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Running Warm Up Exercises from Yoga

Updated on March 27, 2014

Yoga Stretching Exercises with Pictures

Copyright © 2012-2014 Janis Goad. All Rights Reserved.

Do you run to keep in shape through the winter, or to prepare for the ski season? Are you currently in training to participate in a distance run or marathon this summer? Yoga stretching for runners is one of the best cross-training practices to fine-tune your performance and help you prevent injuries.

Runners often have strong but short, tight hamstrings, calves, quadriceps, hip flexors and abdominals, and they hold some degree of shoulder and neck tension. Whether you run for recreation or in competition, adding yoga stretching to your training schedule will improve your race and reduce injuries by increasing your flexibility as well as your strength.

The following yoga for running stretches will help. If you are stiff to start, use props such as bolsters, cushions, a chair or an exercise strap as necessary to support the pose so you feel stretch but not pain, and you can breathe easily, relax and hold the pose. If you can’t breathe easily and relax in the position, you are losing the benefit. Learn an easier variation from a qualified yoga teacher in your community centre, YMCA or local yoga studio.

It is best to hold each posture for ten breaths if you can--full, deep unhurried breaths with a full exhalation. Use slow yogic breaths into the belly, into the ribs, into the collar-bones, and concentrate on fully emptying your lungs on the exhalation. When you are relaxed in the posture, your body naturally takes a moment of stillness or pause before the next breath arises. Allow it, without forcing it by trying to hold your breath. This pause, called “kumbaka”, is the most powerful part of the breath and is the key to how yoga works. At first you may not be able to relax into the posture if the stretch is very intense, but after regular practice for a week or more, you will notice change.

Practice the full yogic breath with me here:

Full Yogic Breath for Complete Relaxation in Each Posture

Yoga for An Advancing Practice with Janis Goad

This is an excerpt from Yoga For an Advancing Practice, Volume 3 of my graded yoga DVDs to support your home practice. The full class is available here.

The Basic Warm-up with Sun Salutations

Don’t rush!! The body cannot maintain tension when we hold the pose and breathe, and you will feel your body relaxing slightly deeper on each exhalation. Back off the pose if you need to, and move to an easier or supported variation.

Warm up with three to six pairs of Sun Salutations. Learn them here:

Sun Salutations Warm-up: Yoga Stretching for Runners

Forward Fold Variations

After a few breaths in Standing Forward Fold, add Yoga Mudra shown below.
After a few breaths in Standing Forward Fold, add Yoga Mudra shown below. | Source

Hamstring Stretching Exercises

Then do this series. Practice each posture first with one foot forward, then with the other foot forward, to stretch both sides of the body symmetrically.

Forward Fold while standing stretches the hamstrings, shoulders and upper back.

This can be done standing, as above, or seated as shown to deepen the shoulder stretch. Interlock the hands behind the back or hold a strap, squeeze the shoulders together, and allow your hands to come forward above your head toward the floor.


How to Stretch Your Calf Muscle in Yoga

Downward Facing Dog in the full position or modified on a chair stretches and strengthens the hamstrings, calves and back, and opens the hips.

Keep your weight even in both hands and feet. Keep pressing the hands down and apart as you use the abdominal muscles to lift the hips away from the ribs and lengthen the spine. Keep pressing the heels toward the floor to deepen the stretch through the back of the thighs, calves and ankles. Work toward straightening the legs without locking the knees.

Child Pose


Yoga Poses for Hip Pain

Child Pose in the full position or supported with a bolster opens the hips and ankles, and releases tension from the back and shoulders.

Low Lunge Anjaneyasana


Yoga Poses that Stretch the Hip Flexor for Runners

Low Lunge stretches the hamstrings, hip flexors, quadriceps, and ankles.

Keep pressing both feet evenly into the ground to help balance. Each time you exhale, relax the hips forward and down to deepen the stretch in the front of back leg hip and the back of the front leg hip. An easier variation keeps the hands on the floor either side of the front foot. An even easier variation keeps both hands on the front knee. Find the variation that works for you, and deepen as your body opens after weeks of practice or longer.


Prayer Twist for Runners

Prayer Twist stretches and strengthens the abdominals, releases tension from hips and lower back, develops balance and mental focus, and tones all the organs.

A simpler variation is to drop the back knee to the floor to make balancing easier.

Pigeon Hip Stretch for Runners


Pigeon: Hip Stretches for Runners

Pigeon stretches the gluteals and piriformis muscles in the outside of the bent leg hip, and stretches the hip flexors in the straight leg. Use a cushion or bolster under the bent leg hip to lift the pelvis if you feel pain in the bent knee. This is a hip stretch--if you feel pain in your knee, you are damaging the joint at the knee and are asking for life-long problems. Come out at once or modify the posture with a yoga block under the bent leg hip. Always practice yoga without pain.

Two Knees Twist


Yoga Cooldown for Running

Reclining Two Knees Twist stretches the abdominals, the pectoralis major muscle in the chest, and the intercostal muscles between the ribs, deepening the breath capacity and cleansing the organs.

Final Relaxation in Svasana


Final Relaxation

Now go back to the beginning, and repeat the series of runners' yoga postures on the other side, before preparing for Final Relaxation. Lie on your back, close your eyes, and breathe for seven to twelve minutes, and allow the benefits of the yoga for running stretches to settle into your muscles and the cells of your organs. This allows cell regeneration and deep healing.

Yoga Poses for Runners

Regular yoga stretching for runners will help you run better and enjoy your workouts more. Do a few of these postures as part of your pre-run warm-up, and do the whole sequence at least once a week for optimum benefit.


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    • Act 3 profile image

      chet thomas 

      6 years ago from Athens, GA

      Janis Goad,

      this hub has been copied and posted at the website:

      www.sarenvers (dot) com/

      Many other stolen hubs are at the sarenvers site. Please read the following thread and consider sending a DMCA notice to, the web host for the site. The owner's identity is hidden.

    • chrissieklinger profile image


      8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I just ran a 5k last weekend and made sure I did some yoga the night before, but I can't say my yoga moves looked as beautiful as yours. I loved the hub and can't wait to try the prayer twist!

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judi Brown 

      8 years ago from UK

      I always feel that you are describing me in your opening paragraphs - tight hamstrings, neck and shoulder tension etc - yes, yes, yes! I don't often run now, but think I've stored up a few years of tension from when I did. Will have a go at these.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 

      8 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Love the way you say don't rush and explain why. Beautiful work here and so truly helpful. Wish you were round the corner to help get this poor body moving again! Thanks

    • beccas90 profile image


      8 years ago from New York

      Well done resource for Yoga.

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 

      8 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Loving the stretches. Great images to show the reader what needs to be done- i'd personally consider adding the exercise name and maybe a short teaching point into each of your images to guide the reader and increase potential google images traffic


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