How yoga can make you a better runner - plus, the top three poses to try at home

It's not just about breathing, yoga can help runners with flexibility, coordination and strength too

woman doing yoga outside by water
(Image credit: Getty Images / Ridofranz)

Did you know that a regular yoga practice could make you a stronger, more agile runner? There are many benefits of yoga for runners that could help you push yourself further and run faster, run for longer and run stronger. 

Investing in the best running shoes for women is a sure-fire way to help take your running technique to the next level, but when you're off the treadmill or away from the pavements there are yoga practices you can do to make you a better runner. 

Many of us associate yoga with slow mindful movements and a focus on the breath, but whether you’re injury-prone, suffer from tight muscles or feel you’re lacking the strength to push yourself, yoga could be the answer to all your running problems.

Yoga can improve mobility and coordination, reduce the chances of injury, build strength, help you breathe more efficiently and help you push through the mental challenges that come with running big miles. 

Keen to discover the benefits of yoga for runners and find out how to incorporate a practice into your running schedule? Grab one of the best yoga mats and get ready to reap the benefits.

What are the benefits of yoga for runners?

Yoga is an essential part of recovery. If you’re constantly pounding the pavements without allowing your muscles to recover post-run, you’ll suffer in the long term. 

“Where running shortens muscles, yoga lengthens them,” says Chatty Dobson yoga instructor and owner of FLEX Chelsea. “The many twists in yoga create a more mobile spine, helping improve running technique and reducing the chances of an injury.”

Chatty adds that one of the lesser-known benefits of yoga for runners is the incredible strength-training elements to the practice. Focusing on micro-movements and micro muscles allows you to build strength in places that are often missed in other at-home workouts - such as hip flexors, feet, ankles and knees. These micro muscles stabilize the body and will help you push yourself while running. 

What’s more, yoga can help runners be more mindful and push through the mental challenges that come with tough, long-distance running. 

“Mentally you’ll be able to sit in the discomfort and push through your previous limits,” Chatty says. 

The breathwork element of yoga practice will teach you to breathe more efficiently as you pick up the pace and your lungs work harder, the meditative technique will help you dig deep and stabilize your breathing while you continue to rack up those miles. 

woman doing yoga on balcony

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When should runners practice yoga?

The brilliant thing about yoga is you can do it anywhere at any time with little to no equipment. While investing in the best thick yoga mat will help protect joints as you move through the yoga poses, it’s not essential Chatty says.

Chatty recommends runners incorporate a yoga practice into their running routine, as a warm-up before a run and cool-down post-run.

“Power Yoga is a great warm-up for a run, and a juicy Hatha class after a run will stretch you out beautifully,” Chatty says.

However, the yoga instructor points out that many yoga practices are still physically and mentally strenuous and so shouldn’t be done on rest days and should be counted as an active day. If you’re looking for something relaxing to do on your rest days that will also benefit your running, try a gentle Yin Yoga class or a Breathwork class, which are slow-paced and focus on the breath. 

How often you practice yoga depends on how much you run, how much you enjoy it and what you’re looking to get out of your practice. 

“Yoga is great for stretching the body, but it’s also more than that. If you’re only in it for the stretch, find a stretch class instead,” Chatty advises.

However, if you’re keen to try yoga and are ready to see how it can benefit your running technique, you should add a short practice to the end of every run. The more you practice, the more you’ll reap the benefits and the better you’ll feel. Starting slow and being consistent is key, whether that’s one 45-minute class every week or three 15-minute sessions post-run every week. 

The best yoga poses for runners 

If you’re time-poor and can't do a full yoga class, there are some key yoga poses you can incorporate into your warm-up and cooldown routine, says Chatty.  

1. Supine Twists  

Twisting is a great way to stretch the chest, obliques and glutes before or after a run. "I'd suggest Supine Twists are best for runners," says Chatty, "You’re lying on the floor, gravity does a lot of the work for you, so you’re not having to concentrate on your balance whilst you’re reaping the rewards. " 

2. Downward Facing Dog

Tight calves are common among runners, particularly if you're not warming up or cooling down properly. To combat this or rescue tight calves post-run, Chatty recommends the popular Downward Facing Dog. Move in and out of the pose a few times to stretch out the ankles, calves and spine. 

3. Rock the Baby

According to Chatty, a simple Rock the Baby pose will help stretch your psoas and glutes, opening and strengthening the hips. You might find this pose a little tricky at first, so don't push yourself if you're not as flexible as you wish. Move slowly and if it starts to hurt, stop and take it down a notch.  

 The best yoga classes for runners  

From yoga for beginners to yoga for weight loss, there are so many different types of yoga classes. Depending on what you want to get out of each session, think about what yoga class will suit your needs before you get started. 

Power Yoga is great for runners wanting to focus on strength building and flexibility. In a Vinyasa Flow class you'll quickly flow through a range of yoga poses which will help develop good breathwork, whereas in a Hatha yoga class you'll hold poses for longer, placing more emphasis on stretching out the body. 

If you're looking to yoga for breathwork, try meditation or add an extended Savasana onto the end of your practice. 

Chatty points out that many yoga studios now run classes designed specifically for athletes that will help you target everything from flexibility to strengthening to breathwork. 

YouTube is full of yoga tutorials for beginners, and practices created specifically for runners. You can also try yoga at home using apps like Downdog, Peloton or Apple Fitness+. So grab your best workout leggings and get moving!

Pre-Run Yoga Practice

Post-Run Yoga Practice 

20-minute Yoga Practice For Runners

30-Minute Power Yoga Practice 

45-minute Strength Building Yoga Practice 

Ciara McGinley
Ciara McGinley

Ciara is the health editor at woman&, covering all things health & wellbeing from running to sleep to relationships. She's always on the lookout for new health trends, innovative fitness gadgets and must-read wellness books. Outside of her day-to-day, she's a qualified meditation teacher with the British School of Meditation, and all about bettering that mind-body connection. In her spare time, you’ll find her trying out new fitness classes, hiking up a mountain, or in a beer garden because life is all about balance…