After 10-Mile Runs, These Are the Yoga Poses That Unknot My Hips, Back, and Hamstrings
As much as I love my long, 10-mile runs, they put my body through the ringer. Yoga — and especially this 17-move sequence — has become my absolute savior for releasing and rejuvenating all the muscles that tighten up on long runs: hips, hamstrings, back, and calves. Even on my rushed weekday morning runs when I have approximately 20 minutes to stretch, shower, and get out the door, I fit in a couple of these moves to ensure that my hips aren't aching all day. I also like to foam roll my quads, IT band, and calves. (Here are a few foam-rolling moves for runners that feel amazing.)
Yoga Sequence For After a Long Run
Directions: I do each of these poses in a sequence, but you're also free to pick and choose based on whatever muscles feel tightest. Hold each pose for as long as it feels good; I usually go for 20-30 seconds or more.
You'll do all the lower-body poses with one leg. Once you hit Seated Spinal Twist, go back into Downward-Facing Dog and repeat it all with the other leg before moving on. (I'll tell you exactly when to go back and repeat.)
Breathe into areas of tension, move gently from pose to pose, and remember to modify or skip any stretches that don't feel good. You should leave this yoga sequence feeling loose, relaxed, and renewed.
I like to start off with the ultimate relaxing yoga posture, Child's Pose. It releases some of the tension in my hips and upper body from the long run.
- Kneel on your mat with your knees hips-width distance apart and your big toes touching behind you. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, lay your torso over your thighs. Try to lengthen your neck and spine by drawing your ribs away from your tailbone and the crown of your head away from your shoulders.
- Rest your arms beside your legs, with palms facing up, or try extending your arms out in front of you.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds.
Slowly lift out of Child's Pose onto your hands and knees. Cat-Cow warms up your spine and upper body, which relieves tension from the run and prepares you from the upcoming spinal postures.
- Begin with your hands and knees on the floor. Make sure your knees are under your hips and your wrists are under your shoulders. Begin in a neutral spine position, with your back flat and your abs engaged. Take a big, deep inhale.
- On the exhale, round your spine up toward the ceiling, and imagine you're pulling your belly button up toward your spine, really engaging your abs. Tuck your chin toward your chest, and let your neck release. This is your cat-like shape.
- On your inhale, arch your back, let your belly relax, and go loose. Lift your head and tailbone up toward the sky — without putting any unnecessary pressure on your neck. This is the Cow portion of the pose.
- Continue flowing back and forth from Cat Pose to Cow Pose, and connect your breath to each movement — inhale for Cow Pose, and exhale on Cat Pose.
- Repeat for 10 rounds.
From your neutral hands and knees posture, tuck your back toes and lift into Downward-Facing Dog to stretch your calves and hamstrings. I like to shift my weight back and forth between feet to increase the stretch and introduce some gentle motion.
- Come onto the hands and knees into the classic upside-down-V shape called Downward Facing Dog.
- Hold for a few seconds.
- If it feels good, gently "pedal" your feet back and forth, lifting one heel and then the other.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds.
Tip-Toe Three-Legged Dog
This is a quick hip release that moves you smoothly from Downward-Facing Dog into the next few lunge postures.
- From Downward Dog, inhale to step the feet together so your big toes are touching, and raise your right leg into the air, rising up onto the left toes.
- Hold for a few seconds.
This intense hip stretch engages your back and core for a twisting release.
- From Downward-Facing Dog, step your lifted foot in between your hands.
- Hold for 10-20 seconds with both hands on the mat.
- Raise your right arm into the air and twist to the right, gazing behind you. Hold for 10-20 seconds.
- Switch sides. Raise your left hand into the air and twist to gaze up at it.
- Hold for 10-20 seconds, then place both hands back on the mat.
Low Crescent Lunge
One of my favorite hip flexor stretches, you'll feel this all along the front of your hips. Sink into it and savor it.
- From Twisting Lizard, lower your back knee to the floor.
- Inhale to raise the arms up, sinking the pelvis toward the floor to intensify the stretch in the hips.
- Hold this for 10-20 seconds.
Lifted Head to Knee
This incredible hamstring stretch flows so perfectly from Low Crescent Lunge, I like to move back and forth between the two a few times, loosening my hips and hamstrings from the movement and stretching.
- From Low Crescent Lunge, exhale to shift your weight back, straightening the right leg and folding forward with both feet flexed.
- Hold for 10-20 seconds.
- Shift back and forth between Lifted Head to Knee and Low Crescent Lunge, hitting each pose three to four times.
You'll feel this stretch in the outside of your bent hip and even a little bit in your back hip. This one can be tough at first: Breathe slowly into the tension and focus on releasing your hip bit by bit.
- From Low Crescent Lunge, place both hands on the floor and heel-toe your front foot to the edge of the mat.
