Yoga and running are very complementary activities. Yoga helps with stability and core strength and opens up the lungs so runners can breathe more deeply. Yoga is great cross-training for runners by working the upper body as well. I have a ton of students who are avid runners and they swear by the benefits of yoga. One student in particular who’s run more than 20 marathons says the focus and zen he finds through yoga allow him to perform at his best over and over again.
On a personal note, I’m getting so excited to lead the yoga stretch before the Health and Cooking Light Fit Foodie 5K Race in Fairfax, Virgina, on June 21st. My husband and I will both be running the 5K as we push 10-month-old son Timothy in the jogging stroller.
Whether you’re a marathon veteran or a weekends-only runner, these poses will help keep you strong and flexible. Pre-run, it’s best to warm up with some dynamic yoga stretches to loosen up the joints and get the blood flowing. Post-run, it’s best to do more static stretches and give the body a chance to cool down and recover. Give these five posses a try.
Before you head out for your run, fold forward over your legs and walk your feet back in to an inverted V shape. In downward dog, you will stretch your hamstrings, calves, shoulders, and hips. Hold for 5 to 8 breaths, and feel free to bend one knee at a time to get a deeper stretch in your calves.
Next, step your right foot forward in to a high lunge and raise your arms up above your ears. Make sure your front knee is directly over your ankle and your back leg is straight. The high lunge activates your core muscles prior to running and gets your hip flexors and quads loose. Hold for 5 to 8 breaths before going back to downward dog, then step the opposite foot forward to repeat on the other side.
From high lunge on your left side, get into half moon pose by stepping forward and folding in to your legs. From standing forward bend, slide your right hand forward 10 inches in front of your right pinky toe as you lift your left leg up, turning the foot out and stacking your left hip over your right. Lift your left arm up to the sky and look up at your hand. Engage your core and hold for 5 to 8 breaths. Fold forward, then repeat on the opposite leg.
After you’ve come back from your run, you’ll want to stretch out your quads, hip flexors, external rotators, and hamstrings. Both of these poses will also stretch out the lower back and waist and and alleviate any tension in the shoulders or neck which sometimes are tightened when running.
Slide your right leg forward and parallel to the front of the mat or in between your hands. Lengthen your left leg back and try and keep your hips even as you walk your hands forward. Hold for 5 to 8 breaths, then switch sides.
After pigeon on the left side, swing your right leg forward. Keep your left knee bent and place your foot on the inner upper right thigh. Stretch your right leg straight and twist and fold over your right leg. Hold for 5 to 8 breaths, then repeat with the left leg forward.
Kristin McGee is a leading yoga and Pilates instructor and healthy lifestyle expert based in New York City. She is an ACE certified personal trainer who regularly trains celebrity clients in New York and Los Angeles. She serves as Health’s contributing fitness editor and is frequently seen on national TV. Her latest in a large collection of fitness DVDs is YogaSlim. Follow her on Twitter @KristinMcGee and like her page on Facebook.