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Over the last decade, yoga has emerged on the fitness scene as the ultimate cross-training activity.
There’s yoga for surfers, golfers, rock climbers, bodybuilders and, of course, runners. The word is out: Whatever you’re in to, a regular yoga routine will help improve your athletic performance.
Yoga is an ideal recovery activity. It releases tension, relieves soreness and restores range of motion, helping prevent injury. The practice also cultivates a balance between strength and flexibility, opening and lengthening tight areas and strengthening weak ones (a recipe for a better athlete).
If you’re a runner, chances are you’ve been told to try yoga. And you should! But if making it to an hourlong class is too much of a stretch (pun intended), start with a few post-run poses at home. You can find a number of “yoga for running” articles online that generally focus on stretching the hamstrings, calves and thighs, so here are some simple poses specifically for the hips, lower back and outer legs. The best part—you get to lie down.
Windshield Wipers are a great way to gently release the lower back and lengthen the outer legs while also giving your spine some love.
- Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-distance apart and your arms open to your sides with your palms up.
- Inhale deeply, and as you exhale, keeping your feet together, slowly lower both knees to one side.
- Inhale and gently lift both knees back up; exhale and lower both knees to the opposite side, slowly going back and forth.
- After a few rounds, rest with your knees to one side for several breaths. Gently press your shoulders into the floor, spread your pinkie toes and lightly lengthen your tailbone toward your knees.
- When you’re ready, raise your knees back up and do a few Windshield Wipers before resting your knees on the opposite side.
Thread the Needle
Targeting the hips and buttock muscles, Thread the Needle (sometimes called Reclined Pigeon Pose) is a crucial stretch for runners.
- Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor hip-distance apart, cross your right ankle over the base of your left thigh just below your left knee, creating a figure-4 shape with your legs.
- Gently begin to bring your left knee toward your chest and, reaching your right arm through the center opening and your left arm outside your left leg, clasp your hands behind your left thigh. (If your head lifted off the floor as you did any of that, slide a pillow or blanket under the base of your skull.)
- Release your shoulders back down, lengthen your spine and flex through both feet for 10 breaths, then repeat on the other side.
Variation of Reclined Pigeon Pose
This side variation of the Reclined Pigeon Pose will take you deeper into the hip flexors while lengthening your quadratus lumborum on the side of your lower back (a common tight spot for runners).
- From the figure-4 position with your right ankle crossed below your left knee, slowly begin to lower your left knee to the left, delivering the sole of your right foot to the floor with your right knee pointing to the sky.
- As best you can, anchor the inner edge of your right foot into the floor and take your right arm overhead, lengthening your right side body.
- Stay here and breathe, releasing your right ribs back down toward the floor. Hold this position for at least 60 seconds before switching sides.
Photo credit: Death to the Stock Photo