I see a lot of articles and videos titled “Yoga for Runners” but I don’t see many articles articulating the opposite “Running for Yoga.” In fact, I just did a search for that very title and I still saw a number of articles, videos, and blogs talking about “Yoga for Runners.” Yoga for Runners makes yoga sound subservient to running but this year, because of the amazing benefits I get from yoga that seem to trump the benefits I get from running, I am declaring my allegiance to yoga over running thereby making yoga the dominate exercise in my relationship between yoga and running.
It is yoga that keeps runners flexible and loose, strengthens the runner’s core, including the tiny core muscles, the psoas, and the obliques. It also stretches the muscles, helps create muscle memory for amazing running form and, importantly, provides relief from pain caused by running that only yoga seems to provide. What’s more, running can make yoga even more enjoyable by building strength and stability, as well as help to increase stamina.
I have a favorite yoga sequence, adapted and taught by Rebecca Pacheco that I use to enable me to run for yoga:
First, start in Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I), modified with your arms stretched out behind you, parallel to the floor as much as you are able.
- In this pose, and in every Warrior 1 pose, it’s important to keep your hips square.
- To square your hips, after you’ve set your left foot behind you for Warrior 1, put your hands on your hip.
- Using your hands, guide your left hip forward and your right hip back so that your hips are even or square.
- Try to do this every time you are in a position with one leg extended behind you.
I’ve found it makes all the difference in terms of pain relief and hip strengthening.
- From modified Warrior 1, sweep your arms forward and up with a deep breath in to move into Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I).
- Swing your arms back down and behind you for modified Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I) and then once more up into Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I).
- Slowly lower your arms and bring your hands to your heart (Anjali Mudra) as you move into a Low Pushup (Chaturanga Dandasana) to an Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svansana) and then to a Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svansana).
- This sequence, from the Low Pushup to the Downward-Facing Dog should be done in relatively quick succession, moving smoothly from Low Pushup (Chaturanga Dandasana), pausing slight in the low plank position, to Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svansasa), making sure to press the tops of your feet into your mat and flex your thighs so that your knees are off the mat.
- From Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Much Svansana), lift your buttocks up, supporting the movement with your abs, into Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svansana) and pause there for a few deep breaths.
- From Downward-Facing Dog swing your right leg forward to move into a Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana) with your palms flat on your mat and your left leg extended out behind you, knee resting on your mat to provide a nice stretch in your hips. Moving on to the Lizard
Lunge (Utthan Pristhasana)
This exercise really opens up your hips up.
- From the Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana) position, take your right hand and move it inside your right foot so that your left hand and right hand are next to each other on your yoga mat.
- Take your right foot, roll it onto its right edge, and then pretend that your right foot is a hand on a clock with your toes the tip of the clock hand.
- Move your toes down to 2 or 3 on the clock face, keeping your heel in the same place, and let your knee swing open even more.
- For a deeper stretch, put your forearms on the yoga mat instead of your palms and just breathe deeply for a few breaths.
- Rise out of Lizard Lunge (Utthan Pristhasana) by straightening out your foot and placing the sole of your foot back on the mat, coming up onto your palms and back into Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana).
- From there, move back to modified Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I) and start the sequence on the left side.
This sequence will do amazing things for you yoga-wise and will also allow you to run with ease to build up strength, stability, and stamina for your yoga practice. Running for yoga indeed!