Yoga for Runners: 15 Yoga Poses for Runners

Running is an excellent fitness option whether you want to lose weight, compete in a marathon, keep fit or unwind. However, when done over a period of time and frequently without proper recovery, it can make you susceptible to injuries.

Incorporating yoga in your fitness offers runners numerous benefits. Both exercises come together in a way that informs each other to promote healing and performance. Running helps you to build endurance and agility. It also improves your cardiovascular fitness which comes in handy in my yoga practice.

Yoga, on the other hand, increases your lung capacity, teaches you how to breathe, raises your awareness of your body, and improves your flexibility- which informs and enhances my running experience.

Common running-related problems and injuries that yoga for runners can alleviate.

Some of the most common injuries and issues reported by runners include:

  • Muscle soreness and tightness in hamstrings, quads, and gluteus muscles
  • Sore feet
  • Ankle pain and sprained ankles
  • Knee pain and injuries
  • Back pains
  • Stress fractures on the hips
  • Pulled hamstrings
  • Central nervous system fatigue

Benefits of yoga for runners

  1.         Improves flexibility

Running causes your muscles to tighten, restricting your range of motion. Yoga stretches the tensed muscles allowing them to resume optimal functioning such that they can contract and lengthen as needed.

  1.         Promotes recovery

Running is physically taxing on the body. It depletes your energy stores and may lead to accumulation of lactic acid – leaving you sore, tight and tired.  Yoga works all the body systems including the respiratory system, cardiovascular system, endocrine system and skeletal muscles. This, and the sequential contracting and lengthening of muscles as well as an emphasis on breathing, work together to promote blood circulation, oxygenate the cells and calm down the nervous system. You are left feeling energized and restored.

                    

  1.         Restores musculoskeletal balance

Every yoga posture, although seemingly simple, incorporates muscle contraction and lengthening, as well as stability and mobility. The stability aspect offers strength and muscle contraction while mobility aspect offers flexibility and muscle lengthening.

In any given pose, there is a group of muscle that is contracting while the other is lengthening. This coordinated muscular activity restores the musculoskeletal balance that is ideal for preventing injuries and promoting optimal performance when exercising.

  1.         Helps to prevent injuries

The repetitive pounding on the ground can take a toll on your muscles and tendons reducing their effectiveness and increasing your risk of injuries. Some of the most common running-related injuries include sore feet, back pain, stiffness, muscle tightness and limited range of movement.

Yoga offers rehabilitation for musculoskeletal imbalance, joint instability, and misalignment. Yoga for runners alleviates these symptoms and improves your stamina.

  1.         Builds multidimensional strength

Running focuses on single dimension body movement-the back and forward movement. This leads your body to gain incredible strength and power in that plane of motion. However, your muscles become underutilized in other planes of movement. Therefore, while your speed may have progressively improved, you may experience difficulties with balancing poses or lateral moves. Yoga helps you to build strength in the underused muscles.

  1.         Improves performance

If you are training for a long-distance marathon, yoga can be a useful tool to help you improve your performance. Practicing yoga for runners as a complementary exercise to your pre-marathon training gives your muscle strength and flexibility. The Yoga Journal notes that both significantly improve your endurance and consequently your performance. Yoga also enables your muscles to recover fast enabling you to focus on training for the marathon.

Reasons why yoga perfectly complements running

Despite the numerous benefits that yoga offers runners, some runners may be hesitant to give it a go. Most runners cite that they are inflexible. Others think of yoga and running as two polar opposites that cannot fit together in a fitness regime.

On the contrary, yoga and running integrate well and complement each other in such a way that your practice of one inspires and evolves the other. Besides, yoga and running are similar in the aspect that both are meditative- both practices give you an opportunity to hear yourself breath, fully become aware of your body, and to gain mental clarity.

When combined they give your body all round benefits that far outweigh doing each exclusively. Running provides your body with cardiovascular benefits while yoga offers muscle tone and flexibility.

How to incorporate yoga into your running routine

I propose two ways that you can incorporate yoga into your running routine.

  1.         Warm up and cool down with yoga poses

Warm up and cool down are essential parts of any exercise session. Warm up prepares both your mind and body for the session ahead. On the other hand, cool down allows your body to ease off from the demanding state to normalcy.

You could start or end with some of the yoga poses for runners recommended in the next part of this article or you could play one of the free short yoga clips on YouTube.

  1.         Set aside a day to do yoga within the week

The second option is to dedicate a some of your weekly exercise sessions to yoga. For instance, you could do running in the morning and attend a yoga class in the evening. Or, you could run on Monday and do yoga on Tuesday then run again on Wednesday and do yoga on Thursday, and so on.

Note that yoga is more than the physical postures (asanas). It incorporates intentional breath work and calls for a heightened level of awareness. Breathing plays a crucial role in yoga practice whether you are doing a few stretches before or after your run, or you are doing a complete routine.

