Running burns calories, builds cardiovascular strength, muscular strength in your lower body, and can even be a moving meditation. However, running by itself can lead to tightness in the hamstrings, hip flexors, quadriceps, and feet.
Balance your running routine with some yoga poses that work on increasing flexibility in these overworked areas. Whenever you practice yoga, make sure you take your running shoes off and practice with your bare feet.
Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge Pose)
This pose targets the tight areas of the hip flexors and quadriceps muscles, and opens up the shoulders with the arm variation.
Start in Tadasana (Mountain pose) at the top of your mat with your feet about hip-distance apart. Inhale and reach your arms over head, lengthening through your side waist. Exhale and forward fold, bringing your fingertips onto your mat. Feel free to bend your knees to do this.
Keep breathing deeply as you step your right foot all the way back into a deep lunge and lower your right knee down to the earth. You may want to double your mat under your right knee or place a towel so you have more support underneath your patella. Tuck your back toes under for more stability and keep your hips square to the front of the room.
Engaging your abdominal muscles, extend your arms overhead. Keep finding length in your side waist from your hips to your armpits. Take your right wrist with your left hand and turn your right palm upward. Soften your shoulders, neck, and jaw, and slowly bend over to the left, using your left hand to gently pull onto the right wrist. You should start to feel more sensation in the right hip flexor. Stay for a few cycles of breath.
Inhale to come back to center. Exhale and lower your fingertips down onto either side of your left foot. Slowly step your right foot up to meet your left, and fold. Repeat with the other leg.
Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
You may like to use a block for this pose. Triangle pose opens up the groins, while strengthening the core muscles of your abdominals and lower back.
Begin in Tadasana (Mountain pose) at the top of your mat with your feet about hip-distance apart. Take a big step (about 3 feet) back with your left foot and pivot your left foot down so it is flat on the mat. Your left foot will be somewhat parallel to the short end of your mat while your right foot will be parallel to the length of the mat. Your right heel should bisect the arch of your left foot and that invisible line should be about parallel to the length of your mat.
Root both feet into the earth and distribute your weight equally. Engage your leg muscles. Your hips and shoulders will now be facing the sidewall rather than the front of the room. Extend your arms into a T shape and hinge at your right hip crease as you extend your right fingertips down onto your shin, block, or earth.
Keep lengthening through your right side waist as you spread your collarbone and reach your left arm up towards the sky. Soften through your neck and shoulders and feel free to gaze down towards your right foot or your left hand. If balancing in this pose is an issue or your neck feels strained, keep the gaze down towards your right foot. Breathe for about eight cycles of breath.
On your inhale, root through your right foot and rise up to standing. Step your left foot all the way up to meet your right and take a few breaths to recover in Tadasana. Repeat on the other side.
Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
Parsvottanasana targets the hamstrings and is an effective stretch after a run. With the variation in the arms, you will also create more space in your shoulders and chest.
Begin in Tadasana again and step your left foot back about 2 to 3 feet this time. Pivot your left heel down. Your left foot will be at a 45-degree angle and your right foot will be parallel to the length of the mat. You may feel more comfortable with the heels about hip-distance apart. Equally distribute your weight between your two feet.
Engage your legs and square your hips to the front of the room. Interlace your fingers behind your back. Lengthen through both sides of your waist and try to maintain this length in your spine as you fold forward, hinging at your hip crease. If balance is an issue, release the fingertips onto your shin, earth, or two blocks on either side of your feet. With the fingers interlaced behind your back, you are creating more flexibility and mobility in the shoulders. If your fingers are interlaced, hug your shoulder blades closer to each other and lift the hands away from the lower back. Take about five cycles of breath here.
On your inhale, root into your right foot and rise up to standing, releasing the hands behind the back. Step your left foot up to meet the right and rest in Tadasana for a few breaths before repeating the posture on the other side.
Seated Sole Stretch Pose
Many runners have experienced plantar fasciitis, which feels like a stabbing pain at the bottom of your foot. Try incorporating this stretch to alleviate or help prevent pain in the foot.
Begin seated on your shins with your feet placed right underneath your hips. Tuck the toes underneath and walk your fingertips just in front of your knees. Notice how this feels. If this is the first time you are stretching out the soles of your feet, it may feel very uncomfortable.
Listen to your body. If your feet are doing OK, walk your fingertips back so your palms are resting on your thighs and your bum is resting on your heels with your toes tucked under. Breathe deeply and stay for about 5 to 10 cycles of breath.
Release the posture by walking the fingertips forward again and untuck your toes. Recover for a few breaths and repeat once more.
Parsva Balasana (Thread the Needle Pose)
Lie down onto your back. Place your left foot flat onto the floor and stack your right ankle above your left knee. Release your arms down by your side. Notice the sensation in your right outer hip. Stay here or hug your left knee in towards your chest and interlace your fingers behind your left thigh. If your head starts to lift off the mat, release the left leg, and keep the left foot on the floor. Start to arch the lower back a bit to feel more sensation in the outer right hip. Stay for about 10 to 15 breaths and repeat on the other side.
Viparita Karani (Legs up the Wall Pose)
This is one of my favorite poses; it’s effective for anyone who spends a lot of time standing or sitting at a desk because this inversion releases tension in the legs, helps prevent varicose veins, and stimulates your immunity.
Move to a wall and place your bum up against the baseboard. If you have tighter hamstrings, you may enjoy placing a block or bolster underneath your sacrum.
Extend your legs up against the wall and release your arms down by your side. Let go of tension in your legs and feet. This posture is about letting go and relaxing. Close your eyes and stay for a couple minutes or more, if comfortable.