Proper stretching is just as important for your health as your workout, and because running is so high impact it’s a good idea to focus even more on stretches to help your body recover. When you run, you impact your hips, knees, calves, ankles, thighs, and feet, and it’s a good idea to give your upper body a good stretch after running, as well as hitting those problem areas. Here are some yoga-inspired stretches to help your body recover from running.
1. Garland Pose
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, then lower down into a squatting position. You can separate your knees a bit, so that your upper body can rest between them, then straighten your back, and bring your hands into prayer position. If you can’t get your heels on the floor in this posture, don’t fret! You can place your hands on the floor to help support yourself until your ankles and arches stretch enough to do the full pose. Hold for 10 deep breaths.
2. Wide Legged Forward Bend
Stand with your feet in a wide stance, toes pointing forward. Rotate your feet so that your toes point inwards ever so slightly, then bend forward at your waist with a straight back until you can place your hands on the floor. Hang here, letting gravity stretch your back and the backs of your legs, for 10 deep breaths. If you want to go deeper, you can grab hold of your ankles and gently pull your upper body further down. Just make sure you don’t pull too hard – you don’t want to injure yourself!
3. Head to Knee Forward Bend
Sit on the floor with your feet out in front of you, then bend your right knee, bringing your right foot into your groin with your knee relaxed out to the side. Then, bend your left leg, so your knee comes up off of the floor until it’s high enough that you can place your forehead onto your knee. Grab hold of your left foot with both hands, then try to straighten your left leg while keeping your forehead glued to that knee. Don’t worry if you can’t straighten all the way, and don’t force your muscles. This should be a gentle stretch. Over time, the backs of your legs will open up. Just do what you can, relax, and breathe. Hold this pose for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
4. Spinal Twist
Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, then bend your right leg so that your right foot is next to your left buttock with the knee on the floor. Cross your left leg over your right knee and place that foot on the floor. Take a deep breath, raising your arms to shoulder height, then swing around the left, placing your right elbow on the outside of your left knee and your left hand on the floor behind you. Turn your head to look behind you, and hold this stretch for 10 deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.
5. Pigeon Pose
Come to all fours, then swing your right leg forward, between your hands. Rest the right knee onto the floor, and pull your right foot forward as far as is comfortable. Slide your left leg back, straightening it, until your groin is as close to the floor as you can manage. Rest your right hand on your right knee and your left hand on your left foot. Check to make sure that your back leg is straight, and relax into the pose. Hold this posture for 10 deep breaths, then come out of the pose by flexing your left heel and swinging it around to the front. Repeat on the other side.
6. Shoulder Stand
Lie on your back with your arms by your sides. Take a deep breath, and on your next exhale lift your legs and lower back off of the floor, so that you’re balancing on your shoulder blades and upper back. You can use your hands to support your back in this posture as you keep your legs straight and breathe, feeling the tension drain from your feet, ankles, and legs. To come out of this posture, gently roll your spine down one vertebra at a time, then slowly lower your legs.
No yoga practice would be complete without a meditation at the end, so stay in this reclined position for a few minutes and clear your head. Focus on how your run and your stretching made your body feel and relax. Breathe deeply and let your body process all of the benefit from your practice.