Ujjayi: The recommended breathing technique for yoga for runners

The main difference between yoga and many other workouts is the synchrony between breath, asana, and transition between asana. The breath serves as the fuel, which energizes your body. Furthermore, the postures and breath work combined leave you feeling relaxed, calm and rejuvenated. Whether you are doing a few stretches before or after your run, or you are doing a complete routine, it is important to incorporate conscious breathing in your practice.

There are different types of breathwork (pranayama) that you can do on your mat either before, during or after your yoga practice. However, for this case, I recommend the Ujjayi (pronounced as oo-jai) breath.

The Ujjayi breath, also known as victorious or ocean breath, is a long, smooth breath with a wave-like sound. It is the accepted pranayama when practicing Hatha, Vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga.  It improves oxygen flow into the body, builds an internal heat, energizes, rejuvenates, and promotes meditativeness during your practice.
Ujjayi breathing technique
Ujjayi breathing is done with the mouth closed so that you are breathing in and out through the nostrils.

Here is how to do it:

  1. Take a deep and long inhale through your nose.
  2. Let the air flow through the back of your throat, lungs, and diaphragm.
  3. Hold your breath in for a second or two at the end of the inhalation.
  4. Systematically empty the diaphragm, lungs, through the back of your throat and out through your nose.
  5. Hold out for a second or two before taking in the next inhalation.

A distinguishing characteristic of the Ujjayi breath is that it passes through the back of your throat, causing the throat muscles to constrict.

Getting the technique can be challenging for beginners. To simplify it, my Ashtanga teacher, Sharon Moon, recommended that I practice with the tip of my tongue tucked on the roof of my mouth, lips sealed. When you practice like this, with time you get the hang of it and you will not need to tuck your tongue when doing asanas. If you are doing it correctly, it should sound like an ocean wave. A similar sound to the one you make when fogging a mirror.

15 Yoga poses for runners

This section of the article outlines 15 yoga poses to help you improve flexibility, promote circulation, build strength, ease muscle soreness and tightness and boost recovery from running related injuries.                                  

I will breakdown each posture as follows:

  • Name of the posture in English and Sanskrit
  • A brief of the benefits of the posture to runners
  • How to get into the posture
  • Key alignment cues and common misalignments
  • Possible modifications

1. Downward Facing Dog

Sanskrit: Adho Mukha Svanasana

It is a full body asana that primarily works the gluteus muscles, hamstrings, back muscles, shoulders, and triceps. The stretch on the gluteus muscles, back, hamstrings, and calves helps to recover from running-induced stress. As a full body asana, it builds overall body strength which boosts your performance as a runner.Yogis and yoga teachers commonly refer to this pose as Downward dog or down dog.

Instructions

  1. Come to your fours on the ground, with your hands shoulder-width apart and knees hip-width apart.
  2. Star-spread your fingers and press your hands down.
  3. Push your hips to the ceiling so that your body forms an inverted V-shape.
  4. Let your legs remain straight as your heels reach towards the floor.
  5. Allow your head hang between your shoulders with your eyes gazing either at the space between your feet or your belly button.
  6. Hold the posture for at least 5 complete breaths.

To get out of the posture, drop your knees to the ground and come to a tabletop position.

Alignment cues and common misalignments

Your heels should rest on the floor or as close as possible to the ground. Most beginners make the mistake of resting on the balls of their feet with their heels lifted upwards. This is not only tasking but it also hinders you from having the full benefits of the asana.

One of the most common reasons why people are unable to reach their heels on the floor is tight hamstrings and calves. In that case, slightly bend your knees. Also, a slight adjustment on your hips by shifting them back a bit could get your heels closer to the floor.

Another common misalignment on downward dog is a very wide or too narrow stance between your feet. Ideally, your feet should be hip-width apart, parallel to each other, with your toes pointing towards the front of the mat.

Keep your hands active. Spread your fingers and firmly press with the balls of the fingers on the mat.  Externally rotate your forearms, biceps, and triceps so that your elbows are slightly bent towards the outside.  Active hands and legs help to balance off your bodyweight on downward dog.

Avoid rounding your back. Aim for a neutral spine by pressing your chest towards your thigh muscles. Squeeze your shoulder blades towards each other and lift your shoulders away from your ears.

Modifications

Often runners have tight lower back, hamstrings and calves and limited upper body strength (if you run exclusively). Therefore, you may find doing a downward facing dog quite a challenge. Your hamstrings may hurt, and your hands may be shaky making it challenging to hold the posture for even two breathes. If you keep doing down dog regularly, eventually the body opens up allowing you to achieve better alignment in the posture.

In the meantime, there are some modifications you can take to make the posture easier to do.

  • Use blocks beneath your hands to elevate your upper body and shift bodyweight towards your legs.
  • Slightly bend your knees to ease tension on the hamstrings and knees.
  • If you cannot hold the posture for more than a breath at a time, get into the pose on the inhale and out on the exhale. Start at a tabletop position, as you inhale assume the down dog position and as you exhale come back to the tabletop position. Occasionally, try to hold the posture for a full breath and build up to hold for more breaths as your you become stronger and more flexible.

