Yoga for Runners: Tips for Getting Started and Yoga Poses

yogaforrunnersAre you a runner looking to improve your flexibility or start a cross-training regiment?  If so, yoga is the perfect solution for you.  Yoga can also help alleviate your pains and aches caused by running instead of turning to medication or chiropractors.  Common running injuries are caused by limited core strength, misalignments, and a lack of flexibility.  Yoga will help you relax tight muscles, calm your mind, and help you recover faster after workouts.  If you are interested in mediation, try taking a yoga course specifically tailored to daily meditation practice.

Tips before you start practicing yoga

Start Slow – If you are new to yoga, take your time getting acquainted with the poses.  Yoga masters have been practicing for years. Do not think that just because you are athletic that you will be able to do it all in the first session.  Take your time and focus on your body.

Avoid Injury – Runners are competitive by nature and know how to push through the pain.  This is not the avenue to take in yoga.  Talk to an instructor about what you would like to work on and have them suggest positions.  Listen to your body and only go as far as it can safely handle.

Get in the Groove – Your running schedule will determine your yoga schedule.  Days you train intensely should be followed by a relaxing and heavy stretching focused yoga session.  When your running workouts slow down, it is time to increase the frequency and intensity of your yoga sessions.

If you are feeling anxious about starting yoga, we such taking a class on “Yoga Decoded”. You will learn the proper techniques and how to adapt the poses to your current skill level.

Follow this yoga program targeted to runners inspired by Mark Ansari and Liz Lark.

Mountain Pose to Standing Forward Bend Sequence

This dynamic sequence is made up of the Mountain Pose and the Standing Forward Bend.  These fundamental poses are an invigorating way to begin your yoga workout.  This sequence will allow you to stand firm and release the stiffness caused by the constant pounding of your joints.  It will help restore elasticity to your spine and legs and improve circulation to your upper body.

Step 1)  Stand with your feet touching.  Lift your toes to spread your weight evenly between the balls of your feet.  When you are balanced, rest your toes back on the floor and breath deeply through your nose.  Imagine you are being pulled up to the ceiling by a thread attached to your head.  Make sure to keep your weight balanced between your feet.  This is the Mountain Pose.

Step 2)  Inhale and gently stretch your arms away from your sides.  Continue to reach up until your palms are pressed together above your head.  As your palms meet, your lungs should become fully inflated.  Look up, focus on your thumbs, and fully extend your body toward the ceiling.

Step 3)  Exhale and fold your body forward from the hips.  If you need to, bend your knees.  Stretch through to your fingertips as you fold forward.  Touch the floor on either side of your toes with your fingertips and place your chin on your knees.  Bring your chin in and down slowly.

Step 4)  Inhale, keeping your fingertips on the floor, and lift your chest.  Try to straighten your legs but take care not to strain or force yourself into the posture.  Exhale deeply, return to step 3, and repeat.  Inhale and return to step 2.

Step 5)  As you exhale, return your hands to your sides.  Focus on the balance of weight between your feet and the symmetry of your hips and shoulders.  Relax your arms by your sides.

Extended Side Angle Pose

The diagonal alignment pose will provide you with an intense full body stretch from your shoulders down to each foot.  This pose will increase your strength and stability in your calves, thighs, ankles, and knees.  If you are having trouble with your breathing during long runs, this pose will improve the function of your lungs and alleviate respiratory problems by encouraging a deep opening in the chest.

Step 1)  From the Mountain Pose, step your feet apart about 4ft and extend your arms out from your body so that your palms are in line with your shoulders.  Your ankles should line up with your wrists.

Step 2)  Turn your foot out from your body by 90 degrees and turn your left foot in toward your body by 30 degrees.  Next, drop your left hand behind your back so the hand rests on your lower back or right hip.

Step 3)  Bend your right knee so that your thigh and calf form a right angle and your thigh is parallel with floor.  Lightly rest your right elbow on your right knee.  Take care and try to keep your knee directly above your ankle and your back leg straight and strong.

Step 4)  Gently pull back your left shoulder and turn your head to look up at the ceiling.  *Hold your breath for 10 seconds.  Exhale and return to step 1 and repeat the pose on the other side.  Return to the Mountain Pose.

Staff Pose to Seated Forward Bend Sequence

This pose awakens the spine and provides a deep stretch in your hamstrings.  It is a foundation pose for many other seated stretches and twists.  If you need to focus on your spine and posture more in-depth, try this course.

Step 1)  Sit on the floor and stretch your legs out in front of you, keeping your feet together.  Reach around behind you and lift your buttocks out to the sides slightly to ensure you are positioned correctly on your sitting bones.  Be aware of your posture and adjust it if it’s necessary.  Pull up through the crown of your head to lengthen your spine.

Step 2)  Place your hands flat on the floor on either side of your buttocks with your fingers facing forward and press down into the floor.  Tense your thigh muscles as you pull your toes back toward you.  Lift your chest, straighten your spine, and stretch the back of your neck by lifting upward through the crown of your head.  Try to remain as still as possible.  Hold for 10 breaths.  This is the Staff Pose.

Step 3)  From the Staff Pose, inhale and stretch your arms out to the sides, and reach above your head toward the ceiling.  Reach up with your arms and lift your head to look toward the ceiling.  Hold this posture for 10 breaths.

Step 4)  Exhale and fold forward slightly from the hips, leading with your chest, and reach out to clasp your shins, ankles, big toes, or heels depending on how far you can comfortably reach.  Keep your legs straight and your abdomen long.

Step 5)  Keep a firm hold of your lower body.  This lengthens your abdomen and lifts your chest.  Lift forward and up from your sitting bones to the crown of your head.

Step 6)  Exhale and fold forward as far as you can, keeping your spine straight, and bring your chin to your knees.  Imagine your shoulder blades melting down your spine.  Hold this pose for 10 breaths.  Return to Step 3 and repeat from there.  Release and return to the Staff Pose.

If you find that yoga is increasing your energy level, keeping the energy going by taking a yoga fitness program.  You will find that it serves as the perfect balance to your other workouts.