Yoga for runners: the ultimate guide, with tips from experts
From the poses and benefits to expert recommendations, we bring you the ultimate guide for incorporating yoga into your training routine to elevate your running performance and overall wellbeing.
As well as preventing injury, yoga can also help improve flexibility, build strength, encourage coordination, find balance and gain mental clarity - all key players for upping your running game.
At The Recommended, we’ve taken a deeper look into yoga for runners to bring you the ultimate guide, from the numerous physical and mental benefits to the best poses to hold and how to incorporate yoga into your routine. Plus, we’ve spoken to two yogi pros for their expert recommendations and top tips!
Read on for all your need to know, and roll out your yoga mat to get stretching.
Our yoga experts
Jade Coles is an expert yoga instructor with Insure4Sport qualified to teach a range of yoga practices. She runs Yoga’na Flow, offering online yoga classes, one-to-one sessions, and bespoke retreats in the UK and abroad, and she continues to work at festivals, including Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place Festival. She focuses on the power of yoga and its benefits for both the mind and body.
Eloise Allexia is a yoga and Pilates instructor, teaching classes across some of London’s biggest clubs and studios, such as Frame, Sweaty Betty, Third Space and London Dance Academy. She has written for publications including Business Insider and Women’s Fitness, been interviewed for titles such as Vogue and The Sunday Times, and has collaborated with brands including Reebok, Puma and Psycle.
Is yoga good for runners? The benefits
The combination of yoga and running makes an excellent pair! According to our expert Jade, ‘yoga works very well in tandem with a high-intensity sport such as running – not only for its physical benefits but its ability to aid stress relief and its positive impact on mindset, too.’
Not only will yoga complement the physical demands of running and improve your performance, but it will also enhance the mental aspect involved. Here we’ve rounded up some of the top benefits of yoga for runners:
- Increases flexibility and mobility: Yoga sequences incorporate different poses to stretch out the whole body and encourage movement. Runners can choose specific ones to target their muscles, tendons and ligaments used in running, which will increase agility, range of motion and flexibility. Our expert Eloise comments that this flexibility work ‘can be great for lengthening and stretching muscles’, which can help ‘reduce muscle soreness after running, or even reduce the risk of injury due to tightness or restriction in the muscles.’
- Builds strength and stability: ‘In terms of strength-building, a strong yoga practice can support endurance, general fitness levels and agility - all of which can be important for runners’, according to Eloise. Yoga will work the different muscle groups essential for running, including the core, hips and glutes. This will result in increased strength to boost your power when running.
- Improves balance: Yoga encourages awareness of your body, holding poses and staying balanced. This is a great skill to bring into your running, enabling you to maintain your strength and balance whatever the terrain is without stumbling or being thrown off course.
- Enhances breathing techniques: Efficient breathing is essential for runners. As yoga focuses on breathwork, it will help you to learn how to boost your oxygen intake and enhance your lung capacity, which you can take into your training. Jade also explains that this shift in focus towards awareness of breath, thanks to yoga practice, is a great tool for ‘building stamina in runners, as it trains you to remain calm and run for longer periods of time.’ Eloise also adds that this focus on the breath, and an awareness of its importance to the overall physical body, can elevate performance and experience during a run.’
- Reduces muscle tightness: You can stretch out and loosen any tight muscles in yoga with various poses and movements. Jade explains that ‘when practising yoga, we don’t just relax the nervous system but allow the fascia – the connective tissues - surrounding the muscles to lengthen and release.’ This helps prevent tightness in the hamstrings and calves and avoid any injuries caused by running. It also helps to strengthen weak areas and improve posture to give you the optimum form for running and promote a good recovery.
- Encourages mental focus and concentration: Eloise explains that ‘yoga incorporates a strong focus on meditation and breathwork, both of which can help with mental focus and concentration.’ As a mindful practice, it will encourage you to stay motivated during runs (especially long ones!) and also help with goal-setting, enhancing your determination and, consequently, performance.
- Provides relaxation and stress relief: Yoga will help you find calm amidst the demands of training. It will provide a form of relaxation and also help you to recover faster.
- Improve mind-body connection: Yoga will encourage runners to listen to their bodies, an essential need for training. It is important to know your limits and identify signs of fatigue and/or pain to prevent any injuries or over-exertion.
5 of the best yoga poses for runners
There are plenty of yoga poses that will benefit runners - we’ve picked out our favourite five and explained how they will help enhance your running. Incorporate these into your training routine and reap the benefits.
- Downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana): This well-known pose is excellent for stretching and strengthening your entire body. From your feet, calves, hamstrings and core to your arms and shoulders, downward-facing dog will help your body become stronger and encourage stability, which is essential for your running performance. It will also ensure your key muscle groups are kept mobile and flexible, relieving any tightness and encouraging circulation throughout the body - again, highly important for smashing your runs. Eloise adds that this pose ‘can also provide a great lengthening sensation for the spine.’