Contraindications

People with any of the following injuries should not do down dog:  Untreated high blood pressure, chronic injuries on back, hamstrings, wrists, shoulders, hips, and ankles.

2. Warrior I

Sanskrit: Virabhadrasana I

Warrior I is the first variation of the warrior poses. During the posture, the quadriceps and adductors of the front leg are contracted, building strength while opening the hip flexors of the back leg. A common characteristic in runners is tight hip flexors which can result in hip inflammation or stress fracture. Warrior I promotes circulation and flexibility in the hips therefore preventing such injuries.

Instructions

Option one: from standing

  1. Come to a standing position at the front of your mat with both feet touching (tadasana).
  2. Step your left foot to the back of your mat, about 4-feet apart.
  3. Turn your left foot to a 45-degrees angle towards the front of your mat while the right foot remains straight, facing the front of the mat. Right heel should be in line with the left heel.
  4. Align your hips to face forward.
  5. Bend your right knee to come to a right angle while the left leg remains straight.
  6. Straighten your hands past your head, parallel to each other, palms facing each other and fingers spread. Drop your shoulders down so that your neck is long and straight.
  7. Hold your head in a neutral position with your eyes gazing forward or tilt it back and look at the space between your hands.( In Ashtanga yoga, you bring your palms together and gaze at the thumb.)
  8. Maintain a straight spine and scoop your tailbone in.
  9. Stay in the posture for at least 5 breaths.
  10. Switch sides

                       

To get out of the posture, release your hands beside your body and step the back leg in front to a tadasana position.

                                                                                                                                                  

Option 2: From down dog

  1.         Follow the instructions to get into a downward facing position provided above.
  2.         From the down dog, step your right leg between your hands.
  3.         Follow step 3-9 provided in option 1 above.

Alignment cues and common misalignments

Warrior 1 is a closed hips posture. When doing the asana on the right side (step 4), place your hands on your hips. Using your right hand, pull the right hip towards the back so that the left hip automatically tilts towards the front and both hips are in line.

“From the skin to the bone, hug in,” Baron Baptiste describe one of the tenets of centerline alignment.

You want your legs to be active. Once you have assumed the correct position, tighten your thigh muscles. Squeeze your thighs as if you are zipping up a zip that is between your thighs. This helps to generate an internal heat that promotes circulation, eliminates toxins and warms up your muscles adequately allowing you to get deeper into the posture.

Sturdiness in warrior 1 comes from right alignment as well as mental focus. Pay attention to your breath and choose a point to gaze at either ahead of you or between your hands. Note that being absent minded could through you out of balance. Also, press the outer side of your back foot firmly on the mat.

Keep your front knee from going past your knees. Maintain a right angle between your hamstring and calves on the front knee. Allowing your knee to go past your toe could damage the knee ligaments or kneecap.

The right stance will help you to maintain balance in the posture and make it easier to close your hips. It depends on your flexibility and height. Experiment to find an appropriate stance.

Modifications

I find that doing the following modifications make it easier for beginners to get into the posture:

  • Stagger your heels so that they are not necessarily on the same line but a few inches apart.
  • Shorten your stance.  It gives you enough room to have both feet firmly on the ground.
  •  Slightly bend your front knee instead of going all the way to a 90-degree angle.
  • If you have high blood pressure, do not raise your hands above your head rather keep them on your hips. Also, gaze straight ahead instead of tilting your head to look up.
  • Drop your back knee on the mat.

Contraindications

It is best to avoid this posture if you have chronic back, knee or hip injury, and untreated high blood pressure.

3. Warrior II

Sanskrit: Virabhadrasana II

The gluteus muscles play a crucial role in running of providing strength and stabilising the hips as you shift your weight from one leg to the other. Yet, due to the sedentary lifestyle that some of us live, most runners suffer a weak butt that makes them susceptible to injuries and lowers their performance.

Warrior II fires the gluteus muscles making them stronger. It also aligns the lower body muscles enabling them to perform optimally during your runs. The posture strengthens the quads and hamstrings while opening up the hips.

Instructions

  1. Set up for warrior 1 (instructions provided above).
  2. Open your back foot to a 90-degree angle so that your hips are open. Heels remain in line.
  3. Spread your hands on either side of the torso, parallel to the ground with palms facing down.
  4. Gaze at the tip of the middle finger of the hand in front
  5.  Hold for at least 5 breaths
  6. Switch to the other side.

To get out of the posture, release your hands beside your body and step your back leg to the front of the mat.

Alignment cues and common misalignment

Set up the posture from the ground up. Work on getting your feet aligned correctly, it forms the foundation of your posture. Press the outer side of the back leg firmly on the ground. Ensure that the front knee is bent to a 90-degree angle and does not go past your toes. Keep the hips open by placing the hand behind on the back hip and tilting the pelvis towards the back. Focus your gaze on a single point to help you remain in balance.

Eventually, as you become more flexible and stronger, work on getting deeper into the posture by slightly widening your stance and sinking your hips lower to a point where your front thigh is parallel to the ground.

