Pledge to stretch more in January with the best yoga poses for runners
Yoga is one of those things we know we should do… but never get around to. The truth is, you don’t need to sign up to a swanky studio or take out a yoga membership to reap the rewards of regular yoga. There are plenty of basic, simple yoga poses you can do at home (with zero equipment). These moves will stretch, strengthen, and support your running muscles so you can run with less stiffness and less risk of injury. Plus, yoga feels really good once you get into it! Give these 7 yoga moves a try and see how it helps your running training.
This is a fundamental yoga pose which you’d find in any yoga flow-style class. It stretches the hamstrings, calves, and ankles, loosens up the spine, and strengthens the shoulders and upper body (something lots of runners neglect).
Here’s how: start on your hands and knees with your wrists under your shoulders, fingers spread wide (middle finger pointing forward). Tuck your toes under, press into your palms, and lift your knees off the floor. Send your tailbone high and think about pressing your chest towards your shins. You will be in an inverted V shape with your hips high. Allow your heels to sink towards the floor and your head to hang loose.
A yoga lunge is held for some time (unlike gym-style lunges which are more dynamic). This will strengthen your quadriceps and hamstrings and stretch your hip flexors and your glutes.
Here’s how: from your Downward Dog, step one foot through to land it between your hands. Rise up with the back knee off the floor. Press into both feet equally and have your hands on your hips for balance. Once you are steady, lift your arms up with hands pointing to the ceiling. Go back to the Downward Dog and repeat on the other side.
Low Lunge With Quad Stretch
This all rounder strengthens the legs, stretches the quads, and opens up the hips. If you can’t do it at first, keep at it.
Here’s how: get into a low lunge by following instructions for High Lunge (above), but keep the back knee on the floor so you are supported by the back knee and the front foot. Untuck your toes on the back foot so the top of the foot is flat on the floor. Make sure your front foot is under your knee. Get your balance and lift your arms in the air, hands to the ceiling (you can feel the hip flexor stretch). Bend the back leg, bringing your foot towards your bottom. Reach the arm on the opposite side up, back, and down to take hold of the foot. Feel the stretch in your quad, shoulder, and chest then release slowly. Repeat on the other side.
This deep squat strengthens your legs, stretches your feet and ankles, and opens your hips.
Here’s how: stand with feet apart (you may need to adjust the width as you settle into the squat). Lower down into a squat, with a straight back (imagine you are sliding down a wall behind you). Try to keep your chest upright rather than tipping forwards. Put your elbows inside your knees to encourage your hips to open. Close your eyes if you can, and breathe deeply to settle into the squat.
This classic hamstring stretch gets a makeover in yoga, with slow deliberate movements and a deliciously long hold.
Here’s how: stand with your feet together. Breathe in, and fold from the hips (imagine you have a hinge there). Bend your knees as much as you need to – the aim is to press your chest and torso into your legs. Let your head hang loose. Either grasp both elbows and sway from side to side gently, or put your hands behind your calves to pull your torso closer to your legs. Roll out of this pose slowly, head coming up last of all.
This pose (and all its variations) is lovely for easing out achy backs and stiffness around the spine. You may even get some clicks and clunks if your back is very stiff!
Here’s how: lie on your back and raise your legs so the knees and hips are at right angles (imagine recreating the shape of sitting on a chair – but you are lying on your back). Have your legs together with knees and ankles touching. Take the legs both over to the right hand side, keeping your left shoulder pressed down. You can add more of a stretch by placing your right hand on top of the upper leg. Put the left arm out to the left side, and try looking over the left shoulder. Take some deep breaths in and out. Bring the legs back to the centre gently, and repeat on the other side.
Love it or hate it, this is a great strengthening move for the legs and glutes (with an added twist).
Here’s how: with legs and ankles together (feet facing forward), bend down into a deep squat. Raise your arms in front of you, aiming to get the beside your ears. Try not to fold over at the hips (the aim is to look like you’re sitting in a chair). Want more? Bring your hands together at your heart centre in prayer pose, then twist to one side, hooking the left arm over the right thigh… then switch to the other side.