Yoga Poses for Lower Body Tension in Runners

by Jim Richardson | Last Updated: April 28, 2020

Running is widely regarded as one of the best cardio exercises to undertake. No matter what your speed when you are pounding the pavement, running regularly will build stronger bones, boost serotonin levels, lower risk of heart disease, and burn a substantial number of calories. The equipment necessary is minimal and you can run at any time, in any place, at no monetary cost.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


What may pay a price, however, are your muscles, tendons, and ligaments, especially if you spend much time running but fail to make the effort necessary to let your body recover and heal properly. Running utilizes most of the lower body muscles, and if they are not properly stretched and strengthened, their weakness and tightness will increase the risk of an injury.

Yoga encourages muscle recovery and helps to prevent injury by improving strength and flexibility. Although many yoga routines will benefit your running in some way, the following yoga poses are the most beneficial for running yogis. Bear in mind it is best not to do them immediately before or after a run, so as not to fatigue your muscles or practice on already fatigued muscles. Practice later in the day, or even on one of the days between runs, for long-term benefits.

Runner’s Lunge

In keeping with the name, this yoga pose is an all-rounder for runners. It is a deep stretch for your hip flexors and hamstrings, with the added extra of releasing the tension in your hard-working toes as well.

• Start in a high plank position, as if you are going to do a push up. 

• Bring your right foot to the inside of your right hand, knee aligned above your toe, and come up onto your fingertips. 

• As you inhale, look forward and lift your chest so that you are not resting on your front knee. 

• Keep your left leg strong and straight, pushing out through your left heel. 

• Relax your hips and let them sink further toward the ground. 

• Remember also to draw your shoulders away from your ears. 

• Hold at least five breaths and then change sides. 

Half-Split

This again stretches your hip-flexors, and the calf of your front leg also benefits from the stretch. Relaxing your lower back will release any lingering tension from a long run. 

• Start in a runner’s lunge, but this time lower your back knee to the floor. 

• Slowly straighten your right leg by walking your hands back to your back foot and moving your hips over your back toes. 

• As your right leg straightens, flex your front foot up so that the toes are facing the ceiling with the heel still on the floor. 

• Lengthen your upper body along your right leg as best you can, with your shoulders down and hips relaxed, sinking further to the floor. 

• Hold at least five breaths and then change sides. 

Low Lunge with Quad Stretch

This can be a challenging pose for runners, but it offers one of the best quad stretches, opening your chest and twisting your abdomen as well.

• Return again to runner’s lunge with your right leg in front and place your back left knee down. 

• Pick up your back foot and point your left toe as close as you can towards your hips. 

• Press into your left hand, keeping it strong and straight, before picking up the right hand and reaching back to grab your left foot behind you. 

• (Lower your hips to do so and lift your chest) 

• Keep your shoulders relaxed but torso twisting. 

• (If this is too challenging, keep your back toes pointing up so that you feel a stretch in your left quad). 

• Hold at least five breaths and then change sides. 

Happy Baby

This pose brings sweet relief to your psoas. The psoas is a large muscle connecting your upper body to your lower body, and is often tight and sore for runners, causing lower back pain.

• Lie on your back, with your knees curled into your chest. 

• Reach your arms between your legs to grab onto the outside of your feet. 

• Straighten your arms and bring the soles of your feet up to face the ceiling, bringing your knees wide and lowering them towards your chest. 

• Try to lengthen your spine down to the floor and, if comfortable, rock from side to side for a slight spinal massage. 

Supine Twist

This final twist calms the body, releasing low back and neck tensions while also stretching the IT band, a ligament that extends from the top of your hip to your knee and which is often chronically tight for runners. 

• Lie on your back with your legs out straight. 

• Bend your right leg in and hug your knee to your chest before crossing it over the left hand side of your body, either lowering it to the floor (still bent) or holding it gently down with your left hand. 

• Extend your right arm out to your right side and look towards your fingers. 

• Relax your shoulders, and relax your hips for maximum benefit. 

The above yoga poses can be adapted to your flexibility and be aware that while discomfort in a pose is normal, sharp pain is not. If practiced regularly over time this short sequence will improve your muscle suppleness and speed up your recovery time after runs, and maybe even give you some extra speed!