Yoga for Runners

Yoga has long been a friend to runners, and the bond is only going from strength to strength. Why? Well as every runner knows, stretching is a key part of your training routine and can make a huge difference on multiple levels.

How can Yoga help Runners?

A census completed in 2020* has suggested that over 6.8 million people in England now run. That's a lot of people and it's understandable why–all you need is a good pair of trainers and the right mindset. No gym fees, and the freedom to do it all almost anywhere, at any time. In many ways yoga is the same, you simply need a body and a willingness to practise.

When used as a tool for health and healing, your yoga practise can create the perfect balance between strength and mobility within the body. For runners, this balance helps reduce injury and increase healing capacity, especially for long-distance running. Futhermore, the breath and meditation practises of yoga can have a great impact on mental focus and endurance.

Stretching gently after your run aids in ensuring the tension that has built up is able to release, enabling blood flow and therefore better healing. Essentially, running puts your body in a state of stress. Taking just five minutes to practise some simple yoga postures and breath work helps reduce that stress state and ease the body back into better balance.

Outside of just stretching after running, a great yoga practise aids in core strength and stability. This key function ensures safer, stronger strides in your runs with better propulsion and landings. After all, a great technique in running is essential for limiting injuries. A lot of injury reduction starts with the strength and mobility to support the movement you are asking your body to achieve. For example, tight hip flexors will reduce your stride length as well as decrease the power generated by your extensor muscles. In time, this will create aches and pains you do not want or need!

One of yoga’s most magical gifts is the ability to teach us about our own bodies. What we are capable of, but also, where our weaknesses may lie. Your yoga practise can educate your running style by developing an understanding of where you need to increase strength and where you need to be more mobile. Listen to what each movement is trying to teach you.

Yoga for Runners - Keep it simple

A consistent yoga practise will most certainly aid your running. Even dedicating just ten minutes afterwards is enough to make a difference and keep injuries to a minimum. Even one minute is better than nothing at all!

Here are our top four yoga postures and why they work wonders for post run recovery:

As with all bodywork, approach these poses gently if you've never done them before.

1. Downward Facing Dog

Dryad - Yoga for Runners

If you need one stretch that ticks multiple boxes, this is it. Stretching hamstrings, calves and achilles as well as opening and strengthening through shoulders and lengthening through the back and spine. Don't force your legs to be straight or heels touch the floor, just stretch into the space available. You can even pedal through the feet to stretch one leg at a time ensuring that you don’t put too much pressure through your lumbar spine. After a run this feels amazing! It is especially great if you run in the evenings, as being upside down also has a calming effect on the nervous system and releases stress.

2. Reclined Pigeon

Dryad - Yoga for Runners

The hips don't lie and this posture will work wonders. We prefer the reclined version of Pigeon after a run. Essentially, it feels kinder and more effective, especially for the lower back. This yoga posture gets deep into the glutes, ITB and psoas (a large muscle between the spine and pelvis) which all become tense during your run. It also feels amazing on the lower back. The trick here is to rest into the shape and focus on your breath, that way you are not only getting a deep stretch but also reducing that stress state. Spend time doing both sides and use a block or a wall to support the lowered foot if it feels stressful to hug in.

3. Crescent Lunge

Dryad - Yoga for Runners

Perfect for stretching the quads and hip flexors that have been working super hard during your run. This posture can be done actively at the start of your run but gently 'pulsing'. Softly move in and out of it to warm up the hips, hip flexors, quads and lower back. At the end of your run, use it as a static stretch, holding for up to 10 steady breaths to release tension in the fascia and tendons.

4. Cow Face Pose

Dryad - Yoga for Runners

Whether you choose to do this posture seated or reclined, it is great for the hips, glutes and ITB. It can sometimes feel like a tricky shape to get into when you start. Feel free to do just one leg at a time and cross the leg over instead of laying it on top. If in doubt, start to practise this posture lying down and simply cross the legs. This is a static posture so wherever you find yourself, make sure you are comfortable there, and take the time to breathe. Make sure you do both sides too!

When it comes to the beautiful union of running and yoga, a little can go a long way. If you love nothing more than running off the mental stresses of your week, make sure it isn't adding more stress to your body. Once you find the balance that works for you, you will be able to enjoy each run even more knowing you have the tools to keep it safe and sustainable for longer.

Huge thanks to Michelle King and Amy Williams of AdventureYogi for kindly sharing these words and images.

AdventureYogi have spent a decade crafting beautiful yoga retreats across the globe.

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Text and images © AventureYogi.

*Sport England; 2015 to 2019; 181,535 respondents; 16 years and older; base varies; Online survey. Via Statista.