Can you run a 10K without breaking a sweat but can’t touch your toes even if your life depended on it?
What about your strength? Are you the fastest runner in the block but can’t perform ten push-ups?
What about your mobility? Hmmm.
Don’t freak out yet if you’re starting to get alarmed by my questions.
Lots of runners shy away from strength training. They fear to bulk up and assume the extra mass will slow them down. That’s not quite right as research shows that regular strength training is one of the best things you can do to protect your body against injury and improve performance.
I have already written in-depth about strength training for runners.
So what should you do to rectify these issues?
Of course, cross-training. In my experience, the best form of cross-training for runners is yoga. I don’t want to sound fanatical, but yoga the practice you need to keep your body healthy and run injury-free for the long haul.
A well-rounded yoga practice includes dynamic flexibility, strength work, core stabilization, and balance training—all of which help you become a better runner.
By practicing these different elements, you can open up tight areas that limit performance, improve your mental focus, enhance your reaction times, upgrade your form, and recover faster from vigorous workouts. What’s not to like!
Would you like to learn how to integrate the practice of yoga into your running routine? Then today’s you have to the right place.
In this long guide, I’m sharing with you my favorite yoga poses for improving flexibility, mobility, and strength. But, first things first, let’s dive into some of the benefits yoga has to offer for runners.
Yoga Increases Flexibility
Runners are especially prone to muscle tightness—a leading cause of injury and mediocre performance.
If you run regularly, then you are bound to suffer from tight glutes, calves, hamstrings, lower back muscles.
There is no way around it.
This unwelcomed tightness causes a plethora of problems, including mediocre performance (it takes a lot of energy to move a rigid body), and injuries (Studies show that overuse injuries like Runners Knee and IT band syndrome can be prevented by keeping a flexible and mobile lower body), and other health trouble.
It’s the perfect antidote to muscle tightness.
Yoga Boosts Total Body Strength
Running targets primarily the muscles of the lower body. For the most part, a running stride engages only the lower body and movement in one realm—forward and backward.
Consequently, some muscles become strong, while, on the other hand, other muscles get neglected and weak in contrast, creating what’s known as muscle imbalances—one of the leading root causes of running injuries such as runner’s knee and IT band syndrome.
A well-rounded yoga practice involves using all the muscles in a variety of ways and poses. Even the muscles that are not used when running—specifically the shoulders, arms, upper torso, back, and abdominals—get strengthened with a regular yoga practice.
Strengthen Your Mind with Yoga
Yoga will not only strengthen your lung capacity and muscles but your mind as well.
As you may know, a strong inner game—self-confidence, high self-esteem, you name it—is vital to winning the game of life.
Breathe Deep with yoga
Lung capacity is essential for runners. The more efficient your lung capacity, the more oxygen you can deliver to your muscles and circulatory system.
But. Not all runners use their lung capacity to the maximum. Most runners rely mainly on the top portion of the lungs, ignoring (unintentionally) the middle and lower portions. This is what is known as chest breathing.
This type of breathing is very inefficient and counterproductive regardless of the activity you are engaged in.
With regular yoga practice, rest assured, you will learn how to use the full power of your lungs—upper, middle, and lower portions.
The first lesson I learned on the Yoga mat—and one of the first lessons you learn when joining Yoga class—is the importance of breathing for optimal performance and health.
Plus, deep breathing can also help you better manage your mental state and reduce performance jitters. This is vital whether on the running field or when you hit the lowest points of life. Shortly, focus on your breathing pattern instead of your movement.
Yoga as a Restorative Practice
Yoga has an amazing restorative quality. Some yoga asanas—mainly the restorative postures— have a great deal of soothing and healing powers that can help you deeply relax and consciously restore after a hard run.
This restorative aspect speeds up recovery, helping you become a healthier and stronger runner—both in the short and the long terms.
Yoga is the Best Form of Active Recovery
Yoga is also one of the best forms of active recovery that there is.
Active recovery is any form of light exercise on an off day, and Yoga is one of the best active recovery options you have. Why is it needed? Some people love to keep active during the off day, so this is the best option during your recovery.
That’s why, in my experience, recovery days are the perfect opportunity to slide in your yoga sessions into your schedule.
