Can you run a 10K without breaking a sweat but can’t touch your toes even if your life depended on it?
Well, don’t worry, you are not alone.
Scores of runners suffer from flexibility issues. In fact, that’s a part of the training process.
Running by definition leaves the telltale signs of tight lower back, gluteus, quads, hamstrings and calves. And if you don’t work diligently on these areas, they can lead to all sorts of muscles imbalances, injuries, and poor performance.
Well, fret no more.
Yoga is the practice you need to keep your body healthy and run injury-free for the long haul. It is the perfect antidote.
Why do you Need to Strike a Pose?
In my experience, the regular practice of yoga made me more flexible—body and mind—and helped me drastically reduce many of the pains and injuries related to running—including chronic knee pain and stubborn ankle sprains.
Not only that, but yoga can also help you increase strength and balance, as well as improving focus and athletic performance.
The 7 Yoga Flexibility Poses You Should Do
The yoga poses I’m going to share with you today are specifically designed to target common areas of muscle tightness in runners
Therefore, add this flexibility yoga routine to your training program.
Do these 7 flexibility yoga poses on a regular basis and you will see drastic improvements in your flexibility, mobility, and eventually, your running performance.
Just be patient.
And keep in mind that there are no shortcuts when it comes to building a flexible and athletic body.
1. Ado Muka Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
This asana mainly stretches the hamstrings. Runners are notoriously infamous for tight hamstrings— this tightness can hinder performance and lead to injury.
This yoga pose also stretches the calves, and shoulders and strengthens the arms and legs.
To perform downward facing dog right come into your hands and knees with hands straight below your shoulders and knees directly below hips.
Next, tuck your toes under, spread your fingers wide, then on the inhale, raise your knees off the floor and push your hips up toward the ceiling.
To dig deep into those hamstrings and calves, draw your heels down as far as it is comfortable. Keep a slight bend in your knees if it’s too much to handle.
Hold the position for five deep breaths.
As a runner, chances that you spend a lot of time hunched over, shoulders in, and chest down. That’s why a heart opening pose, like the Camel, is ideal.
This yoga asana improves flexibility and strength in the upper body, and it also can help you build better posture—on and off the running track.
Plus, opening your chest will not only counter some of the bad posture patterns from running, it will also open up your chest and give you more space to breathe, and as you know, the better you breathe, the more oxygen you pump into your blood and working muscles, thus the better you run.
To safely perform the Camel asana, begin with your knees on the floor, hip-width distance apart and hands on the hips.
Next, stack your hips right over your knees, draw the shoulder blades down the back, and reach back with your hand to take your low back.
Then, from there, take the center of your chest up and slide your palms down as far as you can. Try to reach back to take hold of your feet or ankle. Reach as far down as it’s pain-free.
Stay in the pose for five deep breaths, then slowly come back to starting position.
3. Triangle pose
Tight hips are another major issue among runners. Nevertheless, the Triangle pose is a great asana for stretching the hips as well as the groin and the hamstrings. Plus it also adds strength to the ankle, thighs, and knee, helping you ward off a plethora of running injuries.
To perform the Triangle pose, begin by standing straight and extending your right leg to the side a little more than hip-width distance apart. Make sure to turn the right toes in slightly and rotate the right thigh open to turn your left foot at about 90-degree angle.
Next, turn your right foot perpendicular to your left as you extend your right arm straight above your right foot, then gradually fold over at your right hip and lower your hand down to grab your thigh, knee or shinbone.
If you want more, slowly walk your hand down to grasp your calf or ankle, or big toe, but never compromise good form.
Hold the position for five breaths, then slowly press back to starting position and switch sides
4. Eagle pose
This is a must yoga pose for runners since it opens up and stretches the scapula, shoulders, elbows, ankles, hips and knees, and also strengthens the calves and ankles, as well as improving balance and coordination.
Plus, it speeds up blood flow, leading to faster recovery rates after a workout.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, raise your hands above your head, and swing them down in front of your body, wrapping your left arm under your right arm. Next, bend your right knee and cross your left leg around the right leg, hooking your left foot on either side of your right leg.
Lower your butt down as much as you can and lift up through the arms to stay well balanced. Keep the pose for the five deep breaths, then unwind and switch sides.
This is my favorite yoga pose of all times.
As a runner, stress and tension can build up in the hips and create tightness—a tightness that can compromise performance and lead to a plethora of running injuries. Nevertheless, this pose is crucial for supple and more flexible hips.
The Pigeon asana increases the range of motion and flexibility in your hips, boosting running performance and reducing the risks of injury—especially knee pain.
To perform the Pigeon right, start from table pose (on all fours), then slide your right knee forward toward your right hand, then straighten and stretch your left leg back as far your hips will allow. Rest your right shin on the floor, slightly behind your hands.
Next, square your hips and lower your body down as far as you can while feeling the stretch in your hips, glutes and groin area. You can sit up and rest on your palms, elbow or lie all the way down for a deeper stretch.
Hold the pose for five deep breaths, then to come out from the Pigeon, tuck your left toes under and bend your left knee and slowly glide your right leg back until you are back to starting position.
6. Low side lunge
One of the most dynamic and simple poses for promoting flexibility and mobility in hips and hamstrings. This pose can also help you prevent side cramps, along with other running pains and aches.
From mountain pose, separate your feet into a wide stand then fold forward and place both hands on the ground.
Next, place your right hand on your right knee, and while exhaling, bend your right knee, while lengthening the left leg. Make sure that your left foot is aligned with your right ankle.
Keep your chest lifted and open, and hold the stretch for five deep breaths. Then repeat on the other side.
7. Forward Fold
The Forward Fold asana is ideal for runners since it opens up and stretches out the hamstrings, glutes and lower back—some of the most troubled areas for athletes.
Begin in standing pose, then as you exhale, hinge at the hips and bend forward, lengthening the front of your torso.
Next, fold forward slowly and grab onto your shins, or for a more intense stretch, reach down for your toes or ankles.
Breathe deeply and let the crown of your head move toward the floor, releasing and relaxing your neck and head as much as possible.
I highly suggest that you hold this pose for as long as you can. Anyway, as long as you are breathing deep and feeling the stretch, you are doing just fine.
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Featured Image Credits – Terry Lok through Flickr