Reduce Running Pain and Improve Performance with Yoga


At first glance, running and yoga might not seem to go hand in hand. But actually, they’re a perfect match. Yoga can help to alleviate the back pain, sore knees, tight hips & hamstrings, and achy feet that runners often complain of. Bonus, you can learn better body alignment to make to improve running stance and performance as well. Running can help build a yogi’s strength and cardiovascular capacity, and every difficult run offers an opportunity to keep focused and positive, while breathing deeply and efficiently.

Equally important to a less painful, more satisfying running routine is the cultivation of body wisdom and full body awareness that comes with a yoga practice. As you develop a better understanding of the body and how it works, you become able to listen and respond to messages the body sends you. The body produces a number of endorphins while running which act as nature's painkillers - a great benefit while you’re in the act running, but less beneficial when they mask the pain that if not addressed, can lead to lasting injury. Practicing yoga can help develop your body intuition, making it less likely that you'll ignore any red flags your body sends out at the beginning stages of injury. Yoga can also help learn to honor personal limitations any given day instead of powering through a run mindlessly that may lead to lasting pain and damage.

Intrigued? Here are several highly beneficial yoga posts runners can do to benefit a causal or rigorous running program.

down dog

Photo:  Yoga Journal

Works on tight hamstrings and a constricted spine. From all fours, keeping the knees bent slightly, lift the buttocks up toward the ceiling. Lengthen the spine, slowly straighten the knees, and push the heels toward the floor without forcing. Keep your arms engages, insides of the elbows facing one another, and do not allow your armpits to sag lazily to the floor. Keep your abs firm, lengthen your neck so that it is not constricted, and BREATHE!


Photo:  Yoga Journal

Helps open hips, hamstrings. Stand with your feet further than hip distance apart – about 3 feet or so apart. Turn your left foot in slightly and your right foot out 90 degrees, making sure that your right heel is lined up with the arch of your left foot. Spread your arms out like wings, inhale deeply. Exhale and move your pelvis toward the left as you extend your torso to the side and over your right leg. Place your right hand down on your shin, or fingertips to the floor if you can, and reach your left arm vertically overhead, palm forward. Turn your head to gaze softly at your left thumb, making sure to not let your neck tighten here. Breathe. Slowly come back to standing and work on the other side.


Photo:  Yoga Journal

Good for practicing deep, calm breathing under pressure, also good to work on standing foot awareness which helps you see more clearly how your foot strikes the ground in running. Standing with feet parallel and hip distance apart, bend your right knee and place your right foot as high as possible on your left inner thigh, toes pointing toward the floor. Exert equal pressure – foot to inner thigh, and inner thigh pressing back on your foot. Press your palms together in prayer position, breathe. Keep awareness of your standing foot – where do you put the weight? Can you distribute the weight more evenly throughout the foot? Release and practice on the opposite side.

bound angle

Photo:  Yoga Journal

Opens hips, lengthens tight inner thigh muscles. Sitting straight and tall, bend your knees out to the sides and place the soles of your feet together with your feet as close to your body as possible – like a ballerina butterfly stretch. Inhale deeply, then exhale, soften and release the groins until your legs begin to release more toward the floor. Sit quietly, breathing incredibly deeply, keeping the feet active and pressing together, while continuing to further release the groins.

A great resource on efficient, correct body alignment and running is Chi Running.

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