Some of the best restorative yoga poses to help you bounce back faster and keep you injury-free are Child’s Pose, Legs-up-the-wall Pose, Pigeon Pose, and the lovely and awesome pose: Shavasana.
Yoga increases self-awareness and mindfulness of what’s going on in your body and mind.
By becoming more self-aware, you can grow your body’s inner ability to listen and re-adjust to signals of pain and discomfort, thus teaching you how long and hard you can go without hurting yourself.
For those who feel weird with mindfulness term, just simply being sensitive to yourself. Don’t force, always tune in.
Conclusion: Yoga is the Best Cross-Training Activity for Runners
Based on the facts above, Yoga is the best cross-training activity for runners. It can help you hone your running game on all levels: performance, mobility, strength, injury-free, mental toughness, you name it.
As a runner, I think I have covered all the reasons why you need to be doing Yoga on a regular basis, but now the ball (and the yoga mat) is in your court.
Your yoga practice doesn’t have to be a fancy one, just basic stretch, and restorative cover all you need. And hopefully, you make the right decision.
The 27 Best Yoga Poses For Runners
Without further ado, here’s a long list of yoga poses for runners that improve flexibility, strength, and functional fitness.
Note – A Yoga Warm-up Routine
Before you try any of the yoga poses shared below, please make sure you’re well warmed up. Perform the following warm-up yoga sequence (even following a run) to get your muscles and joints for action.
Runners’ Yoga Flexibility Poses
The following yoga poses are exactly what you need to improve your flexibility as a runner.
1. Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
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 in runners.
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 deeply and feeling the stretch, you are doing just fine. A yoga strap is really welcome. Step over the strap and try to pull the strap first. After your spine neutral, reach deeper with the strap.
2. Downward-Facing Dog (Ado Muka Svanasana)
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. If you are too flexible, you will tend to hyperextend your knee. You don’t want that! Micro bending your knee or not all sole have to be stepped in.
Hold the position for five deep breaths.
3. Low side lunge (Skandasana)
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 stance, 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.
4. Triangle pose (Utthita Trikonasana)
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
5. Eagle pose (Garudasana)
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.
6. Camel (Uṣṭrāsana)
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, but 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. Focus on your knees, if its in a V shape, you are doing something wrong.
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. Shoulder blades should be facing to the sides of your body, not forming M shape. Avoid M shape on your shoulder blades for deeper pose and bigger space.
Stay in the pose for five deep breaths, then slowly come back to starting position.
7. Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
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.
Recovery Yoga Poses For Runners
Here are my yoga poses for post-run muscle soreness and recovery.
8. Legs up the Wall (Viparita Asana)
If you pick only one pose from this whole list, do the Viparita asana.
Plus, it’s so simple and easy to perform.
To perform the Viparita asana, start by sitting with one hip close to a wall. Next, swing both legs up the wall and get your butt as close to the wall as it’s comfortable. If you feel any pain in the lower body—especially in the hamstrings—then slide a few inches away from the wall.
Hold the position for as long as you can, then to come out safely from the pose, bring your knees into your chest for a couple of breaths, roll to one side, rest for a moment, then slowly get up. Make sure spine neutral, not curving so your legs are not going to put stress on your spine.
9. Seated Star pose (Baddha Konasana)
A great pose for releasing tension in the hips, lower back, shoulders, and neck.
Begin by sitting down on the floor with the soles of the feet together, heels roughly 20 inches in front, and knees bent in a kite shape, forming a diamond shape with the legs.
Next, straighten your spine then slowly round the spine forward, bringing the forehead towards the heels.
Hold the pose for one to two minutes before slowly releasing.
Here are seven yoga poses for your post-run routine that will help you speed up recovery rate, thus bounce back faster and keep you running injury free for the long haul.
10. Reverse Child’s Pose
To perform this pose right, start by sitting on your heels with your big toes touching, knees about hip-width apart and hands resting on your thighs.
Then, lay your torso between your thighs and lower your belly and chest to rest between your knees, bringing the back of your head to the mat.
Next, extend your arms straight in front of your palms down on the floor, and stomach sitting comfortably on top of your thighs, forehead to the mat.
