The benefits of yoga for runners—plus, the top three poses you need to know about

Yoga can help runners improve flexibility and coordination, and build strength

rolled up green yoga mat on pink background
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Did you know 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 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?

There are many benefits of yoga, but for runners in particular the main benefits include: 

  • Great for recovery
  • Improves running technique
  • Reduces chances of injury 
  • Builds strength 
  • Increases flexibility and improves mobility 
  • Boosts wellbeing 
  • Builds stamina and endurance 
  • Improves breathing  

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.”

Dobson adds 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,” Dobson says. The breathwork element of yoga will teach you how to breathe better and 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. 

When should runners practice yoga?

woman doing yoga on balcony

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What's brilliant 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 Dobson says. Dobson 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,” Dobson says.

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,” Dobson advises. However, the more you practice yoga, 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 every week post-run. 

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. Here are three poses you need to know about, according to Dobson.  

1. Supine Twists

1. How to do Supta Matsyendrasana (Supine Spinal Twist) | Ventuno Yoga

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 Dobson. "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

2. Downward Facing Dog Yoga Pose | Yoga with Adriene 

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, Dobson 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

3. Cradle The Baby Pose Tutorial | Bad Yogi Yoga

According to Dobson, 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. Some of the best yoga practices for runners include: 

  • Power yoga—great for runners wanting to focus on strength building and flexibility.
  • Vinyasa Flow—through this type of yoga you'll quickly flow through a range of yoga poses which will help develop good breathwork.
  • Hatha—in this class you'll hold poses for longer, placing more emphasis on stretching out the body. 
  • Meditation—if you're looking to yoga for breathwork, try meditation or add an extended Savasana onto the end of your practice. 

Dobson 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

1. Yoga For Runners: 7 Min Pre-Run | Yoga With Adriene

Join YouTube sensation Yoga With Adriene for a seven minute pre-run yoga warm-up. This is a great practice for firing up your muscles and bringing a focus to your breath before you hit the pavement or treadmill. Expect lunges, planks, forward folds and downward facing dog. 

Post-Run Yoga Practice

2. Yoga For Runners: 7 Min Post-Run | Yoga With Adriene

After a sweaty jog, stretch out and cool down with Yoga With Adriene in this seven minute post-run routine. It combines a range of yoga moves, from cat-cow to one-legged pigeon pose to stretch out tired legs and glutes. 

20-minute Yoga Practice For Runners

3. Yoga For Runners - Physical & Mental Stamina | Yoga With Adriene

This Yoga With Adriene practice was created for building physical and mental stamina. This 20-minute routine designed for runners is all about strengthening the lower body with a focus on hip flexors, quads, glutes, hamstrings, psoas, IT band, and lower back.

30-Minute Power Yoga Practice

4. 30-Minute Power Vinyasa Flow with Briohny Smyth | Alo Yoga

Best practiced in the days between runs, you're sure to feel the heat during this 30-minute power practice. This flow focuses on improving strength, flexibility, and stamina and synchronizing the breath with every movement.

45-minute Strength Building Yoga Practice

5. Yoga for Runners 45 Minute Flow: Build Your Strength | Cara Gilman

Strength training will improve your running technique, and this 45-minute flow is a great introduction to a strengthening yoga practice for runners. All you need is a yoga mat and two yoga blocks to do it from home. If you don't have yoga blocks, stack a couple of books as an alternative. 

w&h thanks Chatty Dobson yoga instructor and owner of FLEX Chelsea for their time and expertise.

Ciara McGinley

Ciara McGinley is a meditation practitioner and health journalist. She qualified as a meditation teacher with the British School of Meditation in 2020 and is the founder of Finding Quiet, a series of classes, workshops and retreats that combine meditation practices and mindfulness techniques to make mindful living realistic in an always-switched-on modern world. She is all about bettering that mind-body connection but believes wellness looks different to everyone.

Ciara is also the former Health Channel Editor at woman&home and has covered all things health and wellbeing for years, from fitness to sleep to relationships.