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Yoga Poses for Runners: Stronger Legs

Runners benefit from yoga in so many ways; but sometimes it is hard to make it to a yoga class. It takes time to run miles, so who has the time to do an hour long class? This post will highlight the top 6 poses my runners have found beneficial to increase strength, mobility, balance and focus. And best of all, this will take no longer than ten minutes!

To Begin:

Plan to practice these poses on a cross training day after your workout (part of your cool-down/stretch).

Q: Why should I do these poses on a cross training day versus a running day?

A: It's a good idea to separate your strength days from endurance days. Your muscles will be fatigued post-run, which could throw off your balance, stability, and strength in your legs.

Q: Why should I do these poses as a cool down versus a warm-up?

A: Stretching muscles before a workout will cause more mobility, in which may hinder a lift or strength session. You want your muscles to maintain some tension while lifting weights. Therefore, adding the poses in post-lift will help relieve muscles & promote better recovery. If you were to practice these poses before your workout, you may find more instability and less control while lifting heavy weights.

Q: Do I do both sides before moving on to the next exercise?

A: Actually, no! If you are doing warrior 2 on your right side, complete the exercise prescription on the right side and continue to the next exercise on the right side. This is how we build strength, your right side will have a lot of time under tension before moving on to the left side. When you begin your left side poses, you will start with warrior 2, and move down the list once again.

Q: Who are these yoga poses for?

A: Anyone who wants to build strength and endurance in their legs. I utilize each pose with my runners as they have seen great value in how strong their legs have gotten and this provides extra mobility, balance, and focus. These poses can be utilized for anyone who engages in endurance sports as well as those wanting to increase lower body stamina.

Star Pose to Goddess Pose (Utkata Konasana)

Begin your yoga strength cool-down with star pose to goddess pose. This will only be done at the beginning of the workout, as the other poses will be repeated for right and left sides. This is a very simple exercise that will warm up your inner thighs, engage your quads, activate your calves and require ankle strength.

Star Pose: Start with your feet wide and slightly pointed out. Lengthen your arms to resemble a "T". Draw your shoulders away from your ears and pull youor shoulder blades down your back. Pull your lower abs in.

Goddess Pose: Begin to bend your knees to the side, keeping them in line with your feet (do not let them cave in or "knock knees"). Bend your elbows and "goal post your arms". For added intensity and leg strength, engage your calves as you lift your heals from the ground. Hold for 30 seconds. You may lower your feet if you feel too much intensity.

Exercise Prescription: Practice Star Pose to Goddess Pose 5 times. Each time, hold goddess pose for 30 seconds, then rest in star pose. You will notice fatigue in your quads, shoulders, and calves. This will build strength.

Warrior 2 ( Virabhadrasana Two)

Warrior 2: From star pose, bend into your right knee and straighten your left leg. Your right foot will point towards to top of the mat and it will bisect your arch of your back heal. Keep your pelvis open and bend deeper into the front knee. Extend your arms out and pull your core in. Do not let your right knee cave in, keep it pushing out towards the right.

Exercise Prescription: Practice holding this pose for two rounds of 30-60 seconds. In between rounds, you may straighten your front knee and rest your arms to your side. After a breath or two, reposition into warrior 2 and hold for your second round. Move on to bounded side angle once complete.

The challenge will be to build depth in your front knee; bend it enough to feel your quad work, while still keeping your heal on the ground. Be sure to have a wide enough stance to avoid the knee coming far over the toes. Move on to the next exercise and stick with the right side.

Bound Extended Side Angle ( Utthita Parsvakonasana)

Bound Extended Side Angle: From warrior 2 on your right side, hinge at the hips and lower your right arm inside the right leg. Begin to wrap your right arm underneath your right leg and wrap your left hand behind your back. It is important to twist both your chest, gaze and shoulder joint towards the sky. This will help open your hips and make your legs work to support this twist. Your hands may bind, but don't force it if you're having trouble. Pull the core in.

Exercise Prescription: Once you bind (or not) and hold extended side angle for 5-8 deep breaths. These breaths will ensure you're breathing, keep your core engaged, and be your "count" while you hold this pose.

Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)

Half Moon: From your bound side angle, unbind your arms, gaze forward and slowly shift your weight into your bent right knee. As you lift off your back foot, straighten your right knee. Close your hips towards the mat, and "plex" your toe (combination of pointing and flexing). Reach your right hand down to the mat and allow it to help you balance. A block might help bring the floor closer if you're having a difficult time touching. Open your chest and gaze towards the sky. Your right leg will be very tired by this point. Continue to breath and engage your core.

Exercise Prescription: Your right leg and hip are at its point of fatigue and this is where your muscular endurance will be pushed. Try to balance with strong legs for 30 seconds; pulling the core in and reaching the left hand to the sky.

King Dancer (Natarajasana)

King Dancer: Drop your extended leg down from half moon and shake it out! It's time to have some fun with King Dancer. This pose involves back bending, leg strength, ankle stability, hip flexor stretching and a strong core. Shift all of your weight back into the right foot and begin to bend the left knee so your left heal comes towards your butt. Grab the inside of the foot behind you with your left hand. Begin to hinge slightly forward while bending your right knee just a tad. Never lock out your joints. As you lift your left arm up, your right foot will push into your right hand and your right hand will pull your right foot. Imagine plaiying tug-of-war here. This resistance you are creating will help balance your hinging upper body and your kicking lower body.

Exercise Prescription: Have some fun with this pose! It's a lot of work and will take some practice to perfect it. Practice as much as you'd like!

Now, Begin again...

All of these yoga poses were preformed on the right side; it's time to even it out! Begin at warrior 2 on your left side and go through the same amount of repetitions, time, and breaths.


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