(Always consult with your doctor or a medical professional before beginning a new exercise routine or fitness program. There are risks of injury or death when participating in an exercise program. If you are new to yoga you may also want to consult with a yoga teacher to correct any misalignments or postures before practicing on your own.)
Regardless of pace, one thing novice and casual runners tend to have in common is skipping their stretching, strength training or both. Regular stretching and strength training play a role in injury prevention. Adding one or two running specific strength workouts to your weekly training can help you stay a healthy runner.
Yoga is probably not the first thing that came to mind when thinking about strength training, but it isn’t all about flexibility. Regular yoga practice can help you build strength in some muscles essential for running and better mobility.
Try adding these five moves to your pre and post-run routine to get started.
Downward Dog stretches the spinal muscles, hamstrings, calves and Achilles tendons while strengthening the upper body.
Start on your hands and knees. Tuck the toes and send the hips backwards, reaching the heels towards the ground. Spread all ten fingers and press out, keeping the ears in line with the arms and relaxing the neck.
Low lunge builds strength in the legs while stretching the hip flexors of the back leg.
From downward dog bring one foot between your hands. Rest the back knee on the ground and untuck your toes. Check the alignment of the front knee and make sure the knee is in line with the ankle but isn’t going past the toes. Keep your shoulders down.
You can use a pillow, blanket or towel to cushion the knee.
Corkscrew pose is similar to low lunge but ads a slight twist and a quadricep stretch.
From low lunge, lift the back foot and rotate the torso towards the front leg as the opposite hand grabs the back foot. Gently turn the head to look over the shoulder of the hand grabbing the foot. Weight is rested on the top of the thigh, not the knee. Keep shoulders down.
You can also place a towel, blanket or pillow under the knee here.
Reclined Pigeon Pose
Pigeon pose stretches the outer hip and the IT band.
To avoid straining the knee, try pigeon pose on your back by brining one ankle over the opposite knee. Keep feet flexed, relax the neck and shoulders. You can grab the thigh behind the knee of the shin that if parallel to the floor to help guide the leg backwards or rest hands on the ground.
Goddess pose strengthens the inner thighs, improves balance and can strengthen the core muscles.
Take a wide stance and turn the toes out at a 45 degree angle. Slowly lower the tailbone down bending the knees. Press the knees outward and avoid letting them turn inwards. Keep them in line with the ankles and toes. Pull the belly inward and keep the torso long and tall. Hold the arms at 90 degree angles and press the elbows back to add a chest opener.
These are just five poses that might be beneficial to your running journey. What are your favorite yoga poses? Which ones do you find the most helpful? Please let me know in the comments below.
(References: Felstead, C. (2014). Yoga for runners. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.; Roundtree, S. (2012). The Runner’s Guide to Yoga. Boulder, CO: Velopress.)