We are all aware that running is known for tightening the muscles in the legs. To combat that, try out these poses that will not only help you to create flexibility in the back of your legs, but actually create space for the muscles to lengthen and strengthen. So, for all the runners out there with tight leg muscles, these yoga poses are especially for you!
Running puts a lot of strain on the hamstrings, and that’s why these yoga stretches for runners especially target them. For those with real tight hammies, please bend the knees as much as you need. Your pose may not look the same as mine, but that’s okay. Everyone’s body is different, so make the suitable adjustments till you find the right pose for you.
DOWNWARD FACING DOG
We’ll start with one of the most practiced yoga poses. Downward facing dog is what all dogs do as soon as they wake up from their nap. Take a page out of their book and begin by coming onto your hands and knees, spreading out your fingers and pressing your palms firmly into the mat. Try to push evenly with your hands and feet so that your hips can go up to the sky. It’s okay to keep the knees bent here to get more length throughout the spine. Instead of having your shoulders all the way up in your ears, try to push them away, so you give your neck more space to relax.
Now sweep one leg up behind you, and come into Downdog Split. Keep your hips nice and squared so that both hips are at the same height. To engage both of your legs, you can also flex your foot by pushing the heel away from you. Remember to keep pushing equally with both hands on the mat.
Now return the swept leg back to the mat and align the heel of that one with the big toe of the grounded foot. This pose is quite intense so don’t sweat it if you are not able to keep both legs straight. It’s okay! Keep on practicing and you will definitely see improvement in your capabilities.
From a standing position, step one foot about 1 meter forward. With a long and straight spine, try going down towards the floor. Imagine that your heart is leading you forwards and down while keeping the hips squared and aligned. With your left leg forward, guide your left hip back and right hip forward.
The following 2 stretches are easy to come in from Downward facing dog. For the low lunge, you step one foot all the way through and place it in-between the palms. Lower the back knee down to the mat and try shifting both hips forward. You can also rest the hands on the front knee and use this to keep the upper body straight.
Place your hands back onto the mat and shift your hips back, bringing them right above the back knee. Keep pushing your chest forward and try not to round the spine. If possible, straighten the front leg out and flex the foot.
These two poses are not only great for your hamstrings, but also for the spine. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Fold down from the waist and grab your elbows overhead. This pose is called rag doll. You can keep the knees bent as you fold forward, and with time, slowly try to straighten them out a bit. This stretch can also feel really nice for your back. Bend your knees a little more and let the upper body hang down. Shake your head and feel free to swing gently from side to side to release any tension that you may have built up in the back and neck.
For a deeper stretch on the hammies, try grabbing the big toes with your pointer finger and middle finger. Come half way up and straighten out your back, pull on your big toes and pull yourself closer towards the legs. By bringing the elbows towards the side, you make room for the neck and head.
These were just a few yoga poses for runners to stretch out their leg muscles. Of course there are many more ways to do so! Remember that all bodies are different, so what might work for me, might not be the same for you. So go ahead and give these poses a try, and modify wherever you need to. Always listen to your body and respect your boundaries. Use your breath in the poses to calm the mind and ease the stretch.