Best Yoga Poses for Runners

7 Yoga Moves Every Runner Needs to Know

To be a happy, healthy, injury-free runner, you need mind-body integration and a balance of strength and flexibility. And yoga, if done well, will help you get there.

But, if you’re like many runners I know that steer away from yoga because you don’t think you’re flexible enough, fear no more. You really don’t need to be flexible to be a good runner…you just need to be balanced.

How? Incorporate these seven must-do postures into your yoga practice today.

1. Tadasana a.k.a “Mountain Pose”


WHY: 

Runners are notorious for poor posture (forward-rolling shoulders and head). Tadasana is the foundation of proper alignment both on and off the mat. Plus, better posture leads to more efficient breathing when you run.

HOW: 

Start with your feet hip distance apart. Roll your shoulders up, back and down so the scapula rest flat against your back. Float your head slightly up and back to rest atop your spine. As you stand and breathe deeply, imagine your torso is bright and buoyant. Perhaps even close your eyes. With each exhale, let your body ground. On each inhale feel your spine lift.

2. The Twisted Dragon


WHY: 

If you’re able to hold your back foot, this more advanced pose stretches the quads, releases the hip flexors and opens the chest all in one go. Wow!

HOW: 

(Start with the right foot in front.) From a low lunge with the back foot untucked, place the left hand out to the left of the mat with fingertips pointing away from your body. Lean out and back toward the extended left hand and inhale the right arm up and back. Hold the left foot with your right hand while opening the chest toward the sky. Pull the foot in toward the body to increase the quad stretch. Stay here for three to five breaths. On an exhale, slowly release. Switch sides.

3. Supta Baddha Konasana, a.k.a “Reclining Bound Angle”


WHY: 

It’s the perfect passive psoas release. And, if held long enough, this posture taps into the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) to calm your mind and reset your body.

HOW: 

From your back, bring your feet together and knees apart. If this is too much for your knees, place a block under each for support. Try to stay here for at least two minutes breathing deeply. Inhale to draw the knees together and roll over to the right side to come out.

4. Plank Pose


WHY: 

A strong core means better postural support while running. Plank is unbeatable for building balanced strength.

HOW: 

Place your elbows on the mat with your fingers interlocked. Inhale and extend the legs out behind you with toes tucked. Press up. Level the hips without dropping the low back. Exhale to come down when you’re ready and rest on your stomach or in Child’s Pose. Repeat or add in side planks.

5. Bent-Legged Warrior III


WHY: 

Not only does it help you with balance and core stability while protecting the knee, this variation strengthens proprioceptor muscles around the ankle.

HOW: 

From any standing pose, inhale to shift weight into one leg and “lift off” with hips square to the ground and arms stretched out overhead. Reach toward the front of the room with your hands as you reach toward the back of the room with your raised foot. Be sure to keep your standing leg bent. Stay as long as you can. Shake out the legs before switching sides. Advanced option: Bend and straighten the knee several times while balancing.

6. Waterfall a.k.a “legs up the wall”


WHY: 

Ah, this is perhaps the single BEST rejuvenating posture for runners (or anyone, really). It not only removes swelling in the legs, it actually helps to speed up recovery! Plus, it isolates and gently stretches the hamstrings. (I do this before and after workouts, especially if I am running at the end of the day after I’ve been sitting at my desk for a long time.)

HOW: 

Lay on your side with one hip as close as you can get it to the wall. On an inhale, swing your legs up to rest on the wall and let your arms stretch out beside you. Then, relax! Be sure to stay here for at least seven minutes to fully circulate fresh blood. 

7. Squat

WHY: 

Most runners have weak hamstrings and glutes--crucial muscles for pulling the legs through the second half of each stride. Squats build strength along the “backchain” and increase hamstring mobility, making your running stride more efficient.

HOW: 

Start with your feet a little wider than hip distance apart and your toes pointing slightly out. Inhale as you lift your arms and exhale to shift your weight back and down as though you’re sitting in a chair. Be sure your knees track directly over your toes. Inhale to stand up and repeat. Advanced option: Hold each squat for two to six breaths before standing up.



About Ashley Hunter Arnold

Ashley Arnold is the former Associate Editor of Trail Runner magazine. Today she is a freelance writer and filmmaker. She lives in Asheville, NC, where she trains and races with the Asheville Running Collective and teaches yoga for runners and Aha Movement, a practice inspired by running, dance and yoga. Connect with her on Instagram @ashleyharnold or email her directly: ashley@ahamovement.net