Like yoga, running offers huge benefits for the mind and body. However, due to the repetitive nature of the movements and the high impact on your joints, it’s no great surprise that runners regularly experience tightness, strains and pains.
These often begin as minor ‘niggles’, but if left untreated they can develop into more serious injuries which at best may require a short period of rest, or at worst, result in surgery and a much longer recovery.
So, how do you avoid these niggles developing in the first place and prevent them from deterring your training?
Well, niggles are often caused by muscle tightness or weakness and it’s very common for runners to experience these problems in the hips, glutes and IT band (the connective tissue which runs along the outside of the thigh). This can lead to inflammation which causes pain and discomfort, not just in the affected muscles, but also in those which are having to overcompensate as a result.
To avoid these annoying niggles or prevent them from developing into something more serious, runners should try to include regular strength work and stretches alongside their training, and yoga is one of the simplest and most effective ways to do this.
Which type of yoga is best for runners?
There are actually several different styles of yoga which we discuss in more detail in our beginner's guide to yoga, however, for runners, we recommend a combination of Vinyasa and Yin yoga.
Vinyasa focuses on flowing sequences which can be fairly vigorous and fast-paced and incorporates a variety of strengthening postures to help target those weaker areas. Yin, on the other hand, is much slower with poses typically held between 30-60 seconds. This provides a deep, intense stretch which is great for loosening those tight muscles.
Recommended poses for runners
A full yoga practice will work the entire body and can last between 1-2 hours, but if you’re pressed for time and want to focus on the areas which are typically the most problematic for runners, then try these poses below.
1. Downward-facing Dog
Downward dog provides a wonderful stretch for the spine, hamstrings and calves. Simply start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees, with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your hips stacked over your knees. On an exhale, shift your hips up and back, straightening your legs but keeping the spine long.
2. Low Lunge
If you have tight hip flexors, you’ll definitely want to give this one a try. Start in downward dog as described above, then draw your left knee towards the belly and step the foot forwards to the front of the mat so that you are in a low lunge position. Hold for 5 breaths then repeat with the right leg.
3. Forward fold
One of the simplest poses, yet this will work wonders for your hamstrings. With your feet hip-width apart, slowly fold forwards. Keep a slight bend in your knees and allow your torso to hang freely. If you can’t touch the floor with your hands, you may wish to use a block to support your weight, this way you can completely relax and let go of any tension.
4. Tree Pose
This is a great hip opener, which also strengthens the glutes and calves. Standing with your feet hip-width apart, bring your left foot to touch your inner thigh. Open the hips by bringing the left knee out towards the side (try not to let it collapse inwards). Keeping your chest up and your spine long, bring your hands into a prayer position in front of your chest and hold for 5 breaths before switching sides.
5. Reclining pigeon
Finally, you can end this sequence with a deep stretch for the outer hips. Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet touching the floor. Slowly, bring your left knee towards your chest and place the left foot in front of the right knee. This should create a triangular gap between your legs. To deepen the stretch push gently on the inside of the left knee. Hold for 5 breaths then repeat the other side.
Grab a mat and try it for yourself
The great thing about yoga is it requires very little equipment. All you need is a good mat and you’re away! Check out our range of cork yoga products for a choice of eco-friendly mats and accessories.