It is Yoga for Runners Week here at RCR!  This is the second of two posts from Katie Fox-Boyd of DC Yogi.

I know you have been meaning to try yoga because you heard it will benefit your running and provide good cross training, right? Well, now is your chance.

As I said in my post earlier this week, yoga is the perfect cross training for runners.  Whenever I run I tack on a short yoga practice afterward to balance the body and mind. The following sequence is a perfect way to warm-up for a long run or to stay active on rest days. It provides strength building and stretching in all the right places. I’ve also included a restorative pose which can be done as part of the sequence or on its own when you need physical and mental restoration.

Find time for a fifteen minute yoga practice, a few times a week, and try the yoga for runners sequence below. If you are short on time these poses can also be practiced individually rather than as a sequence.

You can practice this sequence along with me in this video, or work through the poses below on your own.

[youtube_sc url=rtG9gL8ifaY width=460]

Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) with a Shoulder Opener

Benefits

  • Stretches the hamstrings, calves, and hips
  • Calms the nervous system to relieve stress

The pose

Stand with feet together (or hip-width apart if more comfortable) and fold forward. Let the head be dead weigh. To release the back, gently bend the knees. To stretch the hamstrings, keep the legs straight. Hold 5 to 10 breaths.

To take this into a shoulder opener, interlace the fingers behind the back and draw them over toward the head (if this is accessible for your body). Hold for 5 to 10 breaths then release the hands back down to the floor.

Lunge with a Twist (Parivrtta Anjaneyasana)

Benefits

  • Stretches the groins, legs, arms, and back
  • Strengthens legs and core
  • Improves balance

The Pose

From a standing forward fold, plant the hands into the ground and step the left foot back until you are in a lunge. Curl the toes under. The front knee should be over the front ankle. You can keep the back knee on the floor or lift it. Reach the arms over head and sink the hips forward until you feel the stretch in the hips. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.

Take this into a twist by bringing the palms together in the center of your chest and twisting toward your knee, bringing the left elbow to the outside of the right knee. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.

Half Split (Ardha Hanamanasana)

Benefits

  • Stretches the thighs, hamstrings, and groins

The Pose

From your lunge twist, lower the hands to frame the front foot and bring the back knee to the ground if it is not already there. Draw the hips back so that they are over the back knee and straighten the front leg. Lengthen the spine and fold forward from the hips. Hold 5 to 10 breaths.

Pyramid Pose (Parsvottonasana)

Benefits

  • Stretches the spine, hips, hamstrings, and shoulders
  • Strengthens the legs and core
  • Improves balance

The Pose

From half split, come back to a lunge with the back knee lifted.

Bring the hands to the hips and come up with a flat back to stand. Lower the back heel to the ground with the toes angled so they are pointing toward the top of the mat.  Draw inner thighs together and fold forward with a long spine over the straight leg. Hold for 5-10 breaths and then come up with a flat back to stand.

Step the back foot forward and repeat lunge, lunge twist, half split, and pyramid pose on the opposite side.

Boat (Navasana)

Benefits

  • Strengthens the abs, spine, and hip flexors

The Pose

Sit on the ground, bend the knees, and plant the feet into the ground. Hold the back of your thighs with your hands and lift the heart up while lengthening the spine.

Begin to float the feet off of the ground–you are working toward bringing the shins parallel to the ground but only take it as far as you can while keeping the chest lifted.

The next stage of the pose is to reach the hands and arms out straight in front of you.

The next stage is to straighten the legs.

For an even greater challenge you can slowly lower the legs and torso toward the ground, hover a few inches above the ground, and then lift back up, repeating this 3 to 5 times.

Reclined Pigeon

Benefits

  • Stretches the hips

The Pose

Start on your back with the soles of your feet on the ground, knees bent.

Cross the right ankle over the left knee. Allow the right knee to relax down toward the ground. Flex both feet (draw the toes toward the shin). This may be enough of a stretch.

To take it a step further hold onto your left thigh and draw it closer to the body, lifting your left foot off the floor. You can use your right elbow to gently nudge the right knee away from you, deepening the stretch.

Hold for 5 breathes or up to 1 minute if comfortable.

For more poses that target the hips check out my 4 Hip-Opening Seated Yoga Poses post.

Legs up the Wall (Viparita Karani)

Benefits

  • Revitalizes tired legs and feet
  • Calms the nervous system and thus the mind

The Pose

Lie on your back with your butt up against the wall and your legs up the wall (hence the name of this pose). The arms can be alongside the body on the floor or you can bring one hand to your belly and the other to your heart.

Close your eyes. Put an eye pillow or wash cloth over your eyes to help keep them closed and to reduce the amount of light coming in.

Hold this pose ten minutes or longer. For more poses that reduce stress, check out my post about 5 Yoga Poses to Reduce Anxiety.

Yoga can benefit athletes both mentally and physically. Finding time to practice the poses above or to make it out to a yoga class has the power to balance, strengthen, and open the body and mind.

About the Author: Katie Fox-Boyd is a Washington, DC based registered yoga teacher and the fiancee of RCR founder Doug Hay. Check out her blog DC Yogi where she shares her advice and musings, for the beginner yogis and those with a beginner’s mind. New to yoga? Find her collection of articles for beginners on the Yoga for Beginners page.

Author Doug Hay is the founder of Rock Creek Runner, host of the Trail Talk podcast, and fanatical about everything trail running -- beards, plaid shirts, bruised toenails, and all. He and his wife live and run in beautiful Black Mountain, NC.

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