Stay here for at least a couple of minutes. Try 30 seconds, if you feel comfortable, you can add it up from 60 seconds to two minutes.
11. Reclining cobblers pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
A great restorative yoga asana for releasing the abductors, chest, hips, groin, and the lower back.
Start by sitting in a Staff Pose, with the legs extended straight in front of you on the floor. Then, bend your knees and draw your heels in toward your pelvis.
Next, press the soles of your feet together and slowly drop the knees open to the sides, then slowly lean backward and bring your elbows to the mat. Lower your back as far as you can.
Hold the pose for ten deep breaths, then to come out safely, roll over to your right side, and sit up, using the hands to support you. Feel free to use props to deepen your pose. Blocks can be placed under the knee. If you are into Iyengar, you can wrap strap and sit on it, so you can really control the stretch.
12. Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)
Another ideal pose for opening and releasing the hips and groin. This pose stretches the hip joints, which can get tight and stiff from running.
Plus, this pose is very calming for the body and mind.
Start by lying down on your back, and on the exhale, draw your knees into your chest and grab the outside edges of your flexed feet with your hands. If this stretch feels too much, then grab behind your thighs.
Next, open the knees and bring your hips down to the floor as far as you can, and hold the outside of the feet as you draw the knees toward your armpits while keeping your lower back firmly on the floor.
Breathe deeply and make sure to rock gently from side to side to release any tension.
Hold the pose for ten deep breaths, then move on to the next pose.
13. Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
This pose lengthens the back muscles, which is good for relieving back pain— especially following a long run or after sitting for prolonged periods of time.
Start off by lying on your back, then bend both knees and place the soles of your feet on the floor.
Next, bring your right knee close to your chest and extend the left leg straight on the floor.
For the twist, drop your right knee over to the left side of your body, twisting the spine and low back.
For more stretch in the upper body, open your right arm to the right side in line with your shoulders, while resting your left hand on your right knee for a deeper release and twist in the spine and lower body.
Hold the pose for ten deep breaths, then slowly bring your right knee back, straighten your right leg, and do the other side.
14. Corpse Pose (Savasana)
The perfect pose for rest, relaxation, letting go, and contemplating after a workout.
To make the most out of this awesome pose, lie flat on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor. Use a small pillow (or fold your mat) below your neck if you have to.
Next, close your eyes, keep your legs comfortably apart, release your feet and knees complexly and breathe deeply.
There is nothing to do. Just be present and turn your attention inward and scan your body from head to toe, looking for tension and contracted muscles.
Go as deep as you can, and enter a complete state of total relaxation. Let your mind go then bring all of our attention to your breath. Be in the now.
Stay in Shavasana for at least 10 minutes. You can have soothing and relaxing music in the background. It’s okay to fell asleep during this pose. Most of the yogis did that too!
Yoga Strength Asanas For Runners
Here are seven yoga poses that every runner should do to increase strength in the whole body
If you find any of these poses too easy and boring, then just hold the asana for one full minute or longer while making sure you have proper alignment and the right form to test your strength and stamina.
Don’t cheat. That’s the motto.
15. Four-Limbed Staff pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)
This is a must since running is an exclusive lower-body activity, so the upper body gets tossed to the side. So don’t be surprised if you have the upper strength of a 9-year-old.
The good news is that this pose is perfect for you. This yogic pushup position builds strength in the upper body when done properly.
Lie facedown, then propel yourself up to plank position. Make sure your body is aligned from head to toe.
Next, come a little bit forward on your toes and bend the arms straight back, keeping the upper arms hugging into your sides as you lower your body to hover a few inches above the floor. Pause for a moment, then push back up slowly to a plank position, or roll over the toes, and come back to upward facing dog.
Make sure to keep your shoulder below the level of your elbows and keep your whole body straight.
Do at least ten slow push-ups before you move on to the next asana. Ideally, shoot for five sets of 10 reps. Try not to collapse your hip or chest. For easier one, try to move your wrist wider to the side.
16. Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
The low lunge is a great pose that strengthens the thighs and the calves. This asana also stretches the front of your hips.
