After a good run there’s no better way to stretch tight muscles and prevent next-day soreness than with yoga.
This Yoga for Runners sequence stretches all of a runner’s tight spots: the hamstrings, calves, hips, ankles, and toes. It allows lactic acid buildup to release and bends the spine in ways that runners need.
The sequence takes between 10 and 15 minutes. Hold each pose for as long as you feel is right for you. Practice slow, deep abdominal breathing throughout the session.
1. Standing crescent pose (Indudalasana)
Looks can be deceiving — this simple pose can be really powerful, as it lengthens the whole side of the body. And since runners rarely stretch their spine side-to-side, this pose promotes the flexibility they’re lacking. It also gently stretches the shoulders and hips.
How-to: Stand with your feet together. Inhale and reach your arms up, gently pressing your palms together. Release your shoulders down your back. Exhale and bend to the right as you push your hips to the left. Ground your left foot. Hold here for a moment. Inhale and rise. Exhale and bend to the left as your push your hips to the right. Ground your right foot. Hold here for a moment, inhale and rise. Repeat this 2 more times.
2. Rag doll pose (Modified Uttanasana)
This passive forward bend releases tension in the low back and gently stretches tight hamstrings and calves. It also soothes the nervous system after an intense bout of cardio.
How-to: Stand with your feet as wide as your hips. Make the outer edges of your feet parallel. Place your hands on your hips. Bend your knees slightly, exhale and fold forward with a flat back. Release your hands and hold on to opposite elbows. Make this a passive posture (relax your neck), allowing the weight of your head and upper body to release toward the floor. Bend your knees as much as needed, especially if your hamstrings are tight. Hold the pose for several breaths. Place your hands on your hips, engage your abdominal muscles, and rise to standing with an inhale.
This standing forward bend opens a runner’s body in all the right places: the hips, hamstrings, shoulders, and groins.
How-to: Stand with your feet together. Step your left foot about 2 or 3 feet back and point the toes slightly to the left. Join your palms behind you, hold your elbows behind your back, or just rest your hands on your hips. Inhale and lengthen your spine. Exhale and bow forward, drawing your nose toward your knee. If your hands are on your hips, release them toward the floor. Relax your neck. Stay here for several breaths. Place your hands on your hips, inhale and rise with a flat back. Change sides.
4. Modified thunderbolt pose (Vajrasana)
Most runners spend plenty of time stretching their hamstrings and calves but overlook the feet. The feet deserve attention too, especially after a run. This modified version of hero pose stretches the toes, feet and ankles. It’s intense, so come out of the pose when you feel that you’ve had enough.
How-to: Sit with your legs folded underneath you. Curl your toes under and rest your bottom on your heels. You can place a folded blanket underneath your knees for extra cushion. Stay here for several breaths, releasing the pose when it starts to feel too intense.
5. Eye of the needle pose (Sucirandrasana)
Runners with tight hips struggle with yoga’s more advanced hip-opening poses. Eye of the needle is a good option for opening tight outer hips.
How-to: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Lift your right foot from the floor and cross it over your left leg. The area just above your ankle should press against your thigh. Flex your right foot. Thread your right hand between your legs and interlace your hands behind your left thigh. Exhale and draw your left leg toward you. You can intensify this stretch by gently pushing your right knee away from you. Hold the pose for several breaths. Exhale and release. Change sides.
6. Reclining spinal twist pose (Supta Mastyendrasana)
This passive posture gives runners the twisting action they need to reinvigorate a tired spine. It’s also a nice way to wind down a yoga practice, as it soothes the mind.
How-to: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Open your arms to the sides so that they’re in line with your shoulders. Turn your palms toward the floor. Shift your hips a few inches to the left. Cross your left leg over the right, then exhale and slowly lower your knees to the right. Look over your left shoulder. Hold the pose for several breaths. Inhale and release. Change sides.
7. Corpse pose (Savasana)
Even if you skip the other yoga postures above, corpse pose should remain part of your post-run repertoire. It prevents soreness by allowing lactic acid buildup to release and rejuvenates the body, relieving exhaustion.
How-to: Lie on your back. Open your feet as wide as your mat and let them flop open. Rest your hands about a foot away from your body with your palms open toward the sky. Close your eyes and settle in. Breath naturally through your nose. Scan your body, relaxing it part-by-part, from the toes up to the scalp. Rest here for 5-15 minutes. Then roll to your right side, pause for a few breaths, and gently push yourself up to seated.
Yoga is the perfect post-run practice as it stretches the muscles, oxygenates the body, and calms the sympathetic nervous system. Practice this sequence after each run and you’ll feel great the next day.
P.S. Did you know that yoga could help to heal you from chronic pain? Check out this infographic from My Southern Health to discover more: