Yoga for Runners
Pounding pavement can leave you cramped after a hard run. These four stretches will remedy those tight hips, calves, and IT bands to keep you going.
Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
The 4 Best Yoga Poses for Runners
From dodging rocks and roots on the trail to repetitive pounding on concrete or asphalt, running of all varieties can create tightness in the same areas of the body: calves, quads, hamstrings, lateral thighs (or IT bands) and hips.
Trail running tends to be more dynamic because the runner has to spot his or her landing with every step. The body is moving linearly, side to side, and diagonally. There’s less opportunity for injury because of the lack of repetition.
In road running, however, constant pounding on hard surfaces ups the potential for stiffness, soreness, and repetitive stress injuries.
First step: Run with awareness. In both trail and road running, it’s important for the runner to keep the breath strong and even and to remain consciously aware of every step, until running becomes moving meditation. The key to preventing injury is awareness.
Follow this series of poses every day to stay loose and keep your stride. Start with the right leg, moving through all four poses in a sequence. Remember to keep from bouncing in all of the postures. Then switch legs and repeat the sequence.
Josh Schrei is a yoga teacher at Body in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and an endurance athlete. He placed 9th among 40- to 49-year-old males in the Jemez 50K Trail Race last year. In October, he’s planning to do 3,000 sun salutations around South India’s sacred Arunachala mountain to raise money for Water.org.
The Best Yoga Poses For Runners: Low Lunge
1. Start in a lunge position with your right foot back first.
2. Press back through the right heel to straighten the back leg. Lift through the knee to engage the thigh.
3. Make sure the left knee is over the ankle.
4. Bring the hands to the sides of the front foot, under the shoulders.
5. Draw in the navel and tuck the tailbone.
6. Raise the heart toward the sky without taking the hands off the ground.
7. Hold for 30 seconds before moving into Crescent Moon.
THE REASON: Low Lunge opens up your calves, quads, hamstrings, lateral thighs (IT bands) and hips.
The Best Yoga Poses For Runners: Crescent Moon
1. From Low Lunge, drop the back knee and the top of the back foot to the floor.
2. Keep the front leg in place, with the knee over the ankle.
3. Drop into the hips to stretch both the front hip and the back quad.
4. Raise the upper body in line above the pelvis, head lifting toward the ceiling.
5. Bring the arms up by the ears, elbows straight, hands reaching toward the sky. Keep dropping the shoulders away from ears, even as you lift the arms.
6. Engage the navel and tuck the tailbone slightly under to keep the abdomen strong.
7. Hold for 30 seconds before moving into One-Legged Forward Bend.
THE REASON: Crescent Moon, like Low Lunge, opens up your calves, quads, hamstrings, lateral thighs (IT bands) and hips. But it also stretches the quad of the extended leg and the hip of the bent leg.
The Best Yoga Poses For Runners: One-Legged Forward Bend
1. From Crescent Moon, straighten through the front leg and draw the hips back behind you.
2. Place the hands on the floor for balance.
3. Bend through the spine, bringing the nose toward the knee and draw the shoulders down the back, away from your ears. You should feel a stretch in your hamstring.
4. To deepen the calf stretch, try flexing the foot and drawing the toes back toward you even more.
5. Relax the spine and neck completely.
6. Hold for 30 seconds before moving into Lateral Hip Stretch.
THE REASON: One-Legged Forward Bend lengthens and opens the hamstrings.
The Best Yoga Poses For Runners: Lateral Hip Stretch
1. From One-Legged Forward Bend, walk the hands over to the same side of the body as the extended leg.
2. Keep the hips over the back knee and keep the front leg extended.
3. The further back and away from the body you place the hands, the more you’ll feel the stretch in the lateral hip and thigh.
4. Make sure to keep the head dropped and the neck relaxed.
5. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat the series starting with Low Lunge with the opposite foot behind you.
THE REASON: Nothing gets at the IT band like the Lateral Hip Stretch.