Yoga for Runners: Hip Flexors and Psoas Release

As a runner, you’re probably pretty familiar with your hip flexors.

Every time you take a step forward, the hip flexors must contract. That’s quite a bit of contraction as you run. Couple that with lots of sitting (commuting and desk job, anyone?), and you’ve got some tight and short hip flexors.

The psoas is your biggest hip flexor muscle. I also consider it a core body muscle, as it helps to stabilize your midsection, pelvis and spine, therefore affecting your posture. It’s kind of a big deal. If the psoas is tight and short, it can contribute to low back and pelvic pain, improper breathing and even trouble with digestion!

So what to do?

Come see me in a yoga class!

OR…do this short sequence of stretches on your own at home!

Start on all fours in table top. Allow the hips to settle back towards your heels, as you find child’s pose. Take some long, deep breaths here as you allow the tops of your thighs to relax.

From down dog step your right foot forward between your hands. Your right knee should be directly over your ankle and right shin should be vertical. With left toes tucked under, actively press your left heel to the back of your mat or the wall behind you to straighten your left leg. Hold for 5 breaths.

yoga hip flexors running

Lower left knee to the ground, and bring your hands up to your hips. Align the shoulder over your hips to bring the torso upright. Press hands into your front thigh. Stay here or reach your arms up overhead. Hold for 5 breaths.

yoga hips running

Return to down dog and repeat on the left leg.

Make your way onto your back, bend both knees and place feet on the floor. Lift your hips and slide a foam yoga block under the sacrum and tailbone to fully support the hips. (If you don’t have a block, you can use a foam roller for this.) Hug your right knee in towards your chest and slightly to the right armpit in order to avoid the ribcage. Stretch your left leg straight forward, keeping the foot flexed. Left heel should be on the ground, and toes up toward the sky. Hold for 5-10 breaths, then switch sides.

yoga hips stretching run

On your back, prop yourself up with your elbows. Bend both knees and plant your feet on the floor, as wide as your mat. Let your knees fall from side to side, like windshield wipers. Do this several times, then left your knees stay over to the right. Bring your left knee in line with your hip, and keep your left foot in line with the knee, with the foot flexed. (If this creates any knee pain, slowly back out and skip this stretch!)

yoga hips runners

Stay here, or lift your right knee up toward the sky and plant the sole of the foot on the floor.

To go deeper, lay straight back and stretch the arms up overhead. Hold for 5-10 breaths, then switch sides.

yoga hips stretching running

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About Erin Holt

Erin Holt is a registered yoga teacher and a Holistic Nutritionist with a B.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics. After sustaining several running injuries, Erin started a vinyasa yoga practice and quickly fell in love. Erin teaches at 3 Bridges Yoga in Portsmouth and Durham, NH and works with nutrition clients both locally and online.

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