6 Yoga Stretch Routines for the Casual Runner

December 30, 2014

Did you know that being flexible is a very important part of running? It may sound silly, but it’s true!

When you run, it’s essential that you maintain a good posture. This means:

  • Keep your head at a natural tilt, with your eyes forward, and your neck relaxed
  • Relax your shoulders, keeping them low and loose (shake them out if you need to relax them)
  • Avoid clenching your fists, swing your arms gently in time with your body, and swing forward and backward
  • Maintain a straight back as you run, as that will help to keep your hips aligned
  • Lift your knees according to your type of running–minimal lift for jogging, high lift for sprinting
  • Land as lightly as possible, flex your ankle, and push off of your toes

Did you notice how much of that “correct running posture” depends on your flexibility? If you aren’t flexible, you will tilt your head forward, hunch your shoulders, bend your back, and let those hips move around too much. You may even damage your knees, ankles, and feet if your leg muscles are tight!

If you’re going to run properly, it’s important that you’re limber and flexible BEFORE you start. If you want to loosen up, here are a few great Yoga stretches for runners that you can use to help improve your flexibility:

Yoga Stretches for Runners

Butterfly Stretch/Cobbler Pose

Butterfly Stretch

This is a great stretch to open up the muscles of your hips and groin, helping you to keep those hips nicely aligned as you run.

If you lean into the forward stretch, you’ll loosen up those lower back muscles as well!

How to perform the Yoga for running pose:

  1. Sit on your Yoga mat, with your knees bent and the bottoms of your feet touching each other.
  2. Clasp your feet with your hands, and press your knees downward with your elbows.
  3. Lean forward and breathe deeply as you stretch.
  4. Lower your body closer to your feet with every breath

Hold this pose for 1 minute, and you’ll feel the difference in your hips and back!

Bridge Pose

bridge pose

This is a great stretch for your lower back, and it can help to loosen up your spinal erector muscles.

Those are the little muscles that do a lot of the work of keeping your torso upright as you run, sit, and walk, so stretching them can help you to keep your form correct. If they get too tight, your hips may try to compensate as you run, leading to sore hips and back muscles.

How to perform the Yoga for running pose:

  1. Lie on your back, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Thrust your hips toward the ceiling, lifting them as high as you can.
  3. Only your shoulders and feet should be touching the floor as you clasp your hands beneath your butt.
  4. Keep those hips as high as possible for the duration of the exercise.

Hold for at least a minute and feel the burn in your back!

Wide-Legged Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana)

Wide-Legged Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana)

This is one of the best stretches you can do for your hamstrings, the muscles on the back of your legs.

These muscles often feel tight when you have been running for a while, as they are the muscles that bend your legs as you move forward. Plus, it will help to open up your hips, making for one efficient stretch!

How to perform the Yoga for running pose:

  1. Spread your feet just beyond shoulder width apart, and stand with a straight back and neck.
  2. Breathe deeply as you fold forward, reaching your hands toward the floor between your feet.
  3. If you can’t touch the floor, either hang with your arms folded at the elbows or resting on a Yoga block between your feet.
  4. Keep your knees straight and your hips back as you stretch.

Hold for 30 seconds to give those hammies a stretch.

Pyramid Pose

pyramid pose

Yet another great hamstring stretch, this one gets your hips involved to help you loosen up those joints and keep your legs from aching after your run.

If you add the twist into the stretch, you can target your lower back muscles as well–ensuring that your midsection avoids any strain or injury as you run.

How to perform the Yoga for running pose:

  1. Step your right foot forward, with about 3 feet separating your fore and back foot.
  2. Twist the toes of your back foot out slightly.
  3. Exhale as you fold forward, reaching your hands toward the floor between your feet.
  4. If you can’t touch the floor, lean on a Yoga block for support as you hold for 10 seconds.
  5. To hit your lower back, twist to the right and raise your right arm high over your head, leaning on your left arm for support. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds before returning to regular Pyramid Pose
  6. Repeat on the other side.

Hold the pose for a total of 45 seconds per side.

Figure 4 Pose

figure 4 pose

Here’s a great stretch to target the outside of your hips as well as your inner thighs. If you stride incorrectly, you may find that these muscles will often be sore after running for a while.

Thanks to this stretch, you can avoid unnecessary muscle soreness and prevent injury as you run.

How to perform the Yoga for running pose:

  1. Lie on your back on the floor, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Bring your left foot up and place it on your right thigh, just beneath the knee.
  3. Clasp your hands behind your right leg, and pull it towards you.
  4. Pull until you feel the tension in your left hip, and hold the pose for 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

With just 60 minutes (30 seconds per side), you’ll give your legs a stretch they’d never get from your runs.

Half Lord of the Fishes Twist (Ardha Matseyendrasana)

Half Lord of the Fishes Twist

For those who run with improper posture, their upper bodies tend to ache as well as their legs. They end up suffering because their shoulders are tight, their back is sagging, and their necks are too far forward.

With this pose, you open the chest and shoulders, straighten your back and neck, and even get the IT Band (running outside of your leg) loosened up.

A GREAT pose for runners!

How to perform the Yoga for running pose:

  1. Sit with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Reach beneath your right knee with your right hand, grasp the ankle of your left foot, and pull it towards your butt.
  3. Place your right elbow on the outside of your right knee, and your right hand on the floor behind your back.
  4. Pushing with your elbow, twist your body to the right, opening up your chest as much as possible.
  5. Turn your head to look as far behind you as you can.
  6. With every exhalation, turn and open your chest a bit more.
  7. Hold for 20 seconds.
  8. Repeat on the other side.

Follow the instructions above, and you’ll find that these Yoga stretches for runners will help you to avoid most of the muscle and joint pain that accompanies running!

Kaitlin Gardner

About the Author

Kaitlin Gardner

Kaitlin Gardner currently lives in Pennsylvania and is married to her best friend. In her spare time, she loves to go hiking , hand with her family and friend and enjoy nature.

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I’m just starting to run but never stretch – thanks for the reminders!

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