Yoga Poses for Runners

Yoga is an excellent way for runners to improve their flexibility and strength, and many runners find it to be a soothing, stress-relieving cross-training activity. Post-run is a great time to do these beneficial yoga poses. Try some of these beneficial yoga poses targeting areas that are particularly troublesome for runners.

Downward-facing Dog Pose

Yoga pose
Comstock Images

Downward-facing dog is a standard yoga pose that's great for tight hamstrings, calves, glutes, and shoulders. Here's what to do:

1. Start on your hands and knees with your wrists underneath your shoulders. Separate your knees hip-width apart.

2. Pushing into your palms, lift your hips into the air.

3. At first, keep your knees bent and heels lifted off the floor. Slowly start to straighten your knees -- but don't lock them -- and lower your heels.

4. Shift your hips backward until your body looks like an upside-down "V." Relax your head between your arms. Hold for five breaths.

Reclined Big Toe Pose

Reclined Big Toe Yoga Pose
Reclined Big Toe Pose. Siri Stafford

This move stretches your hips, hamstrings, calves and groin. Here's how to do it:

1. Start by lying on your back. Bring your right knee in to your chest and extend your left leg along the floor.

2. Take a yoga strap, a belt, or a towel and wrap it around the bottom of the mid right foot.

3. Start to slowly straighten your right leg, pushing through your right heel.

4. Try to keep your shoulders and hips flat on the ground and try not to over-arch your back. Aim for a 90 degree angle.

5. You can try alternating between a pointed and flexed foot.

6. With practice, you'll eventually be able to maintain good form without the strap and hold your toe with your fingers instead.

7. Switch legs and hold each side for 1 to 3 minutes.

Warrior 1 Pose

Warrior Yoga Pose
Warrior 1 Pose. Colin Anderson
This yoga move will help stretch and strengthen your leg and core muscles. Here's how to do it properly:

1. Step forward with your left foot in front and your right foot behind, so you're in a lunge position.

2. Bend your left knee at a 90 degree angle directly over your left ankle, so your thigh is parallel to the floor.

3. Draw your left hip back and your right hip forward, squaring your hips to the front.

4. Bring your arms out to the side and then up over your head.

5. Press your palms together and look up.

6. Hold for five breaths. Repeat on your right side.

King Dancer Pose

King Dancer Pose
King Dancer Pose. David Epperson
This yoga move is an excellent stretch for your quadriceps, or thigh muscles, which work hard when you're running. Here's how to do it:

1. From a standing position, bend your left knee and grasp the inside of your left foot with the left hand.

2. Start to bring your left foot and your right arm up toward the ceiling as you bring your torso forward.

3. Hold for five breaths.

4. If you need it, you can hold onto the wall for balance so you can really focus on your back leg.

5. Repeat on your right side.

Garland Pose

garland pose
Bob Ingelhart/E+/Getty

The garland pose can help loosen up your hip flexors, which commonly get tight during running. It also helps improve flexibility in your thighs, ankles, and calf muscles, as well as tone your core. Here's what to do:

1. Get into a squatting position. Place your feet as close together as possible, while still keeping your heels on the floor.

2. Spread your thighs so that they're a little wider than your body.

3. Place your elbows on the inner side of your knees and bring your palms together.

4. Stay in this position for about 30 seconds and then release from this pose.

Modification: If back problems or another issue prevent you from squatting, you can perform this pose while sitting in a chair. With your feet planed on the ground, sit towards the end of the chair and lean your upper body toward your thighs. The follow steps 2 to 4.

Extended Triangle Pose

extended triangle pose
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The extended triangle pose is a deep stretch for your hamstrings, groins, and hips. Here's what to do:

1. Start by standing with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms at your sides. Move your feet about 4 feet wide apart. Keep your feet parallel to each other and your heels aligned.

2. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees. Pivot your left foot slightly inwards. Your back toes should be at a 45-degree angle.

3. Reach to the right as far as possible with your right hand. Once you've reached as far as you can, fold at your right hip and lower your right hand to your right shin, ankle, or the floor (depending on your flexibility).

4. Align your shoulders so your left shoulder is directly above your right shoulder. Turn your left palm forward, with your fingertips reaching toward the sky.

5. Hold this pose for 30-60 seconds. To release, press firmly through your left heel as you lift your torso, and then lower your arms. Turn to your left and repeat the pose for the same length of time on your left side.

Child's Pose

Child's Pose. JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty

I love doing this yoga pose after a run or any tough workout because it's so relaxing and I can really feel the stretch in my entire body. I especially feel it in my arms, shoulders, and lower back. 

Here's how to do it:

1. Start in a kneeling position, while holding your arms out in front of you.

2. Lower your butt toward your heels as you stretch the rest of your body down and forward. (If you have knee problems, be careful as you're lowering yourself down.)

3. Be sure to keep your shoulders and neck relaxed as you're lowering yourself to the floor or mat.

4. Your heels don't have to touch your butt, so don't force it if it's uncomfortable.

5. Stretch out your arms in a relaxed position along the floor and rest your forehead on the mat. Your stomach should be resting comfortably on top of your thighs.

6. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.

Butterfly Pose

Butterfly Yoga Pose
Butterfly Pose. Photo by Peter Augustin

This yoga pose relieves post-run tightness in your lower back and hips. Here's what to do:

1. While sitting on the ground, bend your knees and bring your soles together.

2. Relax your shoulders and slowly bend toward your feet. Try to keep your spine straight.

3. Keep your hands on your feet and press down your knees with your arms, or extend your arms out in front of you.

4. Hold for five breaths and then sit back up.

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