Yoga poses for runners
Release tight hamstrings, stabilise your hip, and strengthen the knees.
“Being active every day makes it easier to hear that inner voice,” says celebrated Japanese author Haruki Murakami in his book, ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’. Indeed, for many, running provides a welcome window of solitude and reflection. Some of us run while listening to an episode of our favourite podcast while others hit the green trails to enjoy the tranquillity of nature.
The fluidity of planting one foot in front of the other and propelling the weight of your body forward appears to be a simple motion, but many muscles come into play to facilitate these movements. An average runner strikes the ground 50 to 60 times per minute with each foot and the impact is felt throughout the body, coursing through muscles, tendons, ligaments and bone structures. It isn’t surprising that runners – regardless of whether they are running for leisure or training for a marathon – will at some point develop running-related injuries.
Being that the same group of muscles are used repetitively during running, these muscles undergo a series of contractions and extensions. The contraction of muscles, over time, cause their fibres to shorten. As these muscle fibres shorten, they create imbalances in the musculoskeletal system, resulting in various runners’ injuries. One such example is knee pain that arises from tight outer quadriceps and weak inner quadriceps.
For runners seeking to correct musculoskeletal imbalances, keeping a regular yoga practice alongside a running routine is especially useful. The physical practice of asanas help to stretch and strengthen our muscles, allowing the musculoskeletal system to regain symmetry. Below, we’ve rounded up some yoga poses to aid runners.
Triangle pose (Trikonasana)
How it helps: Stretches the hamstrings, inner thighs, and calves. Strengthens the thighs, knees, and ankles. Stretches the shoulders, chest, and spine.
Get into the pose: Stand with your legs twice shoulder-width apart. Turn your left foot outwards, taking care to align it with the instep of your right foot. Keep your hips squared and distribute your weight evenly on both feet. Raise your right arm up alongside your right ear as you breathe in. As you exhale, reach over your head and bend your trunk to the left, making sure to keep your left knee straight. Your hips, trunk and arm should form a horizontal line. Catch hold of your ankle or calf with your left hand. Remain in the pose for a minute as you maintain a calm breath. Repeat with the opposite side.
Standing wide-leg forward fold (Prasarita Padottanasana)
How it helps: Stretches the spine. Stretches the hamstrings, inner thighs, and groin. Strengthens the arches of the feet, quads, and inner thighs.
Get into the pose: Step your feet about 1.5 metres apart. Position your toes such that the outer edges of the feet are parallel. Press your big toe joint firmly into the floor to activate the arches of your feet. Contract your quadriceps and inner thighs before resting your hands on your hips, lifting your chest, and hinging forward from the hips. Press your fingertips or palms into the floor directly below the shoulders and try to straighten your arms. Take care not to round your spine and keep it in a neutral position. To deepen the fold, walk the hands between your feet, taking care not to round the back. From here, you can go deeper into the pose by bending your elbows and lowering your torso and head into a deeper forward bend.
Lizard pose (Utthan Pristhasana)
How it helps: Opens the hips. Stretches and strengthens the inner thighs. Stretches the quadriceps.
Get into the pose: From a low lunge position, move the left foot to the left and place your left hand at the inner left foot. Squeeze your left inner thigh toward the body. Lengthen your breastbone forward. Bend the elbows and let your forearms rest on the floor (or a yoga block). Be sure to square your hips and not let the right hip drop. Keep the back leg straight. Repeat the pose on the other side.