Yoga for Runners: Strengthen Your Lower Body and Improve Motion

Around fifteen percent of the American population participate in some form of running. One study observing athletes who practiced yoga showed significant improvements in flexibility and balance compared to the control group. Whether you're a pro runner or simply doing it for the love, read on to discover how yoga can enhance your running.

Key takeaways:

It’s important for runners to practice strength training alongside their running. Runners require lower body and core strength along with body awareness — all of which yoga can provide. In 2020, 68% of runners globally reported having an injury. Could a consistent yoga practice be key to ensuring you're not part of this percentage? Let’s take a look.

Is yoga effective for runners?

Scientific research suggests yoga is effective for runners by improving their strength, flexibility, stability and mental focus. All of these skills are required for optimal running technique. Good form ensures safety when running, reducing the likelihood of injury.

Body awareness gained from yoga can strengthen proprioception — making us aware of how we are holding ourselves. One study in particular found that yoga interventions led to significant improvements in lower body strength, core stability and endurance.

Injury prevention and recovery

Running is high impact and high intensity exercise which can put stress on the joints and muscles. Whilst this stress is a natural part of muscle growth — excessive load can cause injury if the muscles are not strong or supple enough to meet the demands.

Yoga has a strong focus on balance, flexibility, and body awareness. All of which can reduce the likelihood of injury whilst aiding recovery time. When an injury occurs, the body can respond with muscle tightness in order to protect the area. This tightness can decrease the range of motion during running whilst prolonging the healing process.

Yoga can counteract this by having an emphasis on stretching and improving flexibility. The muscles will be exposed to bigger ranges and therefore are much less likely to pull during activity.

Potential benefits of yoga for runners

Here are 4 noticeable benefits of yoga when it coming to running:

  • Improved lower body strength. Specific yoga exercises target the glutes, quads and calves — providing better stability whilst running.
  • Improved balance. Good balance can improve running technique by evenly distributing weight throughout the body.
  • Increased flexibility. Running requires the hip flexors and hamstrings to stretch, therefore muscle tissue length needs to be able to meet these demands.
  • Enhanced recovery. Yoga can reduce muscle soreness and increase blood circulation which aids in muscle recovery.

Three effective exercises:

Start practicing today to improve strength, stability and flexibility with these three yoga routines.

Warrior II

Woman doing Warrior II pose
  1. Stand towards the front of your mat with feet hip width apart, arms relaxed by your side.
  2. Take one big step back with your left foot (about 3 to 4 feet apart) and turn your left foot out to the side into a right angle.
  3. Keep your hips and chest facing forward and extend your arms out to the sides parallel to the ground. Reach your right arm forward whilst reaching your left backwards.
  4. Bend your right knee, directing over your right ankle with your right thigh parallel to the floor. Your left leg is stable whilst muscles are engaged.
  5. Gaze above your right fingertips, focusing on something still in front of your eye line to keep your balance.
  6. Engage your core, quads, glutes and anchor down your back foot to maintain stability.
  7. Hold for five to ten breaths.

Downward-facing dog

Woman doing Downward-facing dog pose
  1. Start on all fours, with hands under shoulders and knees under hips.
  2. Tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor, straightening them and lifting your hips to the ceiling.
  3. Keep pressing out of your shoulders with extended arms.
  4. Try to gently press your heels down to the floor, hold for four deep breaths.
  5. Try pedaling out through the feet to stretch the calves and plantar fascia.

Reclined-pigeon

Woman doing Reclined-pigeon pose
  1. Start lying on your back with your legs bent, feet hip distance apart under knees, arms relaxed by your sides.
  2. Lift your right leg up then bring your ankle to rest on your left thigh, just above the knee, creating a figure-four shape with your knee facing the side. Keep your right foot flexed. Stay in this position if it feels like plenty.
  3. If you wish to make the stretch deeper, lift your left leg up to table top whilst interlacing your hands behind your left hamstring. Keep pressing the right knee away to increase the stretch whilst keeping your tailbone down.
  4. Breathe and hold for 20-50 seconds, repeat on the second side.

Final thoughts

Practicing yoga can offer numerous benefits for runners, whether you are a beginner or advanced. The combination of yoga's strength-building exercises and targeted stretches helps to strengthen the lower body, including the legs, hips, and core, leading to enhanced stability and reduced risk of injuries.

Specific balance exercises help to improve form during running, protecting the joints by cushioning your landing lightly and evenly on your feet. It all comes down to having a strong, sturdy and supple body in order to take on the demands of your running.

Remember to always listen to your body during your exercises and tap out early if you need to.



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