I’ve often heard that yoga is great for runners, and that running is terrible for yogis. Sure, that's an exaggeration, but I think most of us can agree that running isn't ideal for your flexibility. Yoga is a GREAT counter activity for running, getting to stretch out sore muscles AND build strength.
You can usually feel where you need a good stretch, it’s typically a given. As a runner, you’ve likely experienced difficulty walking - like muscles are so sore it’s hard to walk to the fridge - ? it’s those muscles: quads, hips, and glutes that usually need the most love.
Here are my favorite ways to stretch it out. Make sure you hit both sides!
LIZARD - Step your left foot forward on the outside of your left hand. Drop your right knee down (if your knees are sensitive, double your mat up under your knee). Reach your heart forward to lengthen your spine (try not to round down), and melt down into your hips. Maybe your elbows will reach to a block or the mat. Keep your left knee and left toes pointing in the same direction; if your knee splays out, turn your toes out too.
PIGEON - From downward facing dog, bring your left shin forward to the front of the mat, your left knee to your left wrist and your left foot to your right wrist. Make sure you open from your hip, not the knee. The more open your hips, the closer to parallel to the front of the mat your left shin will be. If you feel anything in your knee, back off immediately. Start upright, feeling an opening in the front of your right hip. Make sure weight is evenly distributed between your hips. To fold over your left shin, keep all the length in the spine and even hips as you reach your heart in front of your shin. If your left hip is raised, you can always put a block under your left glute.
- Figure four variation: Plant your right foot on the floor and cross your left ankle over your right knee. Hug your left shin in towards your chest, keeping the knee in line with your ankle. You can always take this figure four on your back.
CRESCENT LUNGE - From downward facing dog, step your left foot forward between your hands. Lift your torso up over your hips with your arms extended up overhead. Keep the right knee lifted for some more active variations:
- Psoas stretch - Grab your right wrist with your left hand and reach your torso over to the left, stretching your right side body, right hip flexor, and psoas. Feel free to bend into the right knee a little (or a lot) or bring it to the mat and tuck the tailbone.
- Cactus arms - Similar to above, but potentially with different sensation. From crescent lunge, bend your elbows at 90 degrees out to the sides and extend your heart to the sky in a backbend. Bend your right knee a little or a lot towards the mat. Reach your tailbone towards the mat and your heart towards the sky, finding a lot of space in the spine to arch evenly into your backbend. Really hug the shoulder blades together to open the heart.
- Drop back knee into King Arthur - After stepping your left foot forward, drop your right knee to the mat (if you have sensitive knees, double your mat up under your knee). Option to keep the hands under your shoulders and dip into the hips. Option to bring both hands to the front knee or overhead. Option to bend your right knee and reach back for your right foot with one or both hands.
As you make your way through these stretches and postures, make sure you toe the line of your edge. Meaning, you should definitely feel quite a bit of sensation while holding each of the postures, but you should never tip over into pain.
We all love to run, but a lot of us forget to stretch afterwards, myself included. The more we recover after exertion, the quicker and more successfully we can get back to doing the things we love most. Here’s to fun, and happy stretching!