Whether you’re a cross-country runner, seasoned weightlifter, neighborhood jogger, or surfer, every person who engages in regular exercise understands the importance of stretching. The primary goal for any active person is to avoid injury, and one of the best ways to do that is by engaging in specific yoga poses that keep you limber.
Yoga is a workout in and of itself and we encourage everyone to do it, but it can be difficult to fit an hour-long class into your day. Regular yoga flow can help you understand where the tight areas are in your body. If you’re a runner, targeting certain muscles, ligaments, and joints can help you run faster, improve your strength, and reduce your risk of injury. Most runners think that they only need to stretch their legs, which is an incorrect notion. You have to focus on your hips, shoulders, core, glutes, quads, and hamstrings! You’ll find the yoga poses that address those areas and how to do them below.
Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position, with your knees directly below your hips and your hands below your shoulders. Spread your fingers out and press your palms into the mat. Tuck your toes, lift off your knees, and slowly straighten your legs as you lift your hips back and up; you should look like a triangle. Make sure that your back is straight. If you need to bend your knees or you can’t make keep your feet flat on the mat, that is completely fine. Take 10 deep breaths in this position.
From Downward Dog, draw your right knee into your chest and plant your foot on the ground between your hands. Drop your left knee to the ground and keep your right knee over your right ankle. Make sure the top of your left foot is on the floor before you lift up, extending your arms above your head. Squeeze your left glute to feel the stretch in your left hip flexor. If you feel up to it, you can advance to the mirror the picture above. Hold this position for 10 deep breaths and then repeat on the other side.
Bound Angle Pose:
Sit down on your butt with your legs extended in front of you and keep your back straight. Slowly draw your knees toward your chest, keeping your feet flat on the floor. Exhale as you gently open your legs, letting your knees fall outwards. The soles of your feet should be pressed together. Hold onto your feet and try to let gravity pull your knees down to open your inner thighs and hips. Hold this pose for 5-10 deep breaths.
Sit up straight with your legs extended out in front of you. Bend your right leg and step your right foot outside your left hip or thigh (whichever feels comfortable). Keep your left leg extended and exhale as you twist to your right. Inhale as you lift through your spine and make sure to keep both sit bones on the floor. You can place your left elbow on the outside of your right thigh for support and to increase the twist. Hold this pose for 10 deep breaths and then repeat on the other side.
Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Step your right foot back so it is three to four feet from your left foot. Keep your left foot facing forward and turn your right foot out to the side. Bend your front knee, but make sure it doesn’t go beyond your toes. Raise your arms so that they are parallel to the ground and direct your gaze to your left fingertips out in front of you. You should feel a stretch in your left hamstring and right inner thigh. Hold this pose for 10 deep breaths and then repeat on the other leg.
Reclining Hand To Big Toe:
Lie flat on your back with your arms by your side and both legs extended. Draw your right knee into your chest and place a towel or belt around the sole of your right foot. Hold either end of the towel or belt and extend your foot up toward the ceiling. Try to straighten your leg and relax the hamstring. Pull down with your hands until you feel a good stretch in your hamstring. Do not strain! Only do what you can do. Hold this pose for 10 deep breaths and then repeat on the other leg.