Maintain a tall and straight spine with a slight bend at the lower back. Tighten your core muscles and reach your hands on either side of the torso. Often, there is a tendency for the upper body to lean slightly forward in Warrior II.  Ensure that your shoulders are stacked directly over your hips.

Modifications

  • Stagger your heels so that they are not necessarily on the same line but a few inches apart.
  • Shorten your stance.  It gives you enough room to have both feet firmly on the ground.
  • Slightly bend your front foot instead of going all the way to a 90-degree angle as you work on your strength and flexibility.
  • Place your hands on your hips.

Contraindications

Warrior II should not be done by people with chronic injury to the shoulders, knees, hips, back or neck.

4. Warrior III

Sanskrit: Virabhadrasana III

Warrior III is both a strengthening and balancing posture. The continuous state of motion in running can cause musculoskeletal imbalance around the hips and lower body. Such imbalance has dire consequences on runners including knee pain and plantar fasciitis.

In Warrior III, the hamstrings and quadriceps are lengthening and engaged which builds both strength and flexibility.  The hips are in line thus stabilising them. Since you are holding the weight of your body on one foot, the core is forced to work harder therefore building core strength.

Instructions

  1.         Stand in Tadasana at the front of your mat
  2.         Step the left leg back into a lunge.
  3.         Slightly bend your right knee with the foot facing the front of the mat.
  4.         Lean forward so that your torso is at a right angle to your right thigh.
  5.         Reach your hands forward past your head, parallel to the floor with the palms facing    each other.
  6.         Press the four corners of your right foot on the floor and lift the back leg off the mat, raising it until it is parallel to the floor. Straighten the right knee.
  7.         Hold the posture for at least 5 breathes.
  8.         Switch sides

To release the posture, step the lifted leg back to a lunge and then take it forward to Tadasana.

Alignment cues and common misalignments.

Spread your fingers and reach your hands forward while dropping your shoulders back, away from the ears. You could slightly bend the knee of the standing leg to ease off tension from the hamstrings.

Keep an active core by sucking your belly in and slightly tilting your tailbone towards the floor. Avoiding leaning your torso forward too much as if you are taking a forward bend.

Warrior III is a closed hip posture, therefore, endeavor to keep both hips in line facing towards the ground. The hip of the lifted leg tends to tilt upwards. Internally rotate your lifted thigh, point the toes towards the ground and tilt the hip to face the ground.

Modifications

If your hamstrings are too tight, consider slightly bending both of your knees. You could place your hands on your hips, bring the palms together at prayer position or hold on to a chair or wall for better balance. Either way, ensure to keep a straight torso that is parallel to the ground.

As you become more advanced in your practice, you can transition to warrior III from warrior 1. Set up for warrior 1. Straighten your front knee and lean forward such that your torso is parallel to the ground. Stretch your hands forward parallel to the ground, palms facing each other. Slowly lift your back leg until it is inline with the torso.

Contraindications

It is not recommendable for people with heart disease, untreated blood pressure, and chronic injury on the back, hamstring, knee or neck to practice warrior III.

5. Reverse warrior

Sanskrit: Viparita Virabhadrasana

When you are running and hopping from one leg to another, some of the impact goes to the spine. If you have weak lower body muscles, most of the impact goes directly to the spine. This impact can result in spinal misalignment which may trigger conditions such as Sciatica. Reserve warrior works to strengthen the legs, and restore spinal alignment.  

Instructions

  1.         Come to a warrior II position on your right side (Instructions provided above).
  2.         Drop your left hand to rest on your left leg.
  3.         Reach your right hand up so that it is facing towards the back.
  4.         Lengthen your torso and take a side bend.
  5.         Gaze up at your right-hand fingers
  6.         Hold the posture for at least 5 breaths

To release the posture come back to warrior II and switch sides.

Alignment cues and common misalignments

When your torso leans back to the side bend, your knee may go with it. Consciously, ensure that the knee remains stacked over the ankle. Also, do not let the knee go over your toes. Widen your stance if need be, for better alignment. Avoid compressing the lower back. You are aiming for a side bend rather than a backbend.

Reverse warrior is an open hip posture. When doing it on the right side, tilt your left hip towards the back and the right hip towards the front and vice versa.

Modifications

  • If you are wobbly on the posture, consider separating your heels a few inches apart and shortening your stance. You could also place a chair straddled across your back leg so that the hand that otherwise holds onto the rear thigh holds onto the chair for better stability.
  • If you are finding it difficult to do the posture with the front knee bent to a 90-degree angle, slightly straighten the to a comfortable position. If you are straining on the neck or have a previous neck injury, look down at the back leg instead of up at the raised hand.
  •  with high blood pressure should gaze down instead of up and hold on to a chair for better balance.
  • As you become stronger and more flexible, try the more advanced variation of reverse warrior whereby you wrap the hand behind around the back and reach for the inner thigh of the standing leg.

Contraindications

Reversed warrior is not ideal for people with chronic injury on either hips, knees, back or shoulders.

