Six Yoga Poses All Runners Should Know
If you’re training for the Boston Marathon, or logging serious miles on your own, you’re probably starting to feel the wear and tear of those months of long runs and hill sprints.
Adding yoga to your training regimen may be your saving grace. Practicing yoga helps the body recover, improves flexibility and range of motion, and enhances strength and stability—all of which makes you a better runner.
1. Forearm Plank
Why: It strengthens and stabilizes the core, legs, and shoulders.
How: Place your elbows on the mat, shoulder-width apart. Stack your shoulders right above your elbows. Make sure your forearms are parallel, with palms pressing down flat or fingertips interlaced. Step your feet to the back of the mat, creating a straight line from your shoulders to your heels. Try to pull your toes toward your elbows. Keep your collarbone broad and neck extended long. Hold for five full, steady breaths.
Repeat three times, with a one-breath rest between each plank. As you build strength, add one breath to each hold. Build up to five holds of 10 breaths each.
2. Side Forearm Plank
Why: It strengthens and stabilizes the core and side body, and lengthens the side body.
How: Lie on your side and place your forearm on the floor, perpendicular to your body. Stack your shoulder right over your elbow. Lift your hips to create a straight line from your shoulder to your feet. Flex and stack your feet. Keep the hips and legs stacked. Keep lifting your hips and side-waist away from the ground. Hold for three steady breaths.
Repeat three times on each side, with a one-breath rest between each hold. As you gain strength, progress to five holds on each side for six breaths each.
3. Bridge Pose
Why: It strengthens the glutes and hamstring muscles, and lengthens the hip flexor and psoas muscles.
How: Lie on your back, with your feet hips-width distance apart. Stack your feet right under your knees, close enough to the body that your fingertips can graze your heels. Wiggle your shoulder blades under your back and press the backs of your arms into the ground. On an inhale, press into your feet and lift your hips and your lower, middle, and upper back off the ground. Press into your feet and shoulders to make a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Keep hugging your knees toward your midline. Lengthen your tailbone toward your knees and keep broadening your chest and collarbone. Hold for five to 10 breaths, then lower down as you exhale.
Repeat three to five times, with a one-breath rest between rounds.
4. High Lunge
Why: It strengthens the quads and hamstrings, and lengthens the quad, psoas, and hip flexor muscles.
How: Stand with your feet hips-width distance apart. Step one foot about three feet behind you and lower your hips until the front thigh is parallel to the floor. Keep your front knee directly over your ankle and make sure it’s pointing over your second toe. Soften your back knee and lengthen your tailbone downward to make more space in your low back. Keep lifting your low belly and ribs upward, away from the hips and the front leg. Hold for five to 10 breaths, then repeat on the opposite side.
Hold three to five times on both sides.
5. Side Lunge
Why: It strengthens the glutes, quads, and hip flexors, and lengthens the inner leg muscles.
How: Stand with your feet about three feet apart and parallel. Lunge into your right foot until your thigh is parallel to the ground. Keep both feet grounded and flat. Your back can be upright, or you can lean forward so your torso is parallel to the floor. Feel your right side strengthen as your left side stretches. Hold for two to three breaths, then shift and lunge into your left foot.
Repeat three to five times on each side.
6. Table Top Variation
Why: It strengthens the glutes and lower back muscles, and stabilizes the core.
How: Place your hands and knees on the floor. Stack your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Lift your navel and ribs toward your spine to neutralize your back. Lift and reach your left leg straight back, at hip height. Lift and reach your right arm forward at shoulder height, palm facing in. Try to remain stable as you hold the pose for three to five breaths.
Repeat this pose three times on each side. As you gain strength, work up to eight-breath holds.