A blog by runners. For runners.

Yoga for runners: the basics of a home practice

basics of a home practice

My sister is an avid runner and reluctant stretcher. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told her she should take up yoga. Her response is always the same, “it takes so long, I’d rather be out running.”

It’s true — heading to a studio to practice is a commitment and luxury not all of us have the time for. Luckily, you don’t need a studio or teacher to get your yoga on. You can easily create your own home practice. All you need are a few basic guidelines.

  1. Before your start. Be honest about how much time you have to commit to your practice. If you realistically only have 10 minutes, focus your practice on poses that highlight major muscles groups in your body, particularly the hamstring, quad, back, and shoulder muscles. If there’s an area of your body that is especially tight or achy, spend some extra time there as well.
  2. Take a breath. A typical yoga class starts with some centering and grounding. Try to focus on your breath. Close your eyes, take a deep inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, repeat twice more, allowing the mind to slow and the body to soften.
  3. Warm up. Next, move into some sun salutations A, B, or both to create some heat. (If you don’t know what those are, watch sun salutations A here and sun salutations B here.) If you’re doing this at the end of a workout, your muscles are likely warm so there is no need to extensively heat the body. A few slow rounds of sun salutations should be plenty. But, if you are practicing before your run or on a rest day you should move through several rounds to properly warm up.
  4. Standing and balancing. The bulk of a yoga class is spent in standing poses. Try this simple sequence: move from Warrior II to reverse Warrior to Side Angle Pose and back to Warrior II. (View the poses here.) Make sure to do this on both sides. If you can, try adding in a standing twist like a high lunge twist. Finish out your standing series with a balancing pose. Tree pose (or vrksasana) is a great one for beginning yogis; remember to do on both sides.
  5. Backbends. Once you’ve completed your standing postures, come to the floor for a few backbends. Backbends are great for energizing the body and countering all the time we spend hunched over our computers or steering wheels. Bridge pose is great for beginners. Try to incorporate two or three backbends, staying up for 5 breaths each. Afterward, draw your knees to your chest and drop your legs to the right, then left for a simple supine twist.
  6. Seated postures. From your back, roll up to your seat. Incorporate a seated poses or two to round out your practice. A few of my favorites are baddha konasana and paschimottanasa. (View options here.)
  7. Rest. Savasana is the universal ending pose for most yoga classes. Lie on your back with your legs extended straight, arms alongside the body. Let go of any control over your breath. Allow all the energy you’ve stirred up from your workout and your practice to settle. Stay here for as long as you’d like, at least a few minutes is recommended.

It is helpful if you have taken at least one yoga class at a studio before you embark on a home practice, however, it’s not a necessity. Practice doesn’t need to take 90 minutes to be effective. A mindful ten minutes on the mat can do wonders to open up muscles, relieve tension, and reduce stress on the body and mind.

Photo of Lisa Horvath by Will Pine Photography.

Article by Lisa Horvath.

Related: WalkJogRun guide to Yoga for Runners

Yoga for Runners: A new ebook from WalkJogRun now available on iBooks

If you’re new to yoga, this book will help you get started with a practice, find the right style for you, and show you specific runner-friendly moves you can integrate pre- or post-run.

Learn more here