6. Wide-legged standing forward bend

Sanskrit: Prasarita Padottasana

The standing wide-legged forward bend counters a number of running related issues including tight hamstrings, underdeveloped gluteus muscles, muscle soreness and tight back muscles and hip flexors.

As you fold forward, the hamstrings lengthen and stretch while your neck hangs from the top of the spine lengthening and releasing tension off the back muscles. Gluteus muscles and quadriceps are engaged therefore making them stronger.

Instructions

  1.         Come to tadasana at the front of your mat.
  2.         Step your legs about 3-4 feet apart, feet parallel to each other, toes facing forward.
  3.         Place your hands on your hips, hinge at the hip joint and bend forward as you exhale.
  4.         Place your palms on the floor under your shoulders.

  1.       Let your head hang from the root of the neck
  2.       Hold the posture for at least 5 breaths.

To get out of the posture, place your hands on your hips and on the inhale come up to standing.

Alignment cues and common misalignments

Keep your torso lengthened throughout the pose and avoid rounding the back. To avoid hyperextending the knees, keep your leg muscles active. Lift your ten toes and press down with the balls of your feet and heels to activate the quadriceps.

Modifications

  • Ultimately, you head should be on the floor. However, many people are not able to get the head to the ground. You get the benefits of the pose even by letting your head hang between your shoulders.
  • If your hands do not reach the floor, you can place them on yoga blocks.
  • If you need to, bend your knees to an extent that the hamstrings are not overstretching.

Contraindications

Do not do forward bends if you have untreated high blood pressure, heart disease and chronic injury on your hips, shoulders, legs, back or neck.

7.  Seated forward bend

Sanskrit: Paschimottanasana

The seated forward bend provides a deep stretch of the hamstrings and back releasing any tension that may have built up from previous runs. Since both hips are facing the same direction, it stabilizes the pelvis. It also helps to calm the nervous system which often becomes overstimulated from the fast and high impact pounding on the ground.

Instructions

  1.    Sit down on the ground with your legs spread straight, inner edges of your feet touching. (Staff pose).
  2.    Reach your hands up past your head and lengthen your torso.
  3.    Hinge at your hip joint and fold forward so that your torso is leaning towards the legs.
  4.   Depending on your flexibility, either hold on the sides of your shins or the ankles or wrap your hands around your feet.
  5.    Press your heels out and curl your toes towards you.
  6.    Hold for at least 5 breaths

To get out of the posture, sit upright.

Alignment cues and common misalignments

When getting into the posture, keep your torso lengthened. Think of it as resting your chest on your thighs instead of trying to tip your nose on the knees. The first contact point between your upper body and the lower body should be your belly on thighs, then chest on thighs, and eventually chin on knees or shins.

Modifications

  • Instead of folding forward towards your legs, slightly hinge your hips and place your hands beside your knees. Actively press your hands on the floor and keep your torso upright.

Seated forward bend(modified variation with torso upright and peace-fingers on the big toes). 

  • You could also roll a blanket and put it either under your seating bones or the knees.
  • If you are having difficulty reaching for your feet, wrap a strap around your feet and hold on it.
  • The seated forward fold is more restful in comparison to standing forward fold therefore you could hold it for longer as a restorative posture.

Contraindications

Avoid or practice seated forward bend with caution if you have asthma or you have a hip, back, shoulder or neck injury.

8. Crescent lunge

Sanskrit: Anjeneyasana

The crescent lunge is a full body posture that integrates the lower and upper body for vitality, strength, flexibility, and balance. It stretches and strengthens the quadriceps, thighs, and gluteus muscles and opens hip flexors. The internal heat built up in the body promotes blood circulation to the activated muscles therefore boosting recovery from the impact of running.

Crescent Lunge.

Instructions

  1.   From a down dog position, step your right foot between your hands. Or from tadasana, step your left leg about 4-feet to the back.
  2.   Position your back foot such that you are standing on the ball of the foot.
  3.   Sink your hips down and bend your right knee to a 90-degree angle.
  4.   Reach your hands over your head and spread fingers.
  5.   Either gaze ahead or at the space between your palms.
  6.   Hold for 5 breaths and switch sides

To get out of the posture, step your back leg to the front of the mat.

Alignment cues and common misalignments

Crescent lunge is a closed hip posture. Aim to keep both hips in line facing forward and sink your hips as low as possible. Keep the back knee straight with only a micro-bend, if necessary, to ease tension off the hamstrings.  Stack your front knee over the ankle and not past your toes. Feet should be hip-width apart.

Lengthen your torso and squeeze the shoulder blades towards each other. Drop your shoulders away from the ears to give your neck and head enough room.

Modifications

  • You may opt to drop the back knee on the mat and untuck the toes. If you experience pressure on the back knee that is on the ground, roll a towel and put it under the knee.
  • For balance, you may place your hands on your hips and gaze forward. Alternatively, place a chair in front of you and hold on to it.

Contraindications

This posture is not suitable if you have high blood pressure, heart problems, and chronic injuries.

