Life is full of opposing pairs: sweet and savory, fast and slow, hard and soft. One half of the pair can’t — and shouldn’t — exist without the other. This concept is known as yin and yang, or, the idea that two opposing forces actually create a balance.
If you’re a runner, your weekly mileage falls into the ‘yang’ category, says Eric Jeffers, Life Power Yoga master trainer at Life Time Green Valley in Henderson, NV. Running, like all forms of exercise, is stressful for your body. While it builds up strength, speed and endurance, it can also leave you feeling sore and depleted if you don’t balance it out with adequate recovery — aka ‘yin.’ So instead of doing a few half-hearted stretches post-run, try something that can really help you strike a balance between stress and relaxation.
The answer: yin yoga.
Hit Your Stride: Yin Yoga for Runners
Unlike more dynamic, fast-paced yoga styles like vinyasa and ashtanga, yin yoga feels more like a meditation session than a workout. Instead of flowing from one pose to the next with little to no pause in between, yin yogis hold poses (called asanas) that require very little exertion for longer periods of time, usually between three and five minutes. “This technique targets tendons, ligaments and fascia of the lower body,” says Jeffers. “It helps relieve tension and soreness, maintains range of motion and improves circulation.”
As a bonus, students perform almost all of the poses seated or lying down — the perfect antidote to miles spent in an upright position. Consider it the perfect complement to any running routine.
5 Yin Yoga Poses to Do Post-Run
To relieve tension and keep soreness at bay, Jeffers recommends incorporating these five simple yin yoga poses into your post-run regimen.
As you get started with each pose, don’t look for too much intensity. Instead, “allow time to do the work,” Jeffers says. Yin yoga is about gently falling into the stretch, “not making it happen fast.” Avoid bouncing or pulling, and if you feel a sharp pain, back off a little.
1. Half Butterfly
How to: Extend one leg forward and drawing the other in toward your body. Allow the bent leg to naturally fall open at the hip. Fold slowly over your extended leg, allowing your head to hang and your neck and upper back to relax. If this becomes too intense, gently hold your head upright. Hold for 3 to 4 minutes, and then repeat on the other side.
How to: Step one foot near the front of your mat and bend your knee to extend your other leg back behind you. Place your back knee down on the mat. Place both hands inside your front foot. As your body begins to soften into the pose, you may eventually come down onto your forearms (as shown). Hold for 2 ½ to 3 minutes, and then repeat on the other side.
3. Half Saddle
How to: Sitting with both legs in front of you, swing one leg back and gently place your shin and the top of your foot on the floor next to your hip. Begin to lean back onto your hands or elbows. Your knees can remain together or slightly separate if needed. If your body allows, you may carefully lay all the way down onto your back. Hold for 2 ½ to 3 minutes, and then repeat on the other side.
4. Reclined Hand-to-Big Toe Pose Variations
How to: Lying on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor, use a towel or yoga strap to gently draw one leg towards you as you straighten your knee. The leg that remains on the floor may remain bent, but if you can, you may fully straighten both knees (as shown). Hold for 2 ½ to 3 minutes, and then repeat on the other side.
5. Supine Spinal Twist
How to: Lying on your back with both legs extended, draw one knee into your chest. Allow that leg to gently fall across your body to the opposite side. Extend your arm out in the opposite direction the leg is falling with your palm up. Do your best to keep your shoulder on the ground. Hold for 3 to 4 minutes, and then repeat on the other side.