Yoga for Runners: A Recovery Sequence

Love running? Here's how to use yoga for recovery and improved performance.

runner yoga

runner stretching image via shutterstock

Boston has always been a runner’s city. In fact, a recent RunKeeper report says that the app’s Massachusetts user-base is logging 13 percent more running time since April 2013. Stretching hard-working leg muscles is one way to get post-run relief, but if you’re hoping to increase mileage or prevent future injury, yoga may be the best answer.

Yoga improves flexibility, posture, mental focus, breathing habits, and body sensing — each of which are key to developing better running technique. The following yoga flow targets hips and leg muscles, perfect for the walker, jogger, sprinter, and seasoned marathoners alike.

1. Downward-facing dog

Begin in downward-facing dog by placing your hands shoulder-width apart at the front of your mat and feet hips-width apart at the back of your mat. Send your hips up towards the ceiling and press your chest back towards your thighs. Bend one knee, then the other, “walking out your dog” and stretching the backs of your legs.

Modification: If you have wrist pain, holding dumbbells in each hand will relieve some stress.

2. Runner’s lunge to lizard lunge

From downward-facing dog, lift your right leg up to stretch, and then step it forward between your hands for a runner’s lunge. Place your right knee over your right ankle and straighten your left leg strong behind you, balancing on the ball of your left foot.

Move to lizard lunge by placing both hands on the inside of your right foot. Drop your left knee to the mat and untuck your left toes. Stay propped up on your hands or lower down onto forearms. To intensify the stretch, heel-toe your right foot a couple inches to the right, then roll onto the outside of your right foot.

Modification: In runner’s lunge, rest your left knee on the mat for tired legs. Use yoga blocks under your hands and forearms if you can’t reach the mat comfortably.

3. Warrior two to triangle pose

From lizard lunge, make your way back to a runner’s lunge. Windmill your arms up, open your body to the left, and then sink into your warrior two pose. Bend into your right knee so it is positioned over right ankle. Parallel the outside of your left foot with the back edge of your mat and lift your arms up to shoulder height.

From warrior two, straighten your right knee and sink into triangle pose. Place your right hand on right shin and left arm straight to the ceiling. Focus on drawing your left shoulder back and left hip back. Breathe here, engaging your abs to stay lifted.

*Find your way back to a downward-facing dog and repeat steps 1-3 on the left side.

 4. Half pigeon

From downward-facing dog, bring your right knee into your chest while lowering forward to a high push up position. Place your knee on the mat near your right wrist, line your right thigh up with the outside edge of your mat and inch your ankle up towards your left wrist. Rest on your left knee and untuck your toes. Keep your hips square as you lower your torso down and flex through your right foot to protect your knee. Stay in half pigeon for a minute or so, then move through to down-dog and repeat half pigeon on the left side.

Modification: Place a block under your right hip, under your forearms or under your head as needed.

5. Cobbler pose

Find your way to a seated position and come to cobbler – or butterfly – pose. Wrap your hands around your feet and lean forward while keeping your spine long.

Modification: Move your feet closer to your body to intensify or further away to back off.

6. Legs up a wall savasana

Take savasana with your legs extended up a wall. Ease out of the pose by bringing your knees into your chest for a few breaths before jumping up to your feet.