Low Lunge (Knee Dropped to Ground)

9. Triangle pose

The triangle pose is a must do yoga pose for runners. It opens the hips, shoulders, back and chest while stretching the legs and spine.  It also stabilizes your feet and ankles giving them the much needed rest from constantly moving when running.

Triangle pose (front hand resting on the front foot).

  1.         Step your feet about 4-feet apart.
  2.         Turn the back foot to a 75-90-degree angle with the front leg facing forward.
  3.         Reach your hands out on opposite directions parallel to the mat.
  4.         Lengthen the torso and reach forward until your torso is parallel to the ground.
  5.        Drop your front hand against the right leg or reach your fingertips all the way to the    ground.
  6.         Reach the other hand up and spread your fingers.
  7.         Gaze up at the fingertips of the hand that is up and hold for five breaths
  8.         Switch sides.

                              

To come out of the posture, place the hand lifted up on your hips, look down, squeeze your legs and come up to standing.

Alignment cues and common misalignments

Many people obsess about getting the hand to the ground on Trikonasana. While you will eventually be able to touch the ground as your body opens up, that is not the ultimate goal of the posture. Pay attention to lengthening your torso and keeping your legs and hands active.

Keep your hips open by squeezing in the gluteus muscles of the front leg and taking the back hip back. Press the four corners of your feet down to enhance sturdiness and balance in the posture. Also, press the outer edge of your back foot firmly on the ground.

To get the right stance, open your hands and adjust the position until your front wrist is in line with the front ankle, and the back wrist is in line with the right ankle. From there, depending on your flexibility, you can adjust the stance to a comfortable and sturdy position.

Do not lean your torso on the front leg and neither should the weight of your front hand be on the front leg. Press the forearm of your front hand against the inner shin of your front leg instead of placing the hand on top of the leg. Keep an active core to help bear the weight of your torso.

A common misalignment on this posture is hyperextending the knees, especially on the front leg. To counter it, lift your toes off the mat. This action forces the knees caps to pull up and the quadriceps to activate thus easing tension on the knees.

The front heel should be in line with the arch of the back foot. However, you may take your back foot out a few inches for better balance.

Modifications

  • Use a chair for support. Place a chair beside the outer edge of your front foot and place your front hand on the chair instead of reaching for your foot.
  • Or, you could place a block on either side of your front foot and put your hand on it.
  • Also, you can lean your back against a wall.
  • Shorten your stance if you feel wobbly on the posture.
  • Place your hand behind on your waist instead of reaching it up.
  • If you have high blood pressure, look down.
  • In Ashtanga yoga, Trikonasana is done with the fingers of the lifted up together.

Contraindications

Avoid the triangle pose if you have chronic hip, back, leg, neck and knee injuries, untreated low blood pressure, and high blood pressure.

10. Sleeping Pigeon

Sanskrit: Eka Pada Rajakapotasana

The pigeon pose is the king of hip-openers. It offers a deep stretch of the groin, psoas, and gluteus muscles,and hamstrings – releasing the tension accumulated from running. Open hips and flexible hamstrings enhances your range of motion when running.

Sleeping pigeon pose.

Instructions

  1.     Come to your fours with hands shoulder-width apart and knees hip-width apart.
  2.     Step your left leg between your hands so that it is in line with your left hand.
  3.   Take your left leg across for the left knee to touch the left wrist. The right leg remains straight.
  4.    If your hips are open enough, bring the right foot towards the top of the mat in such a way that it is in line with the left knee.
  5.   Center your hips and lower them towards the floor.
  6.    Walk your hands to the top of the mat until your chest is on top of your bent leg.
  7.    Continue walking your hands forward until your head is resting on the ground.
  8.    Hold the posture for at least 5 breaths
  9.     Switch sides

To come out of the posture, press your hands on the mat in front of you and lift your hips up to a down dog.

Alignment cues

Your hips will tend to spill towards the side of the bent knee, center them and keep them in line facing forward. Press the top of your back foot on the mat for a deeper activation of the hip flexors.

Note that in either variation of pigeon pose may bring out intense sensations. Gauge to see how much you can bear and when to get out of the posture. Hip openers are most effective when they are held longer. As you become more advanced in practicing the pose, hold it for longer, up to 5 minutes.

Modifications

  • If you are having difficulty aligning your front foot with the front knee, slide the foot closer to your groin.
  • You may place a block or a rolled blanket under the hip of the front leg for better stability.

Contraindications

Do not perform this asana if you have very tight hips, hip injury, back injury or knee injury.

The sleeping half pigeon is an advanced level posture that requires a high level of flexibility. If you are a beginner, you can work your way to the sleeping half pigeon by practicing other variations of the pose such as the half pigeon.

Half pigeon

Sanskrit: Ardha Kapotasana

Half pigeon.

Instructions

Follow the steps for doing sleeping pigeon up to step 5. However, instead of reaching your hands in front and resting your head on the ground, place your hands on the ground next to your hips and keep your torso upright. Hold for at least 5 breaths.

