width apart.
- Send your hips backward while moving your hands behind you for support as you bring your torso upright into a seated position.
- Sink as deep into the floor as you can with your hips between your feet. (If you’re already feeling an intense stretch in your quads and knees, you can stop here and hold for 10 to 30 seconds.)
- Switch from your hands to your forearms as you lean further back to deepen the stretch. (Again, stop here and hold for 10 to 30 seconds if this is deep enough for you.)
- Sink deeper towards the ground until your shoulders and head are touching the floor. If your range of motion isn’t quite there yet or you have bad knees, consider using pillows or couch cushions placed behind you for support.
- Take long, deep breaths as you hold this pose for 10 to 30 seconds.
- Slowly bring yourself out of the pose the same way you got into it.
Child’s pose is technically a resting pose, but it shouldn’t be skipped by runners (or by any yogi, really). It stretches the quads, hips, and glutes.
- Start in tabletop position and bring your knees together.
- Send your hips backward while moving your forehead down and towards the ground between your biceps and keeping your arms forward and straight with palms planted on the ground.
- Breathe and hold for 10-30 seconds.
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Runners Welcome at MIRROR Yoga Classes
MIRROR yoga is the perfect complementary workout for any level of runner, and you don’t need to invest in a yoga studio membership to get in a good stretch. MIRROR allows you to practice all types of yoga from the comfort of your own home. From Hatha to Vinyassa and more, runners can warm up before their runs, cool down afterward, or practice yoga on their rest or active recovery days.
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