Yoga Sequence For an Aching Runner's Back
If you run, it's not unusual to experience back pain at some point. This pain can be caused by tense upper back muscles and shoulders, weak abs, tight hamstrings and hips, or a combination. You'll be amazed at how a regular stretching routine can help! Sleep better and tie your shoes with ease by going through this 11-pose yoga sequence after every run.
Start by opening up your hips and lower back with Butterfly pose.
- Begin on your mat and bend your knees so the soles of your feet are touching. Use your hands to open your feet up like a book.
- Inhale with a straight spine, and exhale as you fold forward, pressing your elbows against your inner thighs to deepen the stretch.
- Relax your shoulders away from your ears and stay like this for five breaths.
A tried-and-true pose to target the abs and increase hamstring flexibility, Boat pose is the perfect complement to running.
- From Butterfly, inhale to lift the legs and extend them in the air in front of you to make a V shape with your body. If it's too difficult to keep the legs straight, bend the knees.
- Keeping the spine long and the chest lifted, hold for five complete breaths.
Since tight inner thighs and hamstrings can cause lower-back pain, do this relaxing Seated Wide-Legged Straddle to stretch the backs of your legs and your lower back at the same time.
- From Boat, release your legs to the floor so there's about three to four feet between your heels. Inhale to lengthen your spine, and on an exhale, slowly fold forward as far as you can with a flat back, making sure your toes and knees are pointing straight up.
- Keep your spine long, and avoid hunching. Rest your hands on your feet, your legs, or on the floor in front of you. As you feel your body opening up, work on lowering your chest toward the ground.
- Stay here for five breaths.
This variation of Pigeon pose stretches the glutes, hip flexors, and lower abs while increasing spinal flexibility.
- From Seated Straddle, sit up, bend your left knee, and extend your right leg behind you.
- Place your hands on your hips, and gently arch your back. You should feel a nice stretch in the front of your left hip, but if this variation is painful, then lean forward, placing your hands on the floor in front of you.
- Hold for five or more breaths, and then repeat this pose with the right knee forward.
This effective twist increases spinal rotation, which can decrease with the concentration on forward motion of running.
- From Arching Pigeon, come onto the hands and knees with your knees hips-width distance apart, hands underneath the shoulders.
- Inhale to raise your left arm into the air and then exhale to swing it back down, threading it through the space between your right hand and knees, lowering your left shoulder and left side of the head to the mat.
- Inhale to raise your right arm in the air and draw it behind you as far as you can to open the chest and deepen the twist. Exhale to turn your head to the right.
- Hold here, breathing deeply for five breaths, then come back onto the hands and knees and repeat this pose on the other side.
This gentle backbending pose increases flexibility in your spine while opening the chest, shoulders, and abs.
- From Kneeling Twist, come onto your belly with your legs behind you.
- Place your forearms on the mat so your elbows are directly underneath your shoulders. Keep the hips resting on the floor as you gently press your chest away from your hands.
- Actively roll your shoulders away from your ears, elongating the neck. Gaze in front of you or lower your head back between your shoulder blades to deepen the stretch.
- Hold for five breaths and then exhale as you release your belly to the mat.
This funky pose stretches out the front of your thighs, but it will also give you a nice stretch in the chest and shoulders. No need to force this position, since it might feel foreign to your body — just play around.
- From Sphinx, bend both knees and reach your hands back to hold on to your feet.
- Turn your fingers so they are pointing in the same direction as your toes, and lift your elbows up so they're pointing toward the ceiling. This will allow you to get more leverage so you can use your upper body strength to press the soles of both feet toward the floor, which will increase the stretch in your quads. Lift your chest as high as you can.
- If you experience pain in the knee, don't press your foot down as hard, or do one side at a time.
- Stay here for five deep breaths.
Here's a pose that will stretch out the abs, chest, quads, and shoulders; strengthen the back muscles; and increase flexibility in the spine.
- From Frog, keep the knees bent and turn your hands so you're holding onto the outsides of your ankles.
- Try to keep the toes together, either pointing or flexing your feet. Lift your feet up as high as you can, and shift your weight forward so that you're resting on your naval instead of on your pubic bone.
- Hold for five deep breaths.
Wide Child's Pose
This next pose offers a wonderful lower-back release.
- From Bow pose, release your hands to the mat underneath your shoulders. Press your hips back, sitting between your heels. Exhale as you lower your belly between your knees, lengthening the spine.
- Enjoy this stretch for five breaths.
- From Wide Child's Pose, sit up and draw your thighs together, sitting in between your heels. If this is too much, sit on a block and stay here.
- Take a look at your feet and curl the arches around the curve of your bum, so your toes are pointing behind you and slightly toward one another.
- If you're sitting on the floor, shift weight back and lie flat back. Try to keep your knees as close together as possible to feel a deeper stretch in your quads. Lift your arms overhead and hold opposite elbows.
- Breathe deeply in this pose for five breaths.
Wide-Legged Forward Bend C
End with a pose that will target tight hamstrings and shoulders.
- From Reclining Hero, slowly sit up, resting on your shins for a complete breath. Inhale to press your hands into the floor in front of your knees, tuck your toes, and exhale to slowly straighten the legs, keeping your torso folded over your thighs.
- Inhale to bring your arms behind you, and interlace your fingers, pressing the heels of the palms together in a double fist. Actively pull your hands away from your shoulders to increase the stretch in your chest.
- Separate the feet about three to four feet apart, and as you exhale, fold your torso deeply between your thighs, tucking your chin. Make sure to lengthen through the spine by reaching the top of your head toward the floor.
- Stay like this for five breaths, and when you're ready to come out, actively press into your feet, engage your thighs, and slowly lift your torso back up to a standing position.