- Low lunge (Anjaneyasana): Alternating between legs, a low lunge pose will open up your hip flexors, increasing movement and flexibility. This will help your running form, particularly by stretching out your groin and thighs, allowing mobility and strong movement.
- Tree pose (Vrksasana): A tree pose focuses on balance. Enhancing your balance will strengthen your runner's physique, from your ankles, calves and thighs, to your shoulders, chest and hips. This will encourage stability and consistent movement during your runs.
- Warrior two (Virabhadrasana II): This move engages the legs and hips while opening the chest and shoulders. This will increase full-body strength and flexibility, as well as improve your posture, which is crucial for enhancing your running technique.
- Wide Leg forward fold (Upavistha Konasana): Stretching the hamstrings and lower spine, the wide leg forward fold can release any tensions caused by running while also improving posture, which is essential for running. Jade recommends this pose as it also ‘relaxes the nervous system, taking you out of fight or flight mode and into rest and digest mode - this promotes health for the airways as it opens the lungs and enables you to breathe deeper into the lower abdomen.’
How many times a week should runners do yoga?
The frequency at which you practise yoga depends on various factors, including personal preferences and time schedules, as well as how much running you are doing and your fitness levels. Generally, it is recommended by our experts to incorporate yoga into your fitness regime at least twice a week in order to really notice the positive effects. Start with shorter sessions (20-30 minutes) and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable.
More like this
Here we’ve included a few guidelines to point you in the right direction, depending on how much running you have done:
- Beginner runners: If you’re a newbie to running, try starting with one to two sessions of yoga a week to complement your technique. You can gradually increase this frequency as you become more confident and comfortable.
- Frequent runners: If you are an experienced runner, running several times a week, incorporate two to three yoga sessions into your week to maintain your strength, flexibility and aid recovery.
- Advanced runners: Pro runner? Aim to add yoga into your training schedule at least three to four times a week to maximise the benefits and support your intense training.
- All runners: Whatever your fitness level and whatever your yoga and running abilities, it’s important to listen to your body. Pay attention to how your body reacts to yoga and adjust the frequency accordingly (and remember the importance of rest days for recovery).
Tips for integrating yoga into your training routine
To make the most of your yoga practice as a runner, follow these handy tips:
- Schedule regular yoga sessions: Fit yoga into your training schedule and maintain a routine - consistency is key. Eloise recommends aiming for three to four sessions a week or trying to fit a short practice in after you finish your runs. She also comments that ‘even if you only have time for one class a week, it’s definitely still worth it.’
- Length of practice: It’s also important to allow enough time for practice. Eloise suggests starting with a 15-minute yoga cool down after you finish your run, ‘focusing on gently stretching out the areas that feel tight.’ She also suggests adding a longer yoga class on your rest day from running, ‘perhaps focusing more on meditation, breathwork and flow.’
- Listen to your body: This is highly important - don’t push your limits. Be careful not to cause any pain or injuries - modify any poses should you need to.
- Warm up and cool down: Ensure you warm up before you start your yoga flow and finish with a cool down to stretch out your body.
- Explore different styles: Experiment with the different types of yoga, from Vinyasa to Yin and Hatha. You may feel one style suits you better - find what is best for you, your needs, and what feels right. Jade recommends Yin yoga for ‘stretching the fascia and connective tissues’ and a Flow or Power class to focus on ‘strength, stabilising muscles and increasing stamina.’
- Join a class: Go to an in-person yoga class or follow an online tutorial to keep motivated and receive professional instruction from experienced yoga instructors. They will also be able to understand the demands of runners and tailor specific flows and poses to you and your needs.
Can yoga help prevent running injuries?
Whether your knees, hip flexors or ankles, running can sometimes cause some niggling injuries. Incorporating yoga into your training can act as a great preventative tool for running injuries and build a strong and resilient body - here we’ve looked into some key reasons why:
- Enhances balance: Yoga poses will train your mind and body to work together, finding balance and encouraging steady footing.
- Improves mobility: Yoga can be a great practice to support the body and prevent injury by aiding mobility. Eloise explains that allowing a joint to move through its range of motion ‘can prevent joint-related injuries that could stem from a restriction in the joint. This can be particularly effective for the joints of the lower leg (and the bones of the foot), which can be supported by developing a strong range of mobility.’
- Improves flexibility: Stretching out in yoga will increase flexibility, which will help prevent muscle strains and joint injuries during running.
- Builds stability: Yoga poses will train your core, lower body and arms to become stronger and improve balance, reducing the likelihood of tripping when running and preventing injury.
Want to learn more about yoga and running? Head over to The Recommended’s fitness section. Here you can find articles including the best yoga poses for flexibility, the best yoga mats as recommended by experts, how to prepare for a 5K, and the best running headphones.
Cordelia Aspinall is a Digital Writer for Immediate Media, working across brands including The Recommended, RadioTimes.com, MadeForMums and BBC Gardeners’ World. She has previously worked and written for digital publications including Condé Nast Traveller, The Evening Standard, Cosmopolitan, and several other lifestyle brands.