lunge for runners
By Fara Rosenzweig

Logging miles isn’t the only way to improve your running. Yoga packs in a great deal of perks for runners, including injury prevention.

With the constant pounding on the pavement, you’re bound to encounter some sort of injury, be it shin splints, runner’s knee, low-back pain, hamstring pull or foot problems. But yoga can off load these issues and keep your body it healthy, running shape.

Yoga compliments running because it opens up your range of motion, increases balance, improves flexibility, and builds mental stamina. You need strength to run, but you also need flexibility to move seamlessly. If you’re stiff your hips can shorten your stride, limiting your speed, which will impact your pace—and lead to injuries. Developing a quick, yoga flow will allow your muscles to open up, increasing your range of motion and balance.

The following moves can be done at home, at the gym or at a park. You just need to be able to add these into your weekly routine to reap the benefits.

low lunge yoga pose

Low Lunge

This builds strength in the legs while stretching the hamstrings and hip flexors.

How to: Stand tall (mountain pose) and step your left foot out in front of you. Bend at the knee so your left knee is over you left ankle. Your right leg is straight. Once balanced, lower your right knee to the ground (you can use a towel or pillow for padding if your knee hurts). Keep your back toes on the ground and your core engaged. Allow your eyes to gaze at your fingertips. Hold for five breaths.

twisting lunge yoga pose

Twisting Lunge

This will help you increase mobility in the spine, stretch the chest, and improve hip flexibility.

How to: From your low-lunge position (left foot forward, right foot back), place your right hand on the floor under your right shoulder. Take your left hand and place it on the left knee. Keep your spine long; slowly twist to the left while you lift your left hand up aligned with your shoulder. Look up over your shoulder. Hold for five breaths.

Repeat low lunge and twisting lunge on the opposite leg.

yoga pigeon pose

Pigeon Pose

This will stretch the outer hips, including the glues, piriformis and IT band (which runners seem to neglect).

How to: Begin in a tabletop position (hands under your shoulders, knees under your hips). Bring your left knee behind your left hand and left foot in front of your right hip. Extend your right leg back behind you and relax it on the floor. Lower your hips toward the floor. Keep your torso straight. If you feel it here, then stay here. If you need a little more stretch, walk your hands out. Slowly lower down, resting on your palms, forearms or lower. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths and then switch sides.

reclining twist with stacked knees yoga pose

Reclining Twist With Stacked Knees

This pose offers a deep stretch for the outer hips and a gentle twist for the spine.

How to: Lie on your back and bring your knees up to a tabletop position. Keep your arms out in a “T” position. Slowly cross your knees over to the right side and lower them to the ground. For an extra twist, turn your head to the opposite side. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths and then switch sides.

Remember, it's always important to speak with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.