- Slowly lower your front knee to the side, so you're resting on the outside of your flexed foot. Keep your arms straight, pressing your chest forward to increase the stretch.
- If you're more flexible, place your forearms onto the to intensify the stretch even more.
- Hold the pose for 20-30 seconds.
Dropping into Pigeon opens up your hips and groin even more.
- From Open Lizard, inhale to draw your front heel in toward opposite left hip, resting on the outside of your front thigh.
- Exhale to lower your forearms to the floor. Stay here, or flatten your torso on your right shin for a deeper stretch.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds.
Seated Spinal Twist
Release your cramped back muscles with this gentle twist. Once you complete this pose, unwind and return to Downward-Facing Dog. From there, go on to Three-Legged Dog and repeat the sequence until you've done everything on the opposite leg.
- From Pigeon, sit up and swing your back leg forward, bending it on the ground so that your heel is as close to your front sit bone as possible. The knee that was stretched out behind you in Pigeon should now be bent on the ground.
- Cross your top foot so that your outer ankle is right next to your bottom knee.
- Reach your top arm behind you with your palm on the floor. Cross your opposite elbow over your outer top thigh to gently increase the twist.
- Gaze behind you and over your shoulder, staying here for 10-20 seconds.
- Gently unwind and return to Downward-Facing Dog. Repeat the last six postures on your other side, beginning with Three-Legged Dog.
Happy Baby Pose
I like to gently rock side to side in this pose for an amazing hip and back release.
- Roll over and lie on your back.
- Bend both knees and hold onto the outside edges of your flexed feet with your hands. Keep your arms on the outsides of your legs.
- Gently use your upper-body strength to equally press both knees to the floor below your armpits.
- Stay like this for 10-20 seconds.
Knees to Chest
This gentle pose massages and stretches the stressed muscles in your back.
- From Happy Baby, lower your knees to your chest.
- Hug your knees into your chest, clasping your hands around both shins.
- Gently pull down to increase the stretch in the lower back. Nod your head or gently rock your body from side to side.
- Relax like this for 10-20 seconds.
This is basically Knees-to-Chest but just with one leg, giving one last stretch to your glutes and hips.
- From Knees-to-Chest, straighten one leg to the ground.
- Hug your bent knee to your chest, clasping both hands around your shin. Gently pull down to increase the stretch. Release any tension in your shoulders and neck.
- Keep your right leg relaxed in a comfortable position.
- Gently circle your knee in one direction, then the other, to loosen it even more.
- Hold for 10-20 seconds.
Lying Spinal Twist
One of my all-time favorite poses, this incredibly relaxing twist stretches every muscle in your back. Once you complete this spinal twist, return to Knee-to-Chest and repeat with your other leg.
- From Knee-to-Chest, use your opposite hand to gently push your top knee across your body, twisting your spine as you do. extend your arms out in T-position.
- Extend your arms into a T-position and turn your head to the opposite side of your bent knee. You can increase the stretch by crossing the left knee over the right thigh.
- Hold here for at least 10 seconds, feeling your spine lengthen and twist. You may even hear some "cracks."
- Use your abs to lift your knees back to center. Repeat the sequence, going from Knee-to-Chest to Lying Spinal Twist, using your other leg.
Supported Fish Pose
Supported Fish Pose is a glorious stretch for the muscles all along the sides of your back. It also opens up your chest and shoulders, which can get tight and tense after hours of running.
- From Lying Spinal Twist, lie on your mat with your back flat on the floor. Place a block beneath your mid-back and another beneath your head.
- Bring your arms close to your sides, palms facing down. Keeping your butt on the floor, inhale as you arch your back, pressing your hands and forearms into the ground.
- Keeping your legs strong, hold for five breaths, then relax your back.
This pose stretches your back in the opposite way of the Supported Fish Pose to help you feel completely loose and balanced as we come to the end of this sequence. This pose is more advanced, so don't worry if you can't touch your feet to the ground right now (I definitely can't).
- Begin lying flat on your back. Place your arms by your sides, palms facing down. Press firmly into your palms, bend your knees, and bring both legs over your head. If you can, straighten your knees and rest the tops of your toes on the ground.
- Interlace your fingers and gently rock your weight from side to side to bring your shoulder blades closer together. Keep your head and neck still.
- Stay here for 10 seconds and then slowly lower your hips to the floor, bending your knees into your chest.
After a long run and these intense postures, Savasana Pose helps me recenter and return to my breath. After the full sequence and this last restorative pose, I feel loose, relaxed, and completely rejuvenated.
- Lie flat on your back and close your eyes. Extend your arms a few inches away from the body, with your palms facing up.
- Bring about 15 to 20 inches between your feet, allowing your feet to fall open with your toes pointing out. Actively shrug your shoulders and shoulder blades down toward your hips. Lengthen through your spine as much as possible, and try to press the small of your back into the floor.
- After you've found a comfortable position, enjoy the stillness for five to 10 minutes.