As an injury-prone and chronically stiff runner, I first started yoga in an attempt to feel better. Vinyasa yoga became an immediate complement to my pavement pounding, and a regular practice left my hips and hamstrings happy. So happy, in fact, that I became a yoga teacher!
These are my 5 go to post-run poses. I’ve also included my favorite variations to target different areas of the body. These can be done as stand-alone stretches, or strung together with 3-5 step back sun salutes (watch the video here for a well-rounded yoga routine). No mat required – find a patch of grass or spot on the track!
1. Reclined Strap Stretch
Targets: hamstrings, calves, IT band
For hamstring stretch: Lay on back with both knees bent, feet on floor. Using a yoga strap, dress tie or long towel, wrap one end around heel of right foot and straighten right leg up toward sky. Left leg can stay bent or you can straighten. To deepen the stretch, lift shoulders off ground and bring belly toward right thigh.
For calf stretch: Slide the strap up toward the ball of right foot, where it meets the toes. Pull toes back toward shin while reaching heel up toward sky.
For outer hip/IT band stretch: Take strap in left hand, reach right arm out to side. Keeping right foot flexed, reach it over to the left until you feel a stretch. This might be several inches, or all the way down to floor.
Repeat all 3 stretches on left side.
2. Downward Facing Dog
Targets: hamstrings, calves
From hands and knees, tuck toes under and lift hips up and back, creating an inverted V with body. Hands should be shoulder-width apart, with palms flat on the ground. Feet should be hip-width apart, parallel to one another. Press chest back toward thighs and reach heels toward the floor.
Heel press variation: Bend right knee while pressing left heel down toward the floor. Hold for several breaths, then switch sides.
For calf stretch: While still in downdog, lift and spread toes. Feel like you’re trying to pull the balls of feet toward the back of mat.
3. High Crescent Lunge with Side Bend
Targets: Hip flexors, IT band
From Downdog, step right foot forward to right thumb, stacking knee directly over ankle. Reach arms up overhead, stacking shoulders over hips. Bring right hand to right hip, reach left arm over to the right, stretching along the whole left side. Switch sides.
4. Knee-Down Low Lunge
Targets: hip flexors, quads, shins, hamstrings
From Downdog, step right foot forward to right thumb, stacking knee directly over ankle. Drop left knee to the floor, padding knee cap with a towel if necessary.
For hip flexor/quad stretch: Walk hands up the right thigh, sink hips slightly forward. To deepen the stretch, keep right hand on right thigh, reach left arm back and grab left foot. Pull heel in close to body. Keep chest broad and shoulders squared forward.
For shin stretch: Release left foot. Place hands on floor. Keep right toes pointed down to the floor and straighten right left while drawing hips back.
For hamstring stretch: With right leg straight and hips back, lift right toes up toward sky, pressing right heel down into floor.
Repeat all 3 stretches on left side.
5. Child’s Pose
Targets: Low back, Inner thighs, Feet
From hands and knees, bring big toes together and knees out as wide as you can without pain. Send hips back toward heels, resting forehead on the floor. Press hands into floor to take hips further back for a deeper stretch. For a more relaxed pose, bring arms back by your sides and allow the shoulders to round forward.
For foot stretch: Return to hands and knees, bring knees close together. Tuck toes under, and send hips back toward heels. Breathe!
Yoga for Runners will be taught by Erin Holt. Class is June 16th from 6-8pm at the Portsmouth studio.
Cost is $20 Members, $25 Non-members, $30 day of. or register at any studio or over the phone. There are no refunds or exchanges for this class.