11. Camel Pose

Sanskrit: Ustrasana

Camel pose is an excellent posture for releasing tension on the quadricep. Since it is incorporates a backbend, it improves spinal stability which promotes pelvic stability – both are essential for preventing running related injuries.

Instructions

  1. Kneel on the ground with your knees hip-width apart, toes tucked.

Kneeling position

  1.      Rest your hands on your lower back, fingers pointing downwards.
  2.      Tuck your chin  towards your chest, lengthen your torso and take a back bend.
  3.   Drop your hands towards the floor and place palms on your heels; fingers rested on the     back of your feet and thumbs on the outer edges of the feet.
  4.    Either drop your head to the back or keep it at a neutral position with your face looking up.
  5.     Hold for 30-60 seconds as you take deep breaths.

To get out of the posture, bring your torso to an upright position then the head up.

Alignment cues and common misalignments

Press your quadriceps outwards as if you are pressing against a wall that is in front of you. Avoid compressing your lower back on the backbend. Instead, lengthen your torso and then bend. Squeeze your shoulder blades together to lift your chest. Ensure your ribs are not protruding by engaging your core muscles.

When coming out of the posture do it slowly to avoid getting dizzy. It is advisable to rest in child’s pose for a few breaths after doing camel pose to allow blood flow to the head. Child’s pose also counters the back arch in camel pose and releases tension on the neck.

Many people tend to squeeze their seating bones until they are hard on this posture. Find a balance between activating your gluteus muscles and not squeezing your butt too hard. Squeezing too hard puts tension on the lower back.

Modifications

  • If you have very tight shoulders or quadriceps, you can use the wall as a prop.  Set up the posture such that your feet are pressing against a wall. When you bend your back, lean the top of your head on the wall.
  • To increase thigh muscle engagement, place a block between your thighs and squeeze it. You may opt to have the tops of your feet flat on the mat instead of tucking the toes in as long as doing so does not cause your lower back to compress.
  • You could also place two yoga blocks, each on the side of each foot and rest your hands there instead of reaching for the heels.
  • Place your hands on your lower back instead of reaching for your heels.

Modified camel pose.

Contraindications

Camel pose is not recommended for people with untreated high or low blood pressure, migraines, insomnia or chronic back, neck, knees and neck injury.

12. Child’s pose

Sanskrit: Balasana

Child’s pose is one of the most relaxing and accessible asanas for runners. It offers a gentle stretches the hips, inner thighs, ankles, gluteus muscles, and back. The stretch promotes open psoas muscles and hip flexors which are beneficial for increasing your range of motion when running. Prolonged and frequent running without proper recovery can result to central nervous system fatigue. Child’s pose calms the nervous system and promotes blood flow to the brain.

Instructions

  1.     Come to your fours, knees hip-width apart and hands shoulder-width apart.
  2.     Bring the big toes to touch at the back.
  3.    Seat back on your heels and open your knees a few inches wider.
  4.    Lean forward until your forehead touches the ground, and your chest is as close to the      ground as possible. Star-spread your fingers on the mat and press your palms down.
  5.    Hold for at least 5 breaths

To come out of the posture, shift your hips forward to assume an all fours position.

Alignment cues and common misalignments

Open your knees wider to get deeper access to your groin. It also allows you enough room for your chest and belly to sink freely towards the ground.

Modifications

  • If you are having difficulty getting your forehead to the floor, place a block or cushion underneath.

Modified child’s pose (hands placed at the back beside the feet)

  • You could bring your hands to the back on the outer edges of the feet.
  • If there is too much tension on the hips, separate your feet and place a block or folded towel between your legs so that your seating bones rest on it.
  • You could also offer extra padding to the tops of your feet by placing a soft blanket.

Contraindications

Do not do this posture if you have knee or hip injury, or diarrhea.

13. Bound angle pose

Sanskrit: Baddha Konasana

Also known as butterfly pose. Sprinting and running greatly impact the inner thighs and hip flexors. The bound angle pose is a beginner friendly hip opener that offers the mind restfulness while stretching the groin and inner thighs.

Instructions

  1. Sit on the ground with feet straight and torso upright.
  2. Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet to touch.
  3. Bring your heels as close to your groin as possible.
  4. Place each thumb on the ball of its respective big toe and pull outwards as if opening a book.
  5. Keep your pelvis centered.
  6. Lengthen your torso, squeeze the shoulder blades to the back and drop your shoulders away from the ears, maintaining an upright posture.
  7. Hold for up to 5 minutes

To come out of the posture, place your hands on the outer side of your knees and gently bring your knees together.

Alignment cues and common misalignments

Do not force the knees down towards the mat.  Release the weight of your knees and thighs to gravity. With time, as your hips open, your knees will drop nearer to the ground.

