The combination of strength and stretching that yoga offers makes it ideal for runners looking to improve while also avoiding injury. Although all yoga poses are beneficial for runners, there are some that focus specifically on the muscles groups and joints most runners utilize.
Standing straight and tall with both feet together, bring the hands high over head. Next, hinge at the hip keeping the torso straight and fold the body in half. Keep the knees locked, even if the hands cannot reach the floor. In this forward bend position, feel the hamstrings stretch and loosen with each slow exhale. To relax even more in this pose, fold the arms and grasp each elbow with the opposite hand. Let the arms, head, and neck be pulled by gravity. Resting here will elongate and stretch the spine. Allow gravity and breathing to do the work here as the key to attaining a meaningful stretch is to stay in the pose for at least 60 seconds.
Downward Facing Dog pose is well known for its total body benefits. Starting on hands and knees, with hands slightly in front of the shoulders, Use the toes to propel the hips towards the ceiling. The knees and arms will extend to facilitate this motion. Keep the neck and head in line with the spine and arms. Keep the knees straight, even if the heels cannot touch the ground as this is where the great calf and hamstring stretch occurs. Focus on lifting the hips higher towards the ceiling. Simultaneously, feel the spine almost hanging from the high hips and relax the upper body to let the spine stretch. Downward Facing Dog has multiple components which make it a highly effective pose, but it also takes practice to master. And again, to attain maximum benefits, stay in the pose for at least 60 seconds.
From a sitting position, bring the soles of the feet together as close to the body as possible. Keeping the torso tall, intertwine the fingers locking both hands together. Slide the hands under the feet and rest here for at least 60 seconds.
With the left foot forward assume a lunge position. Keep the back leg straight and heel in contact with the floor. The front knee should bend no more than 90 degrees, and the knee should not go past the toes (if it does, increase the distance between the legs and restart). Then, attempt to square the hips forward. The back quadricep and hip will stretch while trying to accomplish this. Bring the arms overhead, parallel to each other. Stay here for 60 seconds and repeat with the opposite leg.
Yoga is a highly beneficial cross training activity for runners. Certain yoga poses can isolate muscles and joints that most runners need to address more frequently, but all yoga poses will benefit runners in some way. Starting with these yoga poses for runners will help to loosen muscles and joints while also helping to prevent injury.