Essential Yoga Poses for Runners Part 2: Hip Openers

Yoga can be a great complement to your running regime, regardless of your running level. Not only can it loosen tight muscles in the legs, it can bolster and stabilize the hips. Hips are often overlooked in their role in supporting the healthy movement of legs, knees, ankles, and feet. Strong hips are needed for good running form and preventing injuries such as anterior knee pain, iliotibial band syndrome and Achilles tendinitis. In Part 1 we covered 5 standing positions that help target the legs and spine; Part 2 brings you low to the ground in a series of sitting hip openers that focus on building up your hips. These poses also further stretch and reinforce the legs, spine, feet, ankle, and toes. The entire sequence is an adaptable 25-minute routine that can function as a recovery exercise post-race or practiced by itself as a stress-reliever or body energizer.

Equipment: Yoga mat and a yoga block (or a stack of blankets).

General Practice Tips: Perform each pose slowly and steadily without using force or momentum to get to a position. Stretch to a point of slight discomfort without going too far. Hold each position for 5-10 full breaths (about 1-2 minutes), or as long as you like. discomfort without going too far. Hold each position for 5-10 full breaths (about 1-2 minutes), or as long as you like.

Bound Angle

Benefits: Stretches the hip flexors and groin. Stretches and strengthens the spine.

  1. In a sitting position, bring the feet together by bending the knees.
  2. Move the heels as close to the groin as possible.
  3. Open up the hips by letting the knees fall to the sides.
  4. Ensure that the heels and little toes are touching.
  5. Reach forward with the hands keeping the spine straight to deepen the hip stretch.
  6. If hips are tight, support each knee with blocks.

Side Split

Benefits: Stretches the inner legs, hamstrings, and groin. Strengthens the spine.

  1. From a sitting position, open up the legs sideways to your degree of flexibility.
  2. Sit up tall with a straight back.
  3. You can stay in this position or bend forward resting the palms on the mat or on a block.

Cow Face (Forward Bend Variation)

Benefits: Stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles. Stretches and strengthens the spine.

  1. From a sitting position, stack one knee on top of the other.
  2. The outer edge of the feet should touch the mat on either side in roughly the same position.
  3. You can stay in this position or fold forward reaching your hands out in from of you.
  4. Rest your head on or in front of your knees.
  5. Relax your sitting bones and let your buttocks touch the ground.
  6. Switch sides.

One-Legged King Pigeon

Benefits: Opens the hips and externally rotates the front hip. Stretches the hip flexors of the back leg and the quads.

  1. From a sitting position, square the hips to the ground and bend the knee of one leg in front of you.
  2. Place the front foot close to the groin.
  3. Extend the other leg backward with knee and back of the foot pressed firmly to the ground.
  4. Bend forward from the hips reaching as far forward with your arms touching your chest to your front foot, or as your flexibility allows.
  5. Keep your weight back in your hips as you fold forward.
  6. Switch sides.

Garland Pose

Benefits: Stretches the back torso, ankles, and groin. Strengthens the stomach.

  1. From a squatting position, place the feet as close together as possible.
  2. Spread the thighs wide and lean your torso forward between the thighs.
  3. Press your elbows against the inner knees and push out front torso.
  4. Clasp your palms together placing them close your heart.
  5. To stretch your feet (including toes, arches, and Achilles tendon) in this pose, roll onto your toes.