Modifications

  • Lean your back against a wall.
  • If your hips are too tight (evidenced by knees pointing up), fold two blankets and put each under each thigh for extra support.
  • In Ashtanga yoga, there is a slight variation to the bound angle posture whereby you round your back and lean forward. Even in the rounded back variation, ensure to keep an active core to prevent you from slouching in the posture.
  • A more advanced variation of the posture would be to tilt your torso forward from the hip  joint and lean forward between your knees as your hands reach forward. If your head does not comfortably get to the ground, put a folded blanket or block underneath it.
  • A restorative variation of baddha konasana is supta baddha konasana (lying bound angle pose). Whereby, instead of keeping the torso upright, you lie on your back and maintain the same position of the legs.

Lying bound angle pose

Contraindications

Do not do either variation if you have chronic hip, knee or back injury.

14. Hero’s pose

Sanskrit: Virasana

Hero’s pose stretches the quadriceps, ankles and tops of your feet, improving circulation in these areas and therefore releasing accumulated tension from running.  In the posture, the torso is upright allowing the spine to assume its natural curve therefore realigning it from any spinal misalignments that may have resulted during your run.

Instructions

  1. Begin in a kneeling position, knees together and feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Keep the tops of your feet pressing against the ground with the big toes turned somewhat in facing towards each other.
  2. Keeping your torso upright, gently lower your pelvis to the ground so that your seating bones rest between your legs.
  3. Place your hands lightly on your thighs and hold for 5 breaths.

To come out of the posture, place your hands on the ground in front of you and come to a kneeling position.

Alignment cues

Ensure both seating bones sit evenly on the ground. Squeeze your shoulder blades towards each other and drop your shoulders away from the ears.

Modifications

  • If your seating bones do not get to the floor with ease, either place a folded blanket or a block in between your feet.
  • Start with five breaths and build up to hold the posture for up to 5 minutes.
  • If you experience too much pressure on the tops of your feet, roll up a blanket and place it under the ankles.
  • If sitting between your legs is extremely uncomfortable, bring your legs and knees together and seat on top of your calves. Rest your hands on your thighs and hold for several breaths.

Modified hero’s pose (knees and feet together, seating bones resting on the heels).

Contraindications

Do not practice this pose if you have knee, ankle, back or hip injury.

15. Bridge Pose

Sanskrit: Setu  Bandha Sarvangasana

The bridge pose can be invigorating or restorative depending on how you do it. It is an important posture for runners as it strengthens the glutes and inner thighs while releasing tension on the hamstrings and lower back. It also increases circulation to the knees countering issues such as knee pain and inflammation of the knee caps that may have resulted from the high impact and accumulated stress from running.

Instructions

  1.         Lie on your back, feet on the floor and knees bent facing up.
  2.         Press your feet on the ground and push your pelvis up.
  3.         Straighten your hands under your pelvis and clasp the fingers.
  4.         Keep your torso, pelvis and thighs lifted and hold for at least 5 breaths.

To release the posture, unclasp your fingers, place your hands beside your body and lower your torso and pelvis down.

Alignment cues and common misalignments

Common misalignments on this posture include turning your toes outwards so that the heels are slightly or to a great extent turned inward; tucking your chin to your sternum; opening your knees wider than the heels, and clenching the butt.

Keep your torso upright and avoid compressing the lower back. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and lift your chest up. Keep your shoulders away from your ears. Also, keep your chin away from the chest.

When setting up for the posture in step 1, keep your feet and knees hip-width apart and the heels as close to your seating bones as possible. Ensure your feet, and inner thighs remain parallel to each other. Keep your butt firm but not hard.

The bulk of your upper body weight should rest on your shoulders and not the neck and head. To accomplish that, extend your clasped hand forward until you are comfortably resting on your shoulders.

Modifications

  • If you find it difficult to hold the pelvis up, or if you want the posture to be restorative, slightly lift your hips up and place a block or rolled blanket under your sacrum.
  • You could also put a folded blanket under your shoulders to prevent putting pressure on the neck.
  • If your shoulders are too tight, spread your hands on the mat, palms facing down and press on the ground or hold a strap between your hands instead of clasping the hands together. Place a small rolled blanket under your neck for extra support.
  • To deepen the pose, lift your heels off the floor so that you are resting on the balls of your feet.
  • To deepen the posture further, place a block between your thighs to activate the inner thighs and gluteus muscles.

Contraindications

Avoid this posture if you have chronic neck, hip, or back injury.

Conclusion

When practicing any of the poses, work within your strength and flexibility abilities. Do not push yourself too hard; it poses a risk of injury. Pay keen attention to breathe and alignment, and modify as need be. As you become stronger and more flexible, then you can go deeper with each posture. Always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise routine especially if you have a pre-existing health condition or chronic injury.

The benefits of yoga go beyond the mat and the physical elements. Yoga can help you to cultivate calmness, equanimity, and peace in your daily life. Running is a vigorous exercise and yoga can bring a balancing effect of stillness. Find a way to incorporate yoga into your running routine – whether it is setting aside a day to do a 1-hour yoga class, doing a few stretches either as cool down or warm-up, or doing a restorative yoga practice on your rest days.  Besides, yoga could be a good excuse to give your feet a break from the trainers while getting your exercise on.

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