If you're a runner, adding yoga to your routine is a good way to balance out the pavement pounding. That’s because all those sun salutations and down dogs help improve flexibility and breath control, reduce your risk of injury, and boost strength—all of which are important for runners.
But the benefits of yoga go beyond the physical. Adding the practice to your usual workouts boosts your mental strength too, says yoga instructor and runner . Think about when you just started getting into running (or maybe that describes you right now): How hard was it to drag yourself outside and get a few miles in? That’s because the biggest struggle isn’t in your legs or arms. "The biggest struggle is mental,” Mishler says. "Our minds get tired long before our bodies actually do."
Luckily, yoga is a great tool for bringing awareness to the body, calming the brain, and even reducing false feelings of fatigue. “This helps create a long-lasting, sustainable life as a runner,” she says.
You don't need to be a pro yogi to benefit from the practice. You can start with these five simple moves, which will help create balance and strength. Mishler outlines these in her “Yoga for Running” Discovery on the new (available on the and ). The sequence is perfect to try before or after a run—or really any time you need a little mind-body boost.
1. Downward-Facing Dog
Adho Mukha Svanasana
How to do it: Start on all fours, wrists under shoulders and knees under hips. Spread fingers wide and tuck toes as you press into palms, lift knees, and send hips straight up and back. Gently straighten legs but don't lock knees, so your body forms an upside down V shape. Rotate arms externally so inside of elbows face thumbs. Keep sending hips up and back as you try to keep heels planted on mat. Hold for a few breaths, then release.Why it’s great for runners: The iconic yoga pose is not only a great hamstring and calf stretch, but it can also help you get grounded (literally) and check in with how you feel that day. “So you're not just cranking Kanye and heading out for a run,” Mishler says. Physically speaking, it’s a great total-body move. “For most people, it will inspire a deeper breath because you’re in a position your body isn’t used to,” she says. “Plus, I think it’s a great change of perspective—you shut off what you’ve done in the day thus far and reset.”
2. Low Lunge
How to do it: From downward-facing dog, step right foot between hands so right knee is over right heel, then lower left knee to mat. Distribute weight evenly between front foot and the ball of your back foot, keeping heel raised, then lift chest. “Make sure you bring knee over the ankle,” Mishler says. “Some runners will send the knee way over the ankle, to stretch the Achilles, but you can wear on the knee when you do this.” You should feel the stretch in the left hip and front of left thigh. Hold for a few breaths, then repeat on other side.
Why it’s great for runners: This one is more about the physical benefits, says Mishler. It tends to the hips and the major muscle groups of the legs. Low lunge is also a move that most yogis and runners of all levels feel good doing. “It’s a shape that people can make adjustments to based on what their body needs,” she says.
3. Revolved Side Angle
How to do it: From low lunge position with right knee bent, twist from your torso and bring right hand up toward the ceiling, stabilizing through core and extending through left hip as you do. Hold for a few breaths then repeat on other side.
Why it’s great for runners: “For me, where I feel the most tension while running is in my torso,” Mishler says, and the revolved side angle helps loosen up the upper body and lengthen through the lower back.
4. Half Frog
How to do it: Lie facedown on mat, then lift chest up and rest on elbows (like a cobra pose). Bend left knee to bring left foot to butt, then reach back with left arm to grab foot with hand and pull it toward your seat. Hold for a few breaths until you feel a stretch in left quad, then repeat on other side.Why it’s great for runners: “Quads, just like the hamstrings, are so complicated and wonderful,” Mishler says. As a runner, the go-to move to stretch your quads is likely a standing quad stretch. But performing this move prone (or lying down) helps you get a little deeper, Mishler explains. It gets into the hip flexors and creates more length in the spine.
5. Standing Forward Fold
How to do it: Start standing with feet hip-width apart. Bend at the hips and draw belly button to spine as you drape your upper body over your legs. Keep a micro bend in knees. Grab opposite elbows with hands and let upper body dangle from side to side to feel the stretch along your back body. Hold for a few breaths then release.Why it’s great for runners: This is a great pose to come into after a run or anytime you’re feeling anxious, stressed, or have that "I just can’t" mentality, Mishler says. “It’s also a really amazing full-body stretch to take care of the lower back and just chill out, wind down, and restore.”
For more daily fitness and yoga workouts, recipes, and wellness tips from leading fitness and wellness experts, check out the new fitness app, which includes unique video and audio sessions called Discoveries.