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Running can be notoriously hard on the body. I’ve always told my yoga students who hit the trails or the pavement to make sure they stretch for as long (or longer) as they run!
Taking time to stretch before running—and not just after—isn’t just a warm-up. It can also counteract the tension and stiffness that results from your muscles and joints being subject to sustained intensity and impact. Whether you’re doing a two-miler or a half-marathon, do yourself a kindness and take a few minutes for these quick yet effective stretches before you head outside.
Start in Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) at the front of your mat. Bring your hands to the mat and step your right foot back to a lunge. Adjust your hands so your left foot is between them and your shoulders are above your wrists. Engage your leg muscles while shifting your pelvis slightly forward (as if you’re bringing your hips toward the front of the mat) to stretch the hip flexors of your back leg. Step your right foot forward. Repeat on the other side.
Step to the front of your mat. Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips and your toes angled slightly outward. Bend your knees into a squat. If your heels do not touch the floor, take your feet wider apart or place a rolled-up blanket under your heels to bring the floor to you. Place your elbows inside your shins and bring your palms together in the center of your chest in prayer position. Gently press your upper outer arms against your inner thighs (not your knees) and resist that movement with your legs.
Stand in front of a wall. Place your hands on the wall and slide them a foot or two higher than your shoulders and approximately 45 degrees from your shoulders. Step your right foot back two-and-a-half to three feet and slightly out to the side, as if you were coming into Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch or Pyramid Pose). Engage your leg muscles and shift your hips back until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings of your forward leg. Repeat on the other side.
Figure Four stretch
Stand in Mountain Pose and bring your palms together in the center of your chest in prayer position. Bend both knees and slowly lift your right foot off the mat. Pause until you find your balance. Cross your right ankle over your left knee. Engage your legs, flex your right foot by drawing your toes toward your right side, and hinge at your hips. Start to bring your hips back and lean your chest forward toward your thighs until you feel the stretch on your outer hip and glutes. Come out the same way you came into the pose. Repeat on the second side.
Low Lunge thigh stretch
Come back to Low Lunge with your left leg behind you. Lower your back knee to the floor. You may want to bring a folded blanket beneath your back knee. Bend your knee and reach with your arm on the same side to catch your left foot. Draw your foot close to your outer hip to get a stretch in the front of the thigh and hip flexor. If you feel any pain whatsoever in your knee while in this stretch, immediately come out of it. Repeat on the other side.