To perform Burning Low Lunge, step your right forward three to four feet to assume a lunge position.
Next, press back through the right heel to straighten the left leg.
Lower your left knee until it almost touches the floor and bring down your hands to the sides of the front foot, under the shoulders.
Hold the position for five deep breaths, then switch sides.
17. Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III)
Warrior III increases strength and length in the spine, core, and torso while also strengthening the muscles in your legs. Plus, it also builds balance and concentration.
Start by standing in mountain pose with feet hip-distance apart, arms at your sides. Then, step forward with your right foot three to four feet in front. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees, so your toes point to the top of the mat, and pivot your left foot inward at a 45-degree angle.
Next, shift your weight forward onto the front heel as you gently kick up your back up in the air while bringing your torso forward until it is parallel to the floor.
Make sure to engage your core and that your neck is in a relaxed position.
Gaze at the floor a few feet in front of your body and hold the pose for five deep breaths, then bring your left leg slowly to the floor, and switch sides.
18. Crescent (Anjaneyasana)
This dynamic standing yoga pose strengthens all the muscles in your lower body. It also stretches the lower body while improving balance and stability.
From mountain pose, step your right foot three to four feet in front of you, then lower your hips into lunge position and shift your weight onto the ball of your back foot, bringing your hands to your hips or above you and reach for the ceiling, with palms facing each other if balance is not an issue.
Make sure to keep your upper body as high as you can while staying up on the ball of the back foot. And check that your hips are squared the entire time.
Hold the position for five breaths then switch sides.
19. Goddess (Utkata Konasana)
Running requires a lot of glutes and quads action, and this pose can come in handy. The Goddess asana is a wide squat variation that will tone your lower body and core like no other asana.
From mountain pose, take a step open to the right, so your feet are about three to four feet apart, and lift your arms out to the sides at shoulder height.
Next, turn your toes out slightly, then on the exhalation, bend your knees directly over your toes and squat down, so your quads are parallel with the floor.
Hold the position for up to ten deep breaths, then slowly lower your hands to your hips, and press firmly into your feet to go back to starting position.
20. Three-Legged Dog (Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana)
This is a powerful variation of the classic downward dog asana, and it will help you build immense strength and mobility in your lower body, especially in the glutes—also known as the buttocks—and lower back.
In downward dog, step your feet together, so your big toes are touching.
Then with arms and legs straight, inhale and raise your right leg while keeping your hips level and the right foot strongly flexed, raising the right leg up in the air, and coming into a downward Dog split.
Hold the pose for five deep breaths, then switch sides.
Make sure to engage your core throughout the pose and to keep your shoulder parallel to the floor.
For more challenge, try balancing on one the right foot, left arm, then switch side—left foot with the right arm.
21. Bent Standing Split (Tadasana)
If you have any flexibility issues in the hamstrings, quads, and hips, then this asana will be extremely difficult (and really useful!). Chances you are tight in these areas if you run regularly (and don’t a proper stretching routine to counteract the effects of pounding the pavement).
This move also increases balance, which enhancing coordination and strengthening the thighs, knees, and ankles—this can help you stop ankle sprains and reduce the risks of knee pain and injury.
From mountain pose or Tadasana, hinge at the hips to come into a mild forward fold, with your fingertips touching the ground.
Next, shift your weight onto the right foot, then on the inhale, lift your left leg parallel to the floor.
As you lift your leg higher, bring your torso closer to your right leg.
For more challenge, walk your hands to either side of your right foot and grab your foot or ankle as much as you can.
Hold the pose for five deep breaths, then bring your left leg down on the exhale, recover for a moment, then on the inhale repeat on the other side.
Core Yoga Poses For Runners
The core muscles are key for developing good running form and posture, stopping you from bending at the waist—especially when fatigue starts to set in. This can help you ward off back pain along with a host of biomechanical problems.
The sequence includes seven powerful yoga poses to fire up and strengthen all of your core muscles—with no exception.
22. Plank (Phalakasana)
The plank asana tones most of your core muscles. It also builds upper body and low back strength and lengthens the spine.
Assume a push-up position with hands and knees shoulder width apart, fingers spread wide apart with the middle finger pointing forward, and toes tucked under, pressing into the palms with the straight arms.
