Yoga for Runners: Lesson 1 – Stretching Hip Flexors

by Karli Taylor

As runners, we want to spend the majority of our available workout time doing just that—running. Adding other components to our workout routine can be overwhelming and seem cumbersome—even when we are sure that there will be significant benefits. My goal with this series is to provide you with one or two yoga poses a month and maybe one strength training exercise that can be easily added immediately after your run without taking up too much of your precious mileage time. Sound doable? Great. Let’s get to it.

First let me quickly explain why you should stretch after your run instead of before. Simply put, your muscles have more elasticity when they are warm. Though it is unlikely that you will hurt yourself by stretching a cold muscle, it is also highly unlikely that you will get the full benefit from the stretch. If you are going to take the time to do it, you might as well get the most out of it!

This month we will focus on stretching your hip flexors while strengthening your glutes.

In order to stretch your hip flexors, you need to move the leg in the opposite direction from the hip joint- hip extension. If we strengthen the muscles that perform the opposite movement, those muscles will be better able to hold the leg in a more neutral position. In other words, a strong hip extensor (glute) will help to prevent the tightening of the hip flexor.

Anjaneyasana, or the pose of devotion, is a basic yoga pose the stretches the hip flexors, the quads and the lats while challenging your core and balance as well. Starting from a kneeling position, step your right foot forward so that your knee is directly above your ankle. You should feel a comfortable stretch in the hip and quad on the left leg. If you need more of a stretch, feel free to walk your foot forward further until you feel a slight resistance.

If balance is an issue, feel free to keep your hands on your hips . In order to add the stretch of the lats, expend your arms up by your ears without shrugging your shoulders. Keeping your shoulders and hips square to the front, gently press your hips forward while lifting up through the collar bone to deepen the stretch.

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, or bridge pose, is a basic backbend that serves as a glute strengthener. Begin by laying on your back with your knees bent and your feet planted. Feet should be hips distance apart and as close to your rear as you can maintain comfortably with full feet on the ground.

Keeping your eyes on the ceiling, lift your hips off of the ground. Once this becomes less challenging to hold, try bringing one knee in toward your chest while keeping your hips elevated.

Try adding these two poses to your routine. Remember to do them after your run while you are nice and warm and focus on taking long deep breaths. Often when a position is uncomfortable, we hold our breath or allow our breath to get short and choppy. When we do this, our heart rate goes up, our muscles tense up and that pose that was kind of uncomfortable becomes downright miserable!

Karli Taylor

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