Whether you’ve just completed the Marathon or you're competing in your first 5K, you might have already thought ahead to your recovery routine. Regardless, consider adding this yoga for runners regime to your plans.
Runners, rejoice. Developed by well-being and yoga gurus at Ark, this short and restorative yoga practice comprises six yoga poses and stretches for runners to help recover after long runs or short sprints. Even if you’re not competing this year, or you’ve just begun your foray into running, these yoga stretches for runners could boost flexibility, soothe sore and aching muscles, relieve tightness, and improve muscle recovery.
We know. Stretching can be dull. But taking even five minutes to roll out one of the best yoga mats could make all the difference on your next run. You can perform these six moves as part of a morning yoga routine or after a run as a cool-down. Hit play on a relaxing playlist, and flow through these relaxing yoga stretches for runners.
Yoga for runners: benefits
Many runners are notoriously quad-dominant and tight in the hip flexors. According to our fitness editor (an avid Marathon runner), quad dominance often occurs in runners who favor high-mileage plans, skip hill training, or prefer the treadmill to clock up miles.
Quad dominance isn’t exclusive to runners, either. Weightlifters could also experience a lack of glute and hamstring engagement (depending on the exercise regime and recovery plan). Stretching, mobility, and the best foam roller exercises are popular ways to relieve tightness, but among them is yoga.
Tight lower body muscles, including the hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, and calves, could cause pain and weakness somewhere else, like your lower back or ankles. These six yoga poses are a brilliant antidote for easing tight hips, hamstrings, and glutes and boosting flexibility across your lower body.
In conjunction with this simple stretch for quads (our editor swears by it) and the 6 best strength and conditioning exercises for runners, you could develop strength and increase your range of motion, helping you to become a stronger and more robust runner.
Six yoga stretches for runners
Holistic yoga practitioners Summer and Zinzi — Ark founders — share their best yoga poses for runners. Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds per leg and flow through all six as a sequence or several times, if you prefer. Breathe throughout, practicing expansive breathing into your belly rather than your chest.
1. Low lunge
Muscle target group — hip flexor, hips, quads, and muscles across the front body.
- Step one leg behind you and lower your back knee to the floor
- Slowly lift your arms above your head, reaching your fingertips toward the ceiling
- Keep your hips square to the front of the mat and shoulders relaxed
- Gently draw your tailbone down and engage your inner thighs and glutes, then push your front knee forward over your heel
- Tuck the back toes for extra balance if you’re feeling unstable. Swap sides.
2. Half split
Muscle target group — hamstrings
- Send your hips back toward your heels, your front leg now extended
- Keep hips square to the front of the mat
- Flex your front foot with toes pointed toward the sky
- On your inhale, lengthen your spine and sit tall. On your exhale, draw your chest towards your thighs with a flat back
- Bring blocks or books underneath your hands for support
- Inhale to lengthen and exhale to draw your chest towards your thighs
- Fold the mat to create extra padding under the back knee. Swap sides.
Muscle target group - hip flexors.
If you have wrist pain or need a lift, make a fist with the hands rather than having them flat on the floor.
- Move back to your low lunge and gently shift your back knee further back to achieve a deeper stretch
- Explore arm and hand positions. Options include hands on the floor or a block, or forearms resting on your mat
- Keep your thigh close to your body or roll onto the outside blade of the front foot to open your hip
- Inhale and draw your chest forward. Exhale and gently fold forward
- Keep the front knee roughly over the ankle.
4. Forward fold
Muscle target group — hamstrings and glutes.
- Make your way to a standing position with feet hip-width apart and a soft bend in both knees
- Take a deep breath and reach both arms overhead
- As you exhale, slowly fold over your legs, chest to thighs
- Relax through the back of your neck when folding
- Experiment with foot position and explore what helps you breathe best
- Arm variations include holding your elbows with your hands or linking peace fingers around your big toes.
5. Halfway lift
Muscle target group — hamstrings and posterior chain muscles.
Move between the forward fold and halfway lift to encourage space and explore the stretch. Inhale lift, exhale fold.
- As you lift your chest, draw shoulder blades together and engage your core
- Hands can rest on your shins, blocks, or the floor
- Think of drawing your belly button towards the spine and encouraging length through the side of the body, maintaining a flat back.
6. Downward facing dog variation
Muscle target group — calves, hamstrings, and Achilles.
- From your forward fold, step back into downward facing dog
- Spread your fingers, press through your hands, and draw both shoulder blades down your back
- Maintain a soft knee bend with feet hip-width apart and encourage your stomach towards your thighs with weight evenly distributed between your hands and feet
- Send your hips back
- Wrap one foot around the back of the opposite heel
- Drive the standing heel towards the floor to deepen the stretch
- Draw armpits towards one another.
If you fancy something extra, explore inhaling onto your tip toes and exhaling the heel back towards the floor.
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Sam Hopes is a level III fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods. When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.