Form a straight line from your head to your ankles by tucking your tailbone under and engaging your core muscles to keep your pelvis torso steady and firm. No sagging allowed.
To keep your legs active through the hold makes sure to press with your heels toward the back of the mat.
While maintaining your neck soft and gazing down at the floor, hold the plank position for one to two minutes before moving into the next asana. Lift the base of the skull away from the back of your neck and gaze down the floor.
To come out of this pose, slowly bend your knees to the floor to assume child pose, then move on to the next asana.
23. Dolphin Plank (Makarasana)
Or elbow plank, this is a variation of the classic plank, resting on the elbow this time. This asana targets more of the muscles of the abs, with less strain on the arms and shoulders.
This is a great asana for runners since it targets the entire core as well as helping improve posture and adding strength to stabilizer muscles.
Start by lying face down on the mat, resting your upper body on your forearms with your elbows right under the shoulders, and palms firmly grounded.
Next, to come into the dolphin plank, raise your hips towards the ceiling, coming onto the tips of your toes while staying on your forearms.
Make sure to maintain a straight line from your head to your heels by keeping your back flat and abs engaged throughout the hold. If your spine curving, retreat and try again. Make sure to protect your spine straight.
Hold the pose for one to two minute, then lower down and move to the next asana.
24. Balancing Star (Vasisthasana)
This is the third plank variation I’m sharing with you today. This asana mainly targets your side core muscles—what’s known as the obliques—as well as strengthening the thighs, glutes, shoulders, and arms.
It also challenges your balance like no other asana—except for, maybe, Warrior III.
Start in the classic plank position, then roll open to your right side and raise your left hand off the floor, and stack your left leg your right leg. Then, shift to face the side of your mat with your weight equally distributed between your right arm and right foot.
Make sure to keep your shoulders, spine, and hips in one straight line from the head to the ankle.
You can stay here balancing on your right hand with feet stacked. But to come into the full version of Balancing star, raise your left foot up as high as you can and reach your arm to the ceiling as high and straight as you can without losing balance. Be sure to keep a straight line from your head to your ankles.
For more challenge in the balance department, try looking up at your top hand.
Hold the pose for 45 seconds to one full minute while keeping the core engaged and pose steady throughout the hold.
To come down, lower slowly to classic plank then switch sides.
25. Boat (Navasana)
This is one of the simplest yoga moves with one and only purpose: sculpting and toning the abdominals. This asana engages the deeps muscles of the abs and will improve your running posture and stability.
Begin by sitting on your mat with legs in front of you.
Next, bend your knees, lift your legs off the mat, and lean back a bit to balance on your sit bones, then bring your knees in toward your chest with your thighs at a right angle to the floor and shins parallel to the floor.
To do the Boat right, make sure to sit as tall as you can, then slowly start to straighten your legs, bring your arms out straight in line with your shoulders, forming a “V” shape with your body. Don’t lean on your buttocks, that’s cheating as you’re not engaging your core properly.
Hold the pose for one to two minutes, then take your time to slowly lower down to the floor.
26. Sunbird Pose
Begin in tabletop pose, then reach forward with your right arm like you are about to shake someone’s hand and raise your left leg up, holding it parallel to the floor.
Make sure to engage your core muscles while you are doing your best to pull the extended limbs away from each other.
Next, bring your knee towards your chest while curling the right elbow to the left knee on the exhale, as if you are performing a crunch. Then inhale and extend your arm forward and leg back.
Continue the motion for 12 to 15 reps, then switch sides.
27. Locust Pose (Salabha)
This asana is ideal for strengthening the lower back, the muscles that surround the back of the spine and abdominals as well as improving posture.
It’s also a great spine opener. And it can help you undo the hunching effects of running, vital for building better posture, both on and off the running field.
Begin lying on your stomach on the mat with arms along the sides of your torso. Then, place your hands, palms faced down, next to your chest, with your elbows bent like chicken wings.
Next, raise your chest off the mat by only using your back muscles, curving your spine upwards, and lifting your legs off the mat using your inner thighs up toward the ceiling as you reach the crown of your head up as high as you can.