8 Reclined Yin Yoga Poses for Runners to Restore & Recover

What if you could become a better runner by lying down?

Literally. Lie down on the floor, take a deep breath, and train your body to move better for your next run.

OK, so you'll have to do a little work. And it's worth it.

Check out these 8 reclined yin yoga poses for runners to restore and recover...

To runners, rest days mean:

  • A day of no running
  • A day of no cross training
  • No strenuous physical activity whatsoever

But what about yoga poses for runners?

Can we do yoga on the days when we’re supposed to do nothing? 

Yes! 

Lucky for runners, yin yoga offers many yoga poses for runners and sequences to take your rest days to the next level, which you may have discovered in part one of this series:

To review, in yin yoga:

  • Poses are held for a long period of time, anywhere from three to 10 minutes.
  • Poses target the connective tissue.
  • The stillness derived from the practice induces a supremely calm, relaxed state by tapping into the parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for resting and digesting. 

In other words, yin yoga was made for runners’ rest days.

Furthermore,  when the following sequence can all be done lying down.

  •  How’s that for the ultimate recovery?

In addition to rest days, runners can use the following sequence:

  • Before bed to unwind from the day’s run or cross training
  • Upon waking in the morning the day after a tough workout (sometimes I even do the following poses in bed, especially while camping)
  • In the middle of the day for a restful lunch break
  • Anytime that feels right to the individual, but NOT before a run

What to do in each pose:

  • Breathe slowly and deeply in and out of the nose
  • Close the eyes if so desired 
  • Listen to your body - if a pose does not feel right or causes pain, skip it
  • Come only as deep into poses as you can hold for an extended amount of time
  • Be as still as possible in the poses, with the only movement coming from deep breathing
  • Set a timer or count breaths to time yourself - five slow breaths is about one minute
  • Hold each pose for two to three minutes to begin and build up to five to seven minutes
  • Savasana can be held for 10-15 minutes if time allows

1. Reclined Butterfly Pose/ Supta Baddha Konasana

1. Reclined Butterfly Pose/ Supta Baddha Konasana

Instructions

  • From the back, bend the knees and open them to the sides
  • Place the soles of the feet together
  • Adjust the distance of the feet from the pelvis to find the most comfortable positioning for the feet to rest comfortably
  • If the knees are high and inner thighs tight, place a block, books or blankets underneath of the outer knees (photo one)

Options with the arms:

  • Place one hand on the heart and one hand on the belly (photo one)
  • Reach the arms overhead and hold opposite elbow with opposite hand, allowing the forearms to rest above the crown of the head (photo two)
  • Lie the arms along the sides on the mat
  • Place the left palm on the left hip bone and the right palm on the right hip bone to root the hips into the earth

2. Happy Baby/ Ananda Balasana

Photo one: Happy Baby/ Ananda Balasana
Photo two: Happy Baby/ Ananda Balasana

Instructions

  • Lie down and bend the knees into the chest
  • Bend the knees and face the soles of the feet to the ceiling
  • Thighs will be outside of the ribcage, along the sides, not lying over the belly
  • Hold what is in reach. Options for holding the legs or feet:
  • If the head arches back, place a block under it and hold the shins (photo one)

If it is easy to reach the feet, then hold:

  • The outer edges of the feet
  • The inner edge, or arches, of the feet
  • The ten toes, to stretch the arches (photo two)

3. Supported Bridge with Straight Legs

3. Supported Bridge with Straight Legs

Instructions

  • Bend the knees as if coming into bridge pose
  • Lift the hips
  • Place a bolster, rolled up blankets, book, stack of books or foam roller under the sacrum, the lowest part of the low bac
  • Use a shorter prop (such as the bolster in photo one) if the low back is sensitive or if the front of the body is constricted

Options with the arms:
 

  • Place the left palm on the left hip bone and the right palm on the right hip bone to bring warmth to the hips (photo one)
  • Reach the arms straight overhead and allow them to rest on the floor (photo two)

4. Knee-to-Chest Pose

4. Knee-to-Chest Pose

Instructions

  • Keep the bolster, rolled up blankets, book, stack of books or foam roller underneath the sacrum
  • Hug one knee into the chest and hold for several minutes, or to your own degree of comfort 
  • Repeat on the other side
  • If it is uncomfortable to do this with the hips elevated, do it while lying flat on the back, with nothing under the hips

5. Reclined Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose/ Supta Padangusthasana I

5. Reclined Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose/ Supta Padangusthasana I
5. Reclined Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose/ Supta Padangusthasana I
5. Reclined Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose/ Supta Padangusthasana I
5. Reclined Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose/ Supta Padangusthasana I

Instructions

  • Lift one leg up and interlace the hands behind the leg while pressing the leg into the hands to traction through the hip (photo one) 
  • Stay with the first version if that is a good stretch which can be held for several minutes 
  • If it is challenging to keep the leg straight and lifted, loop a strap around the ball of the foot. (photo two) 
  • Press the outer hip of the lifted leg down away from the armpit to lengthen through the side.
  • Hold the big toe if the back of the leg is open and it’s easy to hold for several minutes. (photo three)
  • To engage the muscles for five to 10 breaths, try the non-yin version by lifting the forehead toward the shin. (photo four)

6. Plow/ Snail Pose

6. Plow/ Snail Pose
6. Plow/ Snail Pose

Instructions

  • From the reclined position, rest the arms straight along the sides on the mat
  • Press the palms into the mat while taking the legs overhead
  • Hips will stack over the shoulders
  • Press the shoulders into the mat to create space in the back of the neck so that the cervical spine is not compressed on the floor
  • Hold the back with the hands (photo one)
  • If the shoulders are open and allow, stretch the arms straight and interlace the hands while strongly pressing the upper arm bones into the mat (photos one and two)

Options for the feet:

  • Tuck the toes (photos one and two) 
  • Rest the tops of the feet on the floor

Precautions: 

  • Skip this pose if you have neck or shoulder issues that create pain
  • Skip this pose if the feet cannot reach the floor behind you - it is not safe to keep the legs suspended in the air with all the weight on the neck

7. Reclined Figure Four Twist

7. Reclined Figure Four Twist

Instructions

  • Bend the knees into the chest
  • Place the right ankle above the left knee as if going into Reclined Figure Four/ Reclined Pigeon Pose
  • Keep the legs in this position while twisting them to the left
  • Stretch the right arm out to the side
  • Rest the right inner thigh on the left palm (as shown in the photo) if it is challenging to keep the legs lifted while in the pose

8. Supported Savasana

8. Supported Savasana

Instructions

  • Place two or three bolsters, pillows and/or blankets underneath the lower legs
  • Lie the arms along the sides
  • Close the eyes
  • Relax every muