7 essential poses every yogi & non-yogi needs to do post run. Keep your hips happy & flexy ... it'll help you run faster too!
I seriously struggle on a day to day basis of finding a balance between my love for both running and yoga. When I went to India to do my TTC, I had just run my first full marathon and most of my time was spent training for that. My body was so sore and exhausted - I literally flew to India 1 1/2 weeks after the marathon. And I realized how stiff my legs really were! I had to work SO hard just to touch my toes. I thought my hamstrings were never ever going to be flexible. Every forward fold was torture. And my hips? A split? Not in a million years! For all of you runners out there, I’m sure you understand the struggle. It’s SO important to stretch everyday and keep those muscles happy. If you do- you'll certainly see in improvement in your long distance runs. You’ll be less sore during and after your run, and I even noticed cutting some time off my pace when I added a consistent stretching routine.
But like all things, the key to success in practice, practice, practice. It wasn’t easy, and I didn’t see results come any time soon. But trust me, it’s all worth it in the end. I was determined to feel comfortable in forward folds. I stretched out my hamstring and hips every single day, sometimes multiple times a day. I worked and worked and worked at it and wouldn't give up. Hamstrings are one of those muscles that need consistent attention and if you forget about them, they'll just tighten back up. But with that being said…spending just 15-20 minutes a day will bring you a lot more comfort flexibility if you keep at it. Here are a few of my favorite poses I do after a run no matter how short to keep my hips and legs happy and feeling flexible!
This pose is a great stretch for both the hamstrings and the calves. It helps to strengthen the thighs too! If you can’t touch your toes, no worries, just give a slight bend in your knees and focus on feeling the deep hamstring stretch. Runners hamstrings are super fussy and sensitive, just let your upper body hang and breathe into the stretch. I chose to hang on to my elbows here to release some back tension too, feel free to let your hands fall wherever is comfortable.
-On an inhale, raise your arms over head, fill up your lungs with air
-As you exhale, slowly fold forward from you lower back bringing your hands to rest where ever is comfortable
-Try to avoid rounding your upper spine here and really try to keep your torso long
-Activate your front thighs while you lift your sitting bones high to the sky
-Stay here for 10-15 breaths and with every exhale, try to fold a little deeper each time
This strengthens the thighs and is super, super important to help open up those hips! Rest on your back knee to start off & if you want to intensify - lift up off your knee and ground through your back foot.
-Starting in down dog, step your right foot forward in between your hands
-Lower your right knee down to the mat (advanced can stay in high lunge)
-As you inhale, reach your arms up overhead
-Keep you hips square by spinning your inner left thighbone up and tucking your tailbone
-Make sure your front knee and ankle are in a straight line and keeping the front thigh at a 90 degree angle
-Stay here for 10 breaths then switch to the other side
Half splits stretch the hamstrings, thighs and groins and is commonly known as the ‘Runner’s Lunge’! This is a very intense and advanced pose when practiced in full expression. It requires a lot of flexibility in the hamstrings and the hip flexors. Half splits are the perfect runners stretch that will keep your hips open enough to eventually reach full splits.
-Starting from a low lunge (previous pose), flex your front foot as you roll onto your heel
-Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale begin to straighten your front leg and push your hips back
-Keep your hips square with your back knee stacked just under the hips
-Take another inhalation to lengthen the spine, as you exhale slowly draw your chest forward and fold over your front leg (or don't - you can skip the fold if it's too intense!)
Half Pigeon Pose
One of my favorite poses because it just feels so damn good. (Also- my favorite picture because well - who doesn't love to see camels on beach while practicing yoga? :) Pictures are from a small village in the south of Morocco!) We store a lot of emotions & baggage in our hips and it's often quite difficult to release and open it back up. This killer pose opens the hip joint, lengthens the hip flexor, stretches the thighs and glutes, groin and psoas. Also known to be such in incredible pose because of it’s ability to release stress and anxiety. It is a deep hip opener that promotes the release of negative feelings.
-Starting in down dog, bring your right shin parallel to the front of your mat and flex your foot (the closer you pull your foot towards your body, the less intense it will be)
-Slowly drop your left leg down extended on the mat
-Draw your left hip forward to keep the hips square
-If your right hip is too tight to reach the floor, place a pillow underneath it to keep the hips square
-Inhale to lengthen your spine
-Stay here with a straight back or to go deeper - exhale, gently folding over your front knee and allowing your forehead to rest on the mat in front of you with your arms outstretched
-Stay here for 10 breaths then switch sides
Another really important pose to prepare to open the hips. Strengthens the inner thigh muscles as well as stretched hamstrings, groins and hip flexors. Here, I am resting on my palms, to intensify come down onto your forearms.
-Starting in down dog, step your right foot to the outside of your right hand
-Drop your left knee down in a low lunge position
-Rest here (or coming down onto your forearms) for 10 breaths.
-Switch to the other side
Cow Facing Pose
A great pose for anyone with chronic knee pain. I know my knees kill me after a long run on pavement and this is a must do! Also stretches the hips, ankles and thighs.
-Start in a sitting position and bring your right knee stacked on top of your left
-Activate your feet, inhale and lengthen your spine
-To go deeper, exhale and slowly fold forward letting your forearms rest on the floor in front of you with your chest to your knees
-Root through your sitting bones into the earth as you allow your front hips to soften into the body
-Breathe here for 10 breaths then switch sides to stack the left knee on top of the right
This pose helps build stability while increasing the range of motion in your knees, hips, ankles and calves. It strengthens the legs and hips, and most importantly for us runners, it’s a great stretch for the groin area! Added benefit- it’s great for speeding up the digestive system!
-Standing at the top of your mat, step your feet so they are hip distance apart
-Point your toes slightly outwards to about a 45 degree angle
-Slowly begin to squat down as low as you can, keeping your heels on the ground
-Taking a deep breath in, lengthen the spine and extend your back
-Press your palms to heart center
-For a deeper stretch, push your elbows against the insides of your knees to open your hips even more