Yoga for Runners: How to Practice Yoga Before Running

Running, which is the most practiced sport in the world, is actually an activity that our body does naturally. Most of us learn to run before we learn to walk. Therefore, we can say that running is an action that the body needs rather than sports. You can prepare yourself physically and mentally for your running program by taking advantage of yoga before you start running.

There are many benefits when runners practice a regular yoga program. Remember that there are many types of yoga. No type of yoga is better than another. This choice mostly depends on your preferences and running schedule. However, beginners can start a less intense and less strenuous yoga practice. They can choose one of the varieties of hot yoga, ashtanga, Hatha, or restorative yoga.

Since running is an active sport, it contains Yang, that is, masculine energy. On the other hand, yoga contains Yin, or feminine energy, due to its calm and deep nature. These two energies that complement each other are very necessary for life. The activity of running is complemented and balanced by the calmness of yoga. In this way, both your running training and your yoga practice will be more enjoyable. You can also choose to cross-train. In this context, you can think of yoga as supporting running.

When you run a single mile, your foot hits the ground about 1,000 times. There are too many blows for your joints and muscles to withstand. Yoga can help balance your body by stretching your muscles. Practicing yoga regularly allows you to work on balance, strength, and range of motion throughout your entire body. You can adjust and really feel where one muscle doesn’t fit the other or where you may have weaknesses.

When you work in yoga poses, you strengthen your inner muscle groups. These are the ones that both stabilize and support your skeletal system. By strengthening these muscles, you can protect yourself by creating imbalances that occur when you use the same muscles over and over.

Benefits of Yoga for Runners

  • Strength and flexibility: While yoga gives flexibility to the muscle groups that we use extensively in running, it also strengthens and harmonizes all the muscles in the body by working the muscle groups that we do not use or rarely use in our daily life routine.
  • Correct posture: Correct alignment, which we care about in yoga asanas, is actually valid for all sports. With yoga alignment exercises, you can also get a correct posture in running. You can transfer the basic alignment habits and stances of yoga, such as a long spine, a slight pull in the chin, and the sole of the feet pressing the 4 points with equal weight. Evenly distributing the weight and impact to the body during running prevents injuries and reduces joint damage.
  • Breath Harmony: Pranayama, one of the 8 stages of yoga, should be practiced in harmony with each yoga pose. You can also carry the ‘conscious breathing’ practice into your running exercise. The benefits of meditation and breathing exercises are undeniable, especially if you are preparing yourself for longer distances such as marathons or ultra trails. This is also supported by scientific researches. Also, if you are competing in a marathon or practicing running professionally, breathing is an area that you need to work on a lot, and it is a pretty common way to manage to breathe properly.
  • Balance: Yoga asanas not only improve body balance but also bring the balance ability of the right and left sides of our body closer to each other. Running is a sport with symmetrical action. The fact that the balance of our right side is as strong as the balance of our left side has a direct positive effect on our running performance.
  • Concentration: It contributes to the development of focus and mental power, which you can use especially in long-distance running. Breathing exercises, body-breath harmony practiced in asanas, balance postures, focusing, meditation, and awareness exercises will increase your concentration level, as well as enable you to be in a more positive relationship with life and stay in the moment.
  • Less stress: Yoga contributes not only to mental stress, but also to easily relieve the negative effects of physical stress on the body during running. Stretching, lengthening and relaxation postures reduce pain, speed up the body’s recovering process and relax the mind.
  • Reducing the risk of injury: The constant pressure of running on the same joints can cause abrasions, pain, and injuries in these areas in the long term. Incorporating a regular yoga program into your life and benefiting from the healing of asanas can reduce the risk of injury and make it easier for you to keep running for many years.

How Can You Incorporate Yoga Into Your Running Routine?

Yoga can be beneficial before or after a run, or both. But resist the temptation to start too early. Try adding a yoga session to your routine on an easy day or rest day first. Once or twice a week is often enough to get you started without the risk of injury.

Whichever type of yoga you choose, even seemingly easy poses take some time to master. After all, you didn’t start running with miles! So if you stretch too deeply and pull a muscle, you can hurt yourself. Listen to your body. Try using mods or props like blocks and straps to make your work easier. If you are a beginner, consider taking a face-to-face or virtual yoga class. Your teacher can guide you through poses and modifications that may be appropriate for injuries or muscle imbalances and tension.

