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The Best Yoga Poses & Stretches Before Running

Running can be hard on your body, especially when it comes to repetitive motion and impact. To prevent injuries and improve performance, incorporating complementary exercises that build strength, flexibility, and balance is essential. Yoga is a wonderful addition to any runner’s training regimen. Not only does it prepare your body for running, but it also helps maintain overall joint health, particularly your knees. Here’s how yoga can benefit runners and support knee strength.

Benefits of Yoga for Runners

Yoga is unique in its ability to access and strengthen the small muscles that support your joints, not just the major muscles. Stretching is essential for all athletes, but yoga takes it a step further by promoting whole-body movement in different ways. This helps prevent injuries and improves your overall performance. By incorporating yoga into your routine, you can build strength, flexibility, and balance, which are crucial for any runner.

Unlock Your Full Potential

One of the most important muscles in your body is the psoas, which is part of the iliopsoas and serves as a bridge between your upper and lower body. The secret to unlocking your full potential is creating a neutral pelvic alignment to support the lower back and abdomen and stabilize the hips. Healthy and correctly functioning psoas are essential for proper alignment, because almost every movement involves the psoas. Sitting leads to a shortened and underdeveloped psoas muscle. Buried deep in your hips the psoas are responsible for many pain points including tight shoulders, neck, hamstrings, etc. Lengthening the psoas needs to be done regularly if you want to enjoy pain free exercise for years to come.

Pre-Run Yoga Poses

When stretching before a run, go gently and focus on preparing your legs by including poses that loosen your quads, hips, groins, and hamstrings. Hold each pose for at least 3 breaths.

Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

  • Benefits: Stretches your entire body, including calves, hamstrings, back, and shoulders.
  • Step-by-Step: Start on your hands and knees, curl your toes under, and press into your palms to lift your hips toward the ceiling, straightening your legs.

Low Cobra (Bhujangasana)

  • Benefits: Warms your back muscles and activates your core for greater stability and injury prevention.
  • Step-by-Step: Lie on your stomach, press into your pelvis and the tops of your feet to lift your chest away from the floor, without pressing into your palms.

Standing Quad Stretch

  • Benefits: Improves balance and core strength.
  • Step-by-Step: Begin in Mountain Pose, shift your weight onto one leg, bend the opposite knee, and pull your heel toward your glutes, keeping your knees in line.

Low Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana)

  • Benefits: Stretches your hip flexors and groin.
  • Step-by-Step: From a low lunge position, bring your arms up overhead, and lift your back knee off the floor.

One-Legged Chair Pose (Eka Pada Utkatasana)

  • Benefits: Stretches the outer thighs and activates your glutes.
  • Step-by-Step: Begin in Chair Pose, shift your weight to one leg, lift the opposite foot, cross the ankle over the supporting thigh, and release the knee toward the floor.

Side Lunge (Skandasana)

  • Benefits: Provides lateral stretching.
  • Step-by-Step: Take a wide stance, bend one knee while keeping the other leg straight, and squat toward the floor if comfortable.

Post-Run Yoga Poses

After a run, focus on cooling down and stretching to promote recovery. This is a good time to deepen the stretches. Hold each pose for at least 5-6 breaths.

Eye of the Needle (Sucirandhrasana)

  • Benefits: Gently stretches the hips and lower back.
  • Step-by-Step: Lie on your back, bring one ankle to rest on the opposite thigh, and draw the supporting thigh toward your body.

Head-to-Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana)

  • Benefits: A classic hamstring stretch.
  • Step-by-Step: Sit with one leg outstretched, bend the other knee with the foot against the inner thigh, and fold forward over the straight leg.

Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)

  • Benefits: Unwinds the spine and stretches the hips.
  • Step-by-Step: Lie on your back, bend one knee and bring it across your body, keeping the opposite shoulder on the floor.

Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)

  • Benefits: Relieves tired legs and promotes relaxation.
  • Step-by-Step: Sit next to a wall, roll onto your back and take your legs up the wall, using a bolster if needed for support.

Can Yoga Strengthen Your Knees?

Maintaining knee health is crucial for runners and non-runners alike. The knee joint is complex and prone to injuries, especially from high-impact activities like running. Yoga not only benefits runners but also aids in maintaining knee health by strengthening and stabilizing the muscles around the knee. I like to use KT Tape because it provides my knees with a little extra support. After many knee injuries from jumping (and falling) on ice while figure skating as a kid, I need all the help I can get when it comes to my knees. Even though I don’t run as much as I used to, I still use KT Tape when doing yoga, pilates, or any other exercise. It helps improve circulation, decrease inflammation, and therefore reduce any pain.

5 Yoga Poses to Strengthen Your Knees

Understanding the knee joint’s structure and common issues like strain and inflammation is essential. Yoga can help by focusing on exercises that strengthen the surrounding muscles, improve flexibility, and enhance stability. Keep in mind that these are just a handful of yoga poses that can help support your knee. There are many others, and it is important

Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)

  • Benefits: Strengthens the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back.
  • Step-by-Step: Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, lift your hips toward the ceiling while pressing into your feet and shoulders.
  • Variation: Bring the arms overhead, placing your palms by your ears with fingers pointing toward your shoulders, and press your chest up and back for a deeper backbend.

Warrior II Pose (Virabhadrasana II)

  • Benefits: Strengthens the thighs and improves knee stability.
  • Step-by-Step: Stand with legs wide apart, turn one foot out, bend the knee, and extend your arms parallel to the floor.

Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)

  • Benefits: Stretches the legs and strengthens the knees.
  • Step-by-Step: Stand with legs apart, turn one foot out, reach forward and lower the hand to the shin or floor, extending the opposite arm upward.

Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

  • Benefits: Strengthens the quadriceps and stabilizes the knees.
  • Step-by-Step: Stand with feet together, bend your knees, lower your hips as if sitting back into a chair, raise your arms overhead, or bring the palms together at the center of your chest.

Supported Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)

  • Benefits: Improves balance and knee stability.
  • Step-by-Step: From Triangle Pose, bend the front knee, shift your weight forward, and lift the back leg while reaching the opposite arm to the floor or a block.

Yoga Helps You Run Faster

Incorporating yoga into your routine can significantly enhance your running performance and maintain knee health. Regular practice not only prepares your body for the demands of running but also helps prevent injuries and promotes overall well-being. Start with these poses, and consider joining a few yoga classes a week to experience the full benefits. Embrace yoga to keep your body strong, flexible, and resilient, ensuring you stay healthy and enjoy your runs for years to come.

Pro Tip: If you run regularly, and want to sustain or improve your stamina for years to come you need to start stretching before and after your run. And I don’t mean a brief 5 min stretch. Your muscles deserve the attention if you want to feel the benefits. Do at least 15 min. and hold each stretch for about 20-30 sec. Breathe in and out of each pose and see how every breath helps lengthen the muscles deeper. I found a helpful tool for injury prevention, proper alignment, and stretching. You can try it FREE for 7 days and if you choose to subscribe, use code TANIA to get 10% off the current price. Check it out – Dynamic Runner Club