A Runner’s Guide to Balancing Yoga with Running

Yoga and running may not seem like two types of exercise that go hand in hand. One is very energetic and a natural movement you’ve been doing since you were a child. The other is slow, purposeful and something you may not be familiar with. But there are a number of yoga benefits that can help runners improve their  speed, recovery and overall enjoyment.

Whether you’ve been running for years or you’ve just taken it up, you’ll likely remember how sore you were after your first big run. You probably had tight hamstrings, sore leg muscles and stiffness in all sorts of places (massage, anyone?). 💆‍♀️ Adding in a regular yoga routine – either as a post-run stretch or as an alternative workout on rest days – will quickly help alleviate those aches and pains. You’ll be ready for your next run in no time!

Why yoga is great for runners

The benefits of yoga for runners include increased flexibility, increased mobility, reduced soreness, better core strength and improved balance. Even a short, basic yoga routine every now and then will have a significant impact on your running.

Should runners do yoga?

Yoga stretches and routines have been incorporated into the training for all manner of sport, from football players to ballet dancers. Whether you’re new to running or you’re training for your next marathon, adding in yoga to your training schedule is a great way to both improve your performance but also to avoid injury.

Many athletes incorporate yoga stretching into their training for many different styles of sports, from football players to ballet dancers. Whether you’re new to running or you’re training for your next marathon, adding yoga to your training schedule is vital.

Yoga can solve common running ailments

One of the biggest benefits of yoga for runners is the prevention and recovery from injuries and ailments. Everything from tight muscles to joint pain can be improved with a regular yoga practice.

Two of the biggest yoga benefits for runners is the injury prevention and improved recovery ability from common running injuries and ailments. Everything from tight muscles to joint pain can improve with a regular yoga practice.

Yoga for runners knee

Running is a high-impact exercise – especially if you’re running on roads or pavement –  and knee injuries are fairly common. Most of the standing yoga poses you’ll do in yoga class work to strengthen your leg muscles by placing strong emphasis on correct position and alignment. 

Yoga poses like warrior one, two and three, high lunge, and triangle pose are all great for strengthening your leg muscles, which in turn will help protect your knee joint. And even a simple stretch like kneeling on your mat – also known as thunderbolt pose – can help improve your knee joint strength and mobility. However, if you have knee injuries, be sure to let your yoga instructor know in advance, as some poses may be too intense.

Yoga for back pain

Many people turn to yoga for back pain, whether that’s caused by running a 10k over the weekend or simply hunching at your desk all week. 👨‍💻 A regular yoga practice can help reduce and alleviate back pain by improving your flexibility, core strength, balance and posture. 

Most yoga classes will include a combination of forward folds and backbends, helping you to improve your mobility and range of movement both forward and backward. Holding poses and concentrating on having the correct posture also helps improve your awareness of your posture in other activities, such as running. Better posture means less pressure on your back and less chance of pain or injury.

Yoga for flexibility

You’ll often hear people saying they can’t do yoga because they’re not flexible enough, when the truth is you become flexible by doing yoga. Running is great for cardiovascular health, mental health and building up endurance, but it can cause your muscles to tighten – especially your hamstrings and quads. Some of the best poses in yoga for runners include forward fold, dancer’s, gorilla pose and of course downward-dog.

Yoga for hips

A lot of runners – especially long distance runners –  suffer from tight hips.This can cause pain and discomfort that will impact your running over time.

Yoga includes a number of hip-opening poses that help to improve mobility and flexibility in your hips to reduce pain and discomfort. A great pose to incorporate into your post-run stretches is pigeon pose. Hold this pose on each side for five to 10 minutes and allow yourself to relax into the stretch. This will help open your hips up and reduce tension.

Benefits of yoga for runners

Yoga requires you to be mindful of each movement in your practice. It requires attention to your posture, movements and muscle activation, helping to improve your body awareness. This will help improve all manner of exercises and training sequences

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How to balance yoga and running

If you have 10 minutes to scroll through TikTok, you have 10 minutes to run through a yoga pose. Even adding  a short yoga sequence to your weekly training will help you to improve your flexibility, mobility and core strength. An easy way to balance yoga and running is to add on a 10-15 minute yoga sequence after your run, giving you a great post-run stretch and at the same time allow you time to cool down.

If you’re already stretching after your run, be honest with yourself: are you actually spending time stretching? Do you take plenty of time to release any tension and slowly allow your body to cool down, or do you do a couple knee bends and calf stretches and then hop into the shower? Allocating time to move through a specific yoga sequence will ensure you stretch and cool down properly every time. 

Alternatively, dedicate one of your rest days to recovery, relaxation and rehabilitation. Use this time to take a yoga class instead of training. This way you’re taking adequate rest and you’ll progressively improve your flexibility, mobility and posture.

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Yoga poses for runners

Downward dog – take time to really perfect your downward dog as it’s an integral part of so many yoga sequences. Focus on sending your tail bone up to the sky and stretching only as much as your body is ready. Keep your knees slightly bent if you need to in order to maintain that nice upside down v-shape.

Pigeon pose – a fantastic hip-opener

Warrior 1 – helps to strengthen your leg muscles while keeping your core engaged

Triangle pose – another great pose to strengthen your legs with a deep side stretch included. Don’t rush to progress, ensure your hips stay stacked on top of each other and your chest is nice and open.

Yoga sequence for runners

A simple sun salutation sequence is ideal as both a warm-up and a post-run stretch. Add in some variations by moving from three-legged dog to pigeon pose and resting there for a few minutes. Then move to the other side and repeat.

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Find the right yoga class for runners

Yoga is an ideal exercise to complement your running. The best way to fit it in? Book a yoga class. Pretty much any yoga class will be beneficial, but there are some slight differences that you should consider. Each class will utilise similar poses and stretches just with variations in the pacing and how long you hold each pose.

If you’re recovering from an injury, Iyengar yoga is ideal as it’s based on rehabilitation and recovery techniques. If you’re active and like a fast-paced class, try out Dynamic or Power yoga so that you’re constantly moving, sweating and stretching. If you’ve been training a lot or you’re trying to improve your sleep, look for a restorative yoga class or a beginners Hatha yoga class. Just be sure to let the teacher know of any injuries you have and if it’s your first time doing yoga so they can give you some extra advice.

There are so many benefits of yoga for runners and the best way to find out is to give a class a try.

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Nick Baker is a content editor and producer living in London. He’s a qualified yoga teacher and gym instructor and (tries) to get to the gym or the yoga studio on most days. Equal parts intrepid traveller and comic book nerd, Nick can be seen showing his age on TikTok and Instagram (@nicholasmarkbaker)
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