A blog by runners. For runners.

Yoga poses for runners: heart


As the cooler weather rolls in, many of us begin to find ourselves retreating inside, literally and figuratively. To protect against the cold, we draw our shoulders toward our ears, hunch forward, and cross our arms over our chest area. All of these are natural movements as we face colder weather but they leave us with a closed off the heart and the front and backs of our bodies out of balance.

Try these poses to open up your heart space, soften the chest area, and regain some lightness in the front of your body. As an added exercise, I encourage you to notice your posture during your runs. If you find yourself hunching forward or shrugging your shoulders up by your ears, try to find a little softening.

Purvottasana (upward plank pose)


This pose is a heating posture that will warm the body and open the heart. It can also help to fight fatigue, which is more prevalent as the days get shorter.

  • To begin, find a seat with your legs extended in front of you. Sit as tall as you can, lengthening the crown of your head skyward. Place your hands on the floor behind your hips, fingers pointing toward your feet.
  • Take an inhale then exhale fully as you lift your hips, pressing your hands and the soles of your feet into the earth, toes pointed. Relax your glutes and lift your heart. If it feels okay for your neck you can drop your gaze behind you.
  • To release, slowly lower your hips down. If this pose is too intense, you can bend your knees (instead of extending them straight) and lift the hips into a reverse tabletop position. Hold for 10 rounds of breath.

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward facing dog)


This pose is very often done incorrectly, usually due to lack of mobility and strength in the shoulders and arms. In the full expression of this pose, only the tops of the feet and the palms are on the ground. If you find it difficult to lift your thigh off the ground modify by coming into cobra instead.

  • To start, come to your stomach, extending your legs long behind you, tops of your feet on the floor. Bring your palms to the floor, wrist right underneath your shoulders, elbows bent and pointing behind you.
  • On an inhale, straighten the arms, lifting your torso, hips and thighs off the floor. Make sure that your shoulders are still directly over your wrist; try not to lock out your elbows.
  • Roll the insides of your thighs slightly toward to ceiling and relax through the glutes. Imagine lifting the heart as if there is a string attached pulling it forward and slightly upward.  If it feels comfortable for your neck you may take the gaze skyward without cranking. Be mindful that your shoulders are not up by your eats.
  • Hold for 5 breaths.
  • To release, gently push back to downward facing dog or come to your belly then in to child’s pose.

Modification: If you try this pose and find that it is too difficult to hold your body weight up, try cobra pose instead.

  • Lie on the ground, legs extended behind you, tops of the feet on the floor.
  • Bring the palms alongside the body; the fingertips should be about where your bra strap hits; elbows facing back.
  • On an inhale, lift your shoulders and chest a few inches off the floor. Roll the shoulders away from the ears while lifting the heart. Keep the tailbone long, extending toward to heels.
  • Hold for 5 breaths then release your torso to the ground and push back to child’s pose.

Uttha Shishosana (extended puppy pose)
Pictured at the top of the post

Although this pose resembles child’s pose it’s more active and focuses on melting the heart toward to floor to open up the chest area. This pose is a great stress reliever.

  • Come to all fours making sure that your shoulders are over your wrists and your hips are over your knees.
  • Walk your hands forward a few a few inches, elbows should not touch the ground. At the same time move your sit bones toward your heels so that your spine is lengthening forward and back.
  • Relax the head toward the floor and soften the heart downward.
  • Hold for 10 breaths or as long as feels good.
  • To release bring the hips forward and walk the hands back under your shoulders.

Photos and article by Lisa Horvath.

Related: WalkJogRun guide to Yoga for Runners



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