10 Yoga Poses for Runners

You may have had others try to talk you into trying yoga and maybe you’ve resisted for various reasons. Your BFF wants you to try it so you can find your heart center, another good friend tries to convince you that it’s more addicting than running and you simply must try Bikram yoga. Then there’s your slightly crazy brother who sends you those pictures of him doing yoga poses on his surfboard, yes, while it’s in the water, in his kayak, even on his snowboard.

And now there’s this article. We won’t bother trying to sell you on all the benefits of yoga; you’ve probably heard them all before; except for this one: Yoga will make you a better runner. It will improve your form as well lower your risk for developing common injuries such as Achilles tendonitis, and plantar fasciitis. If you love to do marathons, yoga will improve your overall focus, not only before, but also during the race.

Young woman practicing yoga in a urban background

Photo credit: bigstock

Take a look at the top 10 yoga poses that will help runners the most. You won’t have to put your feet behind your ears or anything like that, these will simply keep you fluid and help to stop you from looking like a curled up shrimp during the last 3 miles of your marathon.


1. Downward Facing Dog

You’ve probably heard of this one before, it’s one of the most popular yoga poses but it will really help you avoid plantar fasciitis as well as lengthen your back.

Start on the floor on your hands and knees, yes, like a dog. Put your knees below the hips and the hands should be in front of your shoulders. Walk your knees back about 6 inches and put the balls of your feet on the floor. Spread your fingers wide and then lift your hips into an upside down V. Hold this position for 10 breaths.


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2. Childs pose

Although acting like a kid is really discouraged in our day to day business life, but not so in yoga! Get yourself on all fours on the floor, then drop down and back, putting your stomach on your thighs and your head on the ground ( or as close to your knees as you can). Your arms should be full length stretched out in front of you or, you can put them behind you, your fingertips pointed towards your toes. You should really feel your back lengthen and a stretch in just about everything, including the thighs, ankles, hips, even your feet. Hold for 10 breaths, or longer, if you like.

This is gentle stretch for the entire lower body that helps to relieve tension as well as improve focus.


3. Low lunge

To get into this position, put one foot in front of you and lunge forward so that the knee is over your ankle. Your back knee should be in a downward position. Move your hands from the floor to the knee. If you feel steady enough, put your arms overhead. Hold this for 5 or 10 breaths before you switch legs.

This pose works almost everything, from your abs, to your groin, to your thighs. This pose will help you avoid knee pain, ITBS, and plantar fasciitis.


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4. Low lunge with twist

From the low lunge position, simply twist your torso towards the front leg. Let one hand sit on the ground and the other hand on your knee. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths. This stretches the outer hip and the IT band in the front legs, both of which are usually tight for runners. The twist helps to relive lower back tension as well.

This pose helps to avoid knee pain, plantar fasciitis, as well as ITBS.


5. Squat (sometimes called Garland pose)

This squat isn’t that much different from the ones you do at the gym. To do this pose, squat with your knees over your toes. Keep your legs at a 45 degree angle from the center line, and place your palms together as though praying. Your heels do not have to touch the ground. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.

Squats stretch your back, calves, feet, and inner thighs – everything that tends to tighten up from running. This is another pose that will help you avoid ITBS and plantar fasciitis.


6. Locust

Even though it has a strange name, the locust is super simple and a vital pose for long distance runners. Lie on your stomach with your hands at your hips. Then, simply life up your torso arms and legs all at the same time. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths. Repeat this pose 3 times.

Although this pose looks simple, it’s much harder to maintain for very long. This pose will strengthen the muscles in your neck, and back, as well as the backs of your arms and the legs. This pose will improve your posture so when you reach the end of that marathon, your core muscles will still be going strong. This pose will help to protect your from lower back injuries.


7. Boat

This pose will feel something like crunches you’ve done at the gym. It’s much more difficult, however, if you only focus on the form. Sit with your knees and ankles together. Then lift your legs and arms so you make a V type of position. Hold for between 5 to 15 breaths, and then repeat this pose 3 times. The important thing with the boat is keep your back long and straight, don’t let it round up. This pose will strengthen the core muscles and the hip flexors, which are difficult to exercise and strengthen but tend to get hammered when running.


8. Dancer

This is the “pretty” pose that you always see silhouetted against a sunrise on those yoga DVD’s. What can we say; it does look pretty when done right. Stand up straight and bend on leg back at the knee, while you reach back with your hand on that same side and grab your foot. Raise your other arm up and, simultaneously, bring your leg up and back, away from your body. Once you get the hang of this pose, you will find you fold forward from the hips and that you bend your back slightly. Hold for five breaths.

This pose stretches a wide range of muscles and can vastly improve your balance. Better balance means a much more efficient stride and fewer injuries.


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9. Legs up the wall

Most runners wear those compression stockings like they are a fashion statement but we understand why. Legs tend to swell for a few days after a long, hard run. Rather than those stockings, try this pose. Move your behind close to the base of a wall, then put your legs up on the wall (wear socks if you’re concerned about leaving dirty foot prints) and rest them there. Stay there for 20 breaths or more. This helps to relieve those cramped, swollen legs and encourage your body to relax after running.


10. Fish

Although many people go for a 10 or 15 mile run and then go have lunch afterwards, simply skipping the stretching part, well, that’s all fine and good but when you skip the recovery part, you’re simply not getting the full benefits of the exercise.

The fish is super easy and it’s perfect for recovery. Lie down on your back, reclining over a rolled up blanket or towel. Then stay there. Lie there for 20 breaths or more if you like. This stretches the chest and encourages deep breathing.