Yoga for Runners: 11 Yoga Poses for Before & After Running

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Yoga for Runners

It's no secret that running is tough on the body - particularly the lower half - with around 79% of runners getting injured at-least once a year. That's a pretty shocking figure - and it doesn't have to be that way. Enter cross-training. Using a multi-disciplinary approach to improve in your primary discipline is now the standard amongst athletes. Solely running doesn't make the best runner, at-least in the long term. In-fact, constant repetition of the same load-bearing movement pattern day-after-day is the quickest way to get a chronic injury if it is not supported by adequate rest and recovery (although for non-encumbering patterns or skills it remains unchallenged). The average runner now strength trains, does yoga, cycles, hits the sauna (etc.) in order to reduce the risk of injury, recovery effectively, strengthen all tissues of the body and to improve overall fitness (of mind, body and soul). 

For us here at So We Flow..., there's no better way to finish a long run than with a slow, calm Yin yoga practice. But why we hear you ask?

Why Yin Yoga Suits Runners

Yin (it's in the name) is the balance to the Yang of running. It is the perfect companion to a runner's arsenal because it:

  • Targets and releases the deep connective tissue and fascia, unattainable by regular stretching.
  • Lengthens, hydrates and softens the target area due to the long, subtle holds  - resulting in a post-massage / spa like quality.
  • It encourages us to slow down and balance an intense, fiery running practice with a calm, introspective practice. 
  • Gives us time to observe, understand and reflect upon our running practice - time that we otherwise wouldn't often give ourselves.
  • It prepares us for meditation - relieving tension and stress which can exhaust valuable mental and physical energy that could be better used for putting one foot in front of the other.

11 Yoga Poses for Before & After Running

We've structured these poses and movements in the format of a comprehensive Yin yoga practice that will take around 45 minutes give or take. The sequence carefully considers each area of the body that needs attention as a runner - from your feet to your knees, to your pelvis and lower back.

We have allowed for a 10 second period in-between each pose/side to allow for the next movement. 

You will need only a yoga mat and a bolster/pillow/cushion-like item.

Complete each pose for the allocated time. There's three ways you can do this at home without a teacher that come with their positives and negatives:

1. Fully relax during poses but 'do stuff' in-between
You can either use a countdown timer or meditation app to set the time period for each pose/side. This will mean you can entirely let go during the pose as you will be notified when the time is up. The downside is you will have to reset your timer each time - you may feel this takes you out of the zone.

2. Keep an 'eye open' during the pose but no need to reset anything
You can set a watch or stopwatch running and simply keep an eye on it. You may feel this causes you to keep checking during the poses which could mean you never fully relax. You may also go over the time limit - but that's not a big deal. The major advantage is that you won't have to handle a device between poses which is a big plus.

3. Don't use anything
Just go with your instinct. Stay in the pose as long as feels right. It might be less, it might be more. This is your most introspective option that has the potential for greatest depth. However, if you have time restraints, or you aren't in the right head space to let yourself go with the flow like this - then this option isn't for you.

1. Leg Swings

Target: Mobilisation
Time: 20 each side (forward & back), 20 each side (side to side)

 

Front & Back

1. Stand on your right leg and lift your left leg.

2. Swing your leg forwards and backwards, keeping you body straight - ensure the movement is coming from the hip. Your leg should be straight, with a micro-bend in the knee if necessary.

3. Keep the movement small to begin with and gradually increase your range.

4. You should feel tension in the hamstrings and glutes at the end range of your forward swing, and your quads and hip flexor at the end range of your backwards swing.

5. Repeat on the opposite leg.

Side to Side

1. Stand on your right leg and lift your left leg.

2. Swing your leg side to side, keeping you body straight - ensure the movement is coming from the hip. Your leg should be straight, with a micro-bend in the knee if necessary.

3. Keep the movement small to begin with and gradually increase your range.

4. You should feel tension in the outer hip, IT band and TFL at the end range of your cross-body swing, and your inner groin (plus contraction of your outer hip) at the end range of your outward swing.

5. Repeat on the opposite leg.

2. Standing Forward Fold / Uttanasana

Target: Hamstrings, Glutes & Lower Back
Time: 3 minutes

1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, with the outside of your feet parallel to the edge of your mat.

2. Fold forward from the hips, with a micro-bend in the knees until you reach a point of tension.

3. Bring your hands lightly to the ground for support, or bring your arms overhead and hold opposite elbows.

4. Don't force yourself deeper into the pose - let gravity and time ease the resistance and feel a gradual softening in the hamstrings and lower back.

5. Mindfully return to standing, using the strength of your legs rather than your lower back.

3. Yogi Squat / Malasana

Target: Foot, Ankle, Knee & Pelvis (Do this daily!)
Time: 3 minutes

1. Bring your feet shoulder width apart with your toes turned slightly outwards

2. Squat down, keeping your feet firmly flat on your ground (allow your heels to lift if this is too difficult)

3. Stay in the bottom position, try to relax and hold.

4. Try to avoid rounding your back and keep the chest open.

5. If you wish, bring your palms together between your legs and in front of you.

4. Thunderbolt / Vajrasana (with variation)

Target: Ankles & Feet
Time: 1:30 minutes top of feet, 1:30 minutes toes tucked

1. Come to kneeling, with the tops of your feet on the mat. Place a towel or extra mat under your knees if they are sensitive.

2. Sit on your heels and bring your hands to rest on your thighs.

3. Close your eyes if you wish or maintain a soft gaze. Breathe.

4. After 1:30 minutes, tuck your toes to release tension on the underside of your feet.

5. Come out slowly and straighten your legs out in front to counter the compression of the knees, ankles and feet.

5. Cobbler's Pose / Baddha Konasana

Target: Inner Groin & Inner Thighs
Time: 3 minutes

1. Sit on your mat and bring the soles of your feet together in front of you.

2. Let your knees fall to either side, noticing the stretch along your inner groin. If it is difficult to rest in this position, you can sit on a bolster, block or pillow. 

