5 Essential Yoga Poses for Runners

As an injury-prone and chronically stiff runner, I started yoga in an attempt to feel better. Vinyasa yoga became an immediate compliment to my pavement pounding, and regular practice left my hips and hammies happy. So happy, in fact, that I became a yoga teacher!

These are my 5 go to post-run yoga poses. I’ve also included my favorite variations to target different areas of the body.

These can be done as stand-alone stretches, or strung together with 3-5 step back sun salutes (video) for a well-rounded yoga routine. No mat required – find a patch of grass or spot on the track!

Reclined Strap Stretch

Targets: hamstrings, calves, IT band

For hamstring stretch: Lay on back with both knees bent, feet on floor. Using a yoga strap, dress tie or long towel, wrap one end around heel of right foot and straighten right leg up toward sky. Left leg can stay bent or you can straighten. To deepen the stretch, lift shoulders off ground and bring belly toward right thigh.

hamstring stretch with yoga strap runners

For calf stretch: Slide the strap up toward the ball of right foot, where it meets the toes. Pull toes back toward shin while reaching heel up toward sky.

For outer hip/IT band stretch: Take strap in left hand, reach right arm out to side. Keeping right foot flexed, reach it over to the left until you feel a stretch. This might be several inches, or all the way down to floor.

IT Band stretch yoga for runners

Repeat all 3 stretches on left side.

Downward Facing Dog

Targets: hamstrings, calves

From hands and knees, tuck toes under and lift hips up and back, creating an inverted V with body. Hands should be shoulder-width apart, with palms flat on the ground. Feet should be hip-widith apart, parallel to one another. Press chest back toward thighs and reach heels toward the floor.

downward facing dog yoga for runners

Heel press variation: Bend right knee while pressing left heel down toward the floor. Hold for several breaths, then switch sides.

For calf stretch: While still in downdog, lift and spread toes. Feel like you’re trying to pull the balls of feet toward the back of mat.

High Crescent Lunge with Side Bend

Targets: Hip flexors, IT band

From Downdog, step right foot forward to right thumb, stacking knee directly over ankle. Reach arms up overhead, stacking shoulders over hips. Bring right hand to right hip, reach left arm over to the right, stretching along the entire left side. Switch sides.

crescent side bend yoga for runners

Knee-Down Low Lunge

Targets: hip flexors, quads, shins, hamstrings

From Downdog, step right foot forward to right thumb, stacking knee directly over ankle. Drop left knee to the floor, padding knee cap with a towel if necessary.

For hip flexor/quad stretch: Walk hands up the right thigh, sink hips slightly forward. To deepen the stretch, keep right hand on right thigh, reach left arm back and grab left foot. Pull heel in close to body. Keep chest broad and shoulders squared forward.

hip flexor stretch yoga for runners

For shin stretch: Release left foot. Place hands on floor. Keep right toes pointed down to the floor and straighten right left while drawing hips back.

For hamstring stretch: With right leg straight and hips back, lift right toes up toward sky, pressing right heel down into floor.

hamstring stretch yoga for runners

Repeat all 3 stretches on left side.

Child’s Pose

Targets: Low back, Inner thighs, Feet

From hands and knees, bring big toes together and knees out as wide as you can without pain. Send hips back toward heels, resting forehead on the floor. Press hands into floor to take hips further back for a deeper stretch. For a more relaxed pose, bring arms back by your sides and allow the shoulders to round forward.

Yoga for Runners Child's Pose

For foot stretch: Return to hands and knees, bring knees close together. Tuck toes under, and send hips back toward heels. Breathe!

For more running-specific yoga, join Erin at her Yoga for Runners workshop on Tuesday, June 16th from 6-8pm at 3 Bridges Yoga in Portsmouth, NH. During this two-hour yoga class, you will learn how to integrate yoga into your running routine with stretches and exercises for the feet, hamstrings, IT band, hips, core & more! This class is for all levels.

Ready to Run by Dr. Kelly Starrett with T.J. Murphy

Ready to Run

Ready to Run: Unlocking Your Potential to Run Naturally
by Kelly Starrett with T.J. Murphy

I thought I was in decent shape having qualified for the Boston Marathon just six weeks ago. Dr. Kelly Starrett shattered that illusion pretty quickly. It turns out I’m kind of a wreck. That hip/groin thing that ‘mostly hurts when I run’, that nagging knot in my right calf, and the pain on the top of my foot are all indicators of underlying problems that could end my running career before I even make it to Boston in 2016.

Dr. Starrett’s movement and mobility philosophy is founded on two guiding principles.

  1. All human beings should be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves.
  2. If you feel pain during or after moving, then what you were doing was not functional movement.

As athletes, we are willing to throw all kinds of money at cures. We hire experts, we visit doctors, we buy gear and equipment, we ingest pills, we’ll stop at almost nothing to feel healthy again and return to the sport we love. Dr. Starrett believes that in most cases, we’re wasting our money.

In Ready to Run, Starrett introduces 12 standards that every healthy athlete should be able to meet. The standards make up a simple 12-part test to determine where your weak spots are. Weak spots lead to overcompensation, which leads to injury. I’ll admit that I had trouble meeting most of these standards. Not good.

The standards range from the difficult (squats, ankle range of motion) to the easy (hydration, flat shoes). It will require patience and perseverance to conquer all of them. Each standard should be routinely measured and assessed until satisfied.

The next section of the book deals with mobility work. Mobility work (not stretching) is used to specifically target those areas where you had trouble meeting a standard. They will unglue areas of restriction and compromised tissue and help you regain full mobility.

These mobility exercises are not for the faint of heart. As Dr. Starrett says in the video above, you’ll have to put on your big boy, or big girl pants for five minutes. You’ll learn fun new terms like smashing and flossing while gnashing your teeth.

In Chapter 18, you’ll find out how to attack some of the more common injuries like plantar fasciitis, iliotibial band syndrome, and shin splints. With regular standards testing and mobility work, runners will enjoy running faster and further with less pain and injury.