Runners are often reluctant to try yoga,
concerned that they aren’t flexible enough. It isn’t uncommon for runners attending their first yoga class to ask whether the room will be filled with lithe and flexible bodies, in spite of it being advertised “for runners; no yoga experience necessary.” This fear may be driven by the many media images showing people in advanced yoga poses, fuelling the notion that you have to be able to bend like a pretzel to do yoga. This is far from the truth. Yoga is suitable for every body type. It can be started at any age, regardless of physical condition, and those who are the stiffest have the most to gain. Runners specifically have much to gain from adding yoga to their physical regimen.
Runners are most likely to take up yoga to improve flexibility, and there is no doubt that certain parts of a runner’s body need stretching. However, more important than overall flexibility is musculoskeletal balance. Everything works better in a state of balance, and the human body is no different. Yoga helps balance the body, which enables muscles to work more efficiently. The benefits of yoga for runners are numerous, but one they appreciate most is that they can run with less risk of injury.
The following selection of poses will increase your flexibility and strength.
This is the #1 yoga pose for runners. Do this pose every day! It decompresses the spine, stretches the hamstrings and calves, and builds upper body strength.
Start on hands and knees with hands beneath the shoulders and knees beneath the hips. With straight arms and inner elbows facing each other, spread the fingers and press the roots of the fingers firmly into the ground. Curl the toes under and lift the hips. Keep the legs bent to start, and actively press the hands into the floor as you press the hips away from the hands and towards the ceiling. Straighten the legs. Draw your belly in and widen the shoulder blades across your back. Let your head relax. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.
This is a great stretch for the hip flexors and inner thighs.
From Downward Dog, step the left foot forward to the outside of your left hand; bend the leg to 90 degrees. Gradually bend the elbows and let the forearms rest on the floor. Do not let the knee sway outward or the left hip sag. Keep the back leg straight. Hold for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side.
Deepens the hip work while rejuvenating your spine.
From Lizard Pose, hold your left ankle with our right hand and extend your left arm to the ceiling. From the navel, twist your torso to the left, rolling the right ribs towards the left inner thigh. Open the chest by lifting and lengthening the breastbone. Hold for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side.
The following three poses build arm, upper body, and core strength. The stronger your core, the stronger your running!
From Dog Pose, step back until the body is parallel to the floor, keeping the shoulders over the wrists. Spread the collarbones and lift the breastbone; press back through the heels and engage your thighs. Hollow the belly and lift the front lower ribs. Press the tailbone towards the heels. Hold for up to 10 breaths.
From Plank Pose, bring the feet together and pivot to the right, pressing the outer edge of the right foot into the floor and stacking the left foot on top. Stack the shoulders and hips. Position the supporting hand beneath the shoulder and firmly press the shoulder away from the ear, with the arm straight and the triceps firm. Extend the top arm toward the ceiling. Squeeze the inner thighs and press out through the soles of the feet. Hold for 5 breaths. Return to Plank and repeat on the other side.
Chaturanga (yoga push-up)
Even better for building strength than Plank!
From Plank, slowly bend the arms and lower the body until the upper arms are parallel to the floor, with elbows over the wrists and tucked in and arms at 90 degrees. Pause and hold for one breath. Press into the hands and lift the torso (without sagging) until the arms are straight; then press the hips back into Downward Dog. Repeat up to 5 times.