3. Either stay here or begin to fold forward from the hips, using a bolster, block or pillow to support yourself when you reach a point of tension. 

4. When you feel the tension ease during the pose duration, you can reduce or remove your support to go deeper into the pose.

5. Come out carefully, using your arms to draw your knees together. Be mindful to do this slowly to avoid injury to the inner thigh.

6. Revolved Head-of-the-Knee Pose / Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana

Target: Hamstrings, Obliques, Piriformis & Glutes
Time: 3 minutes each side

1. Sit on your mat with your legs out in front of you.

2. Bring you left leg in towards you, letting the knee fall outwards and with the sole of your foot against your right thigh. 

3. Turn your body to face your left knee, and carefully bend laterally toward your right foot, feeling the stretch along your left side - from armpit to hips.

4. Bring your left arm up and over to increase the intensity of the pose. If within your range of motion, you can take your right foot in your left hand, and bring your right shoulder to the inside of your right knee. If this isn't comfortable or over-intense reduce your range of motion - don't force it as you are here for 3 minutes.

5. Come out of the pose carefully and repeat on the opposite side.

7. Low Lunge / Anjaneyasana (with optional bind)

Target: Quads & Hip Flexors
Time: 2 minutes each side

1. Step your left leg forward, bending at the knee into a lunge.

2. Bring your right knee down to the mat (pad with a pillow or comparable cushioning product), bring your body upright, and lunge into the left leg.

3. Pull your left hip back and push your right hip forward back to optimise the quality of the pose - you hips should be in line with each other.

4. In most yoga poses and movements it's generally recommended that your knee shouldn't come over the ankle because of something called shear force. However, in this pose it tends to be ok as your weight is naturally centred much further behind you. Shear force is only really an issue in poses and movements where your centre of gravity is easily misplaced due to poor technique.

5. If you fancy, bring your arms overhead. You can also take an optional bind of the trailing leg, bringing your left hand behind you to grasp your right foot. You can adjust the distance between your heel and your butt cheek to increase/decrease the intensity. You will really feel this in your hip flexor now.

6. Bring your right foot to the ground if it isn't there already, bringing your hands to the ground and ease out of the pose.

7. Repeat on the opposite side.

8. Pigeon Pose / Eka Pada Rajakapotasana

Target: Glutes & Piriformis
Time: 3 minutes each side

1. Come down to kneeling on your mat.

2. Bring your left knee forward, with your shin perpendicular (or as close as possible) to the length of you mat, and straighten your right leg out behind you. 

3. Dorsiflex the left foot (toes to shin) to protect the ankle and ensure your hips are aligned.

4. Place a block under your left hip to plug the gap and support you. Forget your ego on this one and do it even if you don't think you need it. It will allow you to truly relax and release into the pose.

5. Bring a bolster out in front of you to support the elbows, body or head.

6. When you feel the tension ease during the pose duration, you can reduce or remove your support to go deeper into the pose.

7. Come out of the pose by rolling onto your left hip and bringing your right leg forward.

8. Repeat on the opposite side.

9. Warrior III / Virabhadrasana III

Target: Glute Activation 
Time: 20 seconds on each side, 2 rounds

1. Stand on your right leg with your left leg out in front of you and your palms together at your chest.

2. Begin to lean forward whilst bringing your leg behind you until you are parallel with the ground.

3. Key things to focus on are keeping a straight line from head to toe, maintaining alignment of the hips and keeping your entire body facing down. It will be tempting to allow your left hip to open up to the left hand side. If you find yourself doing this, no stress, just focus on driving through the right foot and turning your left hip down.

4. Engage through the right leg strongly, but without over-contracting the leg muscles. Concentrate on using your right glute - have a feel if you like to check it's working.

5. Bring the left leg down slowly whilst simultaneously coming upright with the body. Repeat on the opposite leg. 

10. Supine Twist / Supta Matsyendrasana

Target: IT Band, Hips & Lower Back
Time: 3 minutes each side

1. Lie on your back with your arms straight out either side, bent at the elbow. Bring a bolster or similar to your left hand side.

2. Bring your right knee over to your left side, supported by the bolster, keeping your left leg straight. You can use your left hand to keep your right knee in position. 

3. Look to your right side and feel the stretch across your right hip, it band and possibly into your lower back. You may also feel a stretch in the right chest and shoulder which is great for tension associate with sitting in a hunched position (for the office folk!).

4. To intensify the pose you can take your right foot with your left hand and bring the leg across completely straight. Don't attempt this unless it is comfortable.

5. Come out of the pose slowly and repeat on the opposite side.

11. Savasana

Target: Central Nervous System Recovery & Relaxation
Time: 5+ minutes

1. Lie back on your mat with your legs just over shoulder width apart and your arms a comfortable distance away from your body.

2. Let your toes fall out to the side and tuck you chin slightly to open up the back of your neck.

3. Breathe naturally and calmly, taking notice of each breathe. Allow yourself to completely relax and let go, letting thoughts pass through you without attachment and simply observing the present moment and your fundamental existence (deep but true). 

4. Stay here for at-least 5 minutes to allow your central nervous system to rebalance and recover.

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That's all for now brothers of the Flow. We'd love to know how you get on with these poses and how they have benefitted your running. Reach out on Instagram @soweflow.

Make sure you check out our Easy Shorts (Jake wears Stone throughout) as the perfect bottom half to your practice.

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