Yoga Recovery for Runners
Like any performance-based activity (whether you are competitive or not), running can have a stressful effect on the body. Which if not varied or combined with the appropriate recovery strategies, can predispose the runner to unwanted injury and pain. Not only that – a runner who learns to recover better, will most likely perform better.
Hatha Yoga and its practices provide a vast toolkit for the avid runner to learn more about their body and how to manage it in the face of daily training stressors. With a combination of postures (asanas), breath control exercises (pranayama), and meditative/concentrative exercises (dharana/dhyana) – the runner (or anyone for that matter) can skilfully learn to modulate their nervous system voluntarily as well as improving muscle strength/endurance and joint range of motion (1,2,3).
The Nervous System can be broken into various subparts – however for the sake of simplicity, the automatic part of our nervous system has two main settings; (as explained more in depth in a previous blog – Yoga Breathing for Reduced Stress, Pain and Improved Performance. Sympathetic (fight/flight) and Parasympathetic (rest/digest), that exist on a spectrum between each other. Recovery/relaxation occur properly when our nervous system is in a more Parasympathetic state; we get more blood flow directed to our gastro-intestinal system for digestion, and our heart and breathing rates lower.
Hatha Yoga practice has been shown to promote a reduction in sympathetic activation, enhancement of cardio-vagal function, and a shift in autonomic nervous system balance from primarily sympathetic to parasympathetic (1). This can be advantageous for the runner looking to optimise their training regime and minimise the negative effects of physical and psychological stressors in their day to day life. Hatha Yoga practice can be an effective way to down-modulate nervous system tension whilst still improving respiratory capacity (Vo2 max), muscle strength and increasing range of motion in tighter joints post run (1,3).
To assist in your recovery post-run, I’ve put together a general yoga sequence below:
Yoga Nomenclature: “Asāna” simply means posture – the word preceding asāna refers to the type of posture e.g. Trikona-asana – “Triangle Pose”
- Enough spot for a mat to roll out – in a quiet space if possible
- Focus on slow deep nasal breathing throughout – ideally an inhale:exhale ratio of 1:2
- Spend 5 breaths in each posture as a minimum
- For every 15 minutes of posture practice – minimum of 5 minutes resting lying down at the end
Yoga Recovery Sequence for Runners
1. Modified Uttanasana (forward fold) – Padahastāsana (hand to foot posture) – Trikonasana (triangle pose)
Note: Repeat Trikonanasana on L) side
2. Downward Facing Dog – Runners Lunge (Psoas/hip flexor focus) – Hamstring stretch
Note: repeat lunge + hamstring stretch on right side
3. Janusirsasana (Head to knee posture) – lumbar extensors, quadratus lumborum, adductors and hamstrings
4. Upavistha Konasana (Wide angled forward fold) – adductors and hamstrings
5. Agnistambhasana (Fire Log Pose) & Gomukhasana (Cow face Pose) – gluteal and deep external rotators
6. Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle / Cobblers Pose) – adductors and medial quadriceps
7. Virasana & Supta Virasana (Heroes Pose + Reclined Heroes Pose) – Quadriceps and Hip flexors
8. Halasana (Plow Pose) – deep posterior line: spinal extensors, hamstrings, calves + anterior deltoid and biceps
Modification: place pillow or large object under feet and a blanket underneath shoulders
9. Viparita Karani – “Relaxed Legs up the wall posture”
Note: This pose means “opposite of action” – try to completely let go of striving thoughts and effort in this pose to get the maximal restorative effect. If your hamstring length prevents you from being close to the wall – simply move away from the wall until a more comfortable position is found
This sequence is designed to apply generally for an average runner, if any pose is uncomfortable or seems inappropriate for you – simply remove it from the sequence.
For personalised yoga prescription/coaching relevant to your goals and needs – contact us at POGO for a one-hour initial session.
Oliver Crossley (APAM)
Featured in the Top 50 Physical Therapy Blog
- Büssing, Arndt, Andreas Michalsen, Sat Bir S. Khalsa, Shirley Telles, and Karen J. Sherman. “Effects of yoga on mental and physical health: a short summary of reviews.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine2012 (2012)
- Pauline, Munoru, and Elijah Gitonga Rintaugu. “Effects of yoga training on bilateral strength and shoulder and hip range of motion.” International Journal of Current Research3, no. 11 (2011): 467-470.
- Tran, Mark D., Robert G. Holly, Jake Lashbrook, and Ezra A. Amsterdam. “Effects of Hatha yoga practice on the health‐related aspects of physical fitness.” Preventive cardiology4, no. 4 (2001): 165-170.