Some poses you can include in your yoga program;

  • Warrior poses (Virabhadrasana)
  • Downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
  • Pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
  • Upward facing dog pose (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
  • Cobra pose (Bhujangasana)
  • Legs up the wall
  • Triangle pose (Trikonasana)
  • Hero pose (Virasana)
  • Wide angle pose (Upavistha Konasana)
  • Bow pose (Dhanurasana)
  • Cat-Cow poses
  • Child’s pose (Balasana)

The Best Yoga Poses for Running

You really can’t go wrong with any yoga pose you come across, but there are some certain moves that may feel better or be more beginner-friendly than others. However, if something doesn’t feel right to you, you are free to continue or change it as needed.

Mountain pose (Tadasana)

Don’t let the simplicity of this pose distract you. Tadasana is a great way to warm up for your running workout. It helps you maintain good posture while relaxing your chest, neck, face, and arms.

How To:

  • Stand upright with a neutral spine and feet shoulder-distance apart.
  • Lift the crown of your head towards the sky as you roll your shoulders back and lift your chest for good posture.
  • Keep your gaze straight forward as you raise your arms up with your palms facing inward.
  • Inhale while holding the pose for 10. Then exhale as you lower your arms to the sides.

Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III)

This pose is all about strengthening the lower body from the bottom up. It works the muscles in your feet, ankles, hips, buttocks, and core. These muscles are important for lateral movement and can be especially helpful if you run on trails.

How To:

  • Stand straight with your arms at your side. Then shift your weight to your left leg.
  • Move your right leg behind you as your left hip hinge and bring your body parallel to the floor. This requires tremendous balance, so stand next to a wall or chair if necessary.
  • Increase the difficulty by moving your arms in front of you, reaching forward next to your head.
  • Hold this pose for 10 seconds. Then repeat on the other side.

Dancer pose (Natarajasana)

To add more difficulty, you can try switching between Warrior III and Dancer pose. This pose works to strengthen your standing leg, including your hip flexors, which are often taxed by running. To balance, the hip flexors of your lifted leg are well stretched.

How To:

  • Start by standing up straight with your arms at your side. Shift your weight to your left leg.
  • Move your right leg behind you as you lean forward with your left hip. Extend your right leg back and grasp the outside of your right foot as you lift your left leg from the inner and outer thigh.
  • Extend your left arm toward the ceiling, slightly raising your chest – your hips should be square to the floor.
  • Balance your left leg for 5 to 10 seconds and don’t forget to breathe! Repeat on the other side.

Eagle pose (Garudasana)

If you want to work on your balance and confidence on uneven pavement/terrain, try the Eagle stance. It doesn’t seem natural at first, but you’ll get the hang of it. Knee injury? You can opt to skip the interlocking legs in this pose and instead cross one leg forward while pinning your big toe to the ground for balance.

How To:

  • While standing, cross your left knee over your right thigh while simultaneously bending your right knee to sit in a slight squat position.
  • Lock the top of your left foot behind your right calf. (If you need help holding this position, keep your back against the wall.)
  • Cross your elbows with the left under the right until the backs of your palms meet.
  • Inhale slowly while holding for 10 seconds. Then repeat on your left side.

Downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

This popular pose gives your body a full stretch – shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands. It also helps strengthen your arms and legs, making it a good pose for your post-run recovery routine.

How To:

  • Starting on your hands and knees (knees directly under your hips), lift your hips toward the ceiling while keeping your hands and feet on the floor (toes bent under).
  • Keep your arms straight with your fingers wide apart and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Your back should also be straight with your tailbone reaching up and back.
  • Your heels should reach toward the floor. If your legs can’t straighten out, try pedaling your knees slightly to help deepen the tension.
  • Inhale while remaining in this pose for anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes.

Pigeon pose (Kapotasana)

Experienced runners, in particular, may struggle with the hip-opening pigeon pose at first. This is because it works to increase mobility in the hips while also stretching the tight quads and hamstrings. These are all classically tight spaces for runners, so trying this pose is essential.

How To:

  • Starting on your hands and knees, slide your left leg behind you, resting the top of your foot on the mat, or with your toes curled under.
  • Bring your right leg forward and bend your knee towards your right ankle as you bring your foot near your left ankle.
  • Lower your hips to the floor as you slowly settle into the stretch as your upper body bends forward.
  • Hold for 10 seconds before repeating on the other side.

Pyramid pose (Parsvottanasana)

The pyramid pose is more explicitly called the side stretch pose. It feels good after a run as it stretches your spine, shoulders, hips, and hamstrings. This pose can also strengthen your legs and help with your balance.

How To:

  • Begin standing upright in the middle of your mat, facing sideways.
  • Step out with your left foot and right foot about 4 feet apart. Turn your right foot slightly inward and turn your left foot 90 degrees.
  • Keeping your hips straight, slowly fold your upper body over your left leg and reach your toes on your mat or blocks. Alternatively, you can keep your arms behind you as you stretch and reach overhead, and hover above the floor.
  • Hold this pose for 5 to 10 seconds. Then repeat on the other side.

Child’s pose (Balasana)

Child’s pose is a good rest/recovery pose that helps you focus your attention and tune in to your body. Come to practice this pose when you need a break or want to stretch the hips, thighs, and ankles.

How To:

  • Start on your knees and then lean back so you’re sitting on your ankles with the tops of your feet on the floor.
  • Lean your upper body forward so your arms reach the floor in front of you, palms down. Your hips should stay on your heels.
  • Slowly lean your head back on the floor with your palms facing up as you move your arms back alongside your legs.
  • Keep breathing and hold this position for at least 8 seconds.
  • Take away
  • If yoga is completely new to you, don’t be shy. It may seem strange at first but stick with it.

If you feel like you don’t quite understand how to move or position your body between poses, consider going to the studio for some instruction or asking your yogi friend to guide you.

Consistency is the key to getting the most benefit. Aim to do yoga a few times a week when you feel your best. This could be as a warm-up or cool-down for your run, or as cross-training on your rest days.

Yoga Practice to Relieve Sore Muscles After Running

If you’re a runner and haven’t started yoga yet, you’ll be amazed at how incorporating yoga into your workout routine can benefit you. Whether you’re a marathoner or a runner who enjoys running 5km a week, yoga is an excellent way to support your body and reap its mental benefits at the same time.

Post-Run Yoga Practice

You should perform the yoga poses at a gentle pace and stay in each pose for at least two minutes. You should breathe in and out during the stance and perform each stretch more deeply as your body warms up and relaxes. It will be enough to repeat the routine twice. Do the moves 2-4 times with your right side in the first round, and then switch to the left side in the second round.

Downward-facing dog

For this pose, stand on the ground on your hands and knees. Keep your hands in line with your shoulders as you spread your fingers wide. With your palms pressed against the yoga mat and your toes firmly on the ground, lift your knees off the ground and push your hips back as you lengthen your legs. Relax the muscles in your neck and face, lengthening your back with your shoulders and arms. While inhaling, lift your hips as high as possible, and as you exhale, press your heels and palms to the ground. Stay in this pose for a few minutes and press your feet more as your muscles relax.

This pose helps you stretch your back and shoulders while stretching your hips, hamstrings, calves, and Achilles tendons. If you perform this posture after hours of running, you will release lactic acid and cortisol that accumulate in your muscle tissues.

Crescent pose

From the downward dog position, lift your right leg and then carefully place your foot between your hands. Relax your back knee and raise your arms to an upright position. Stay like this and breathe deeply. If you need to, stabilize yourself by resting your hand on your front thigh to avoid swaying while standing. For more stretches, place your front hand on the floor and hold your back foot with your other hand and open your hips further to stretch your front thigh muscles even more. Hold this pose for a minute.

Lunge moves are the best moves for runners. With the crescent move, which is one of the lunge movements, the hip flexors and front thigh muscles that are under stress during running are reached. This posture is also great for post-run knee pain.

Half front split

After the crescent lunge, step your right foot forward and place the knee of your back leg on the ground. Bend over your left knee with your hips and keep your front leg straight, so you won’t experience pain while flexing. Flex your toes and place your hands on the floor at shoulder level. Make sure your kneecap is facing up and your knee is slightly bent to prevent your joints from flexing too much. Slowly move your hands toward your feet to stretch more deeply. Hold this pose for a minute.

With this pose, we want to open the hips and stretch the hamstring muscles. These muscles hurt after running. Opening the hamstrings also relieves tension and pain in the lumbar region. Make sure your front foot is stretched to activate the hamstrings during the stance.

Pigeon pose

While standing in a half-front split pose, bend your front knee, lean forward, and place both hands at your sides on the floor. Put your front leg on the floor and your right knee is behind your right wrist and your right ankle is behind your left wrist. Stretch your chest and extend your left leg a little further back. If you feel pain or discomfort in your knee, do this pose on your back with your ankle on your left thigh. Stay in this pose for two minutes.

This pose allows the muscles and tendons attached to the pelvis to relax and lengthen. They will be in a tense state from running. So keep your posture as long as you feel comfortable and breathe deeply during the difficult parts of the movement.

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Savaş Ateş

I like meditation and yoga. I read a lot of books about them. I applied them in my daily life. I want to write about my experiences.

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