When I first started running, I felt sore and tight, despite stretching thoroughly afterwards. I started thinking that running wasn't meshing well with my yoga practice. Yoga helped me loosen my muscles, but running only seemed to tighten them. A few runs and a bit of research later, I changed my mind. Running and yoga complement each other quite well, and I don't need to end up sore and tight after my runs after all. The right combination of yoga poses can help you stretch out and loosen up after your runs, keeping your muscles and joints healthy and preventing tightness.
Running and yoga work together in other ways, too. While you're running, the breathing you practice in yoga (pranayama) can actually help you keep breathing steadily, even during intense parts of the run. Plus, there is a certain peace that accompanies running (and walking). That repetitive motion allows your mind to clear, and the path that lies before allows your eyes to focus on the horizon. Add some motivating music, and you've got quite the relaxing and stress-relieving workout, much like a good yoga session!
I designed this yoga routine with runners in mind. You'll need a yoga mat, yoga block (or a chair), and a yoga strap (or towel) for these poses.
Before you begin, remember these precautions:
Butterfly/Cobbler Stretch (Baddha Konasana)
Do not start a yoga routine or any other workout without clearance from your doctor.
These poses are not suitable for pregnant women.
Each pose should be done in a slow and controlled manner, without bouncing or forcing, which can cause your muscles to tighten, increasing your risk of injury. Stretch in a slow, steady motion to the point of "mild discomfort." If you are stretching to the point of pain, you have stretched too far. Learn to respect your edge—never go beyond it.
This routine can be integrated into a post-run stretching routine. You can also do it any time of day. If you're not doing the stretches immediately following a workout, I recommend a 10-minute cardio warm-up before starting this routine. Warm muscles are easier to stretch.
These poses and the accompanying photos are modified for people with tight hips and hamstrings, which is common among runners.
A breath is one full inhalation and one full exhalation through the nose. Hold each pose for five breaths, or longer if you'd like.
This pose opens the groin and hips, stretching the inner thighs. Folding (leaning) forward in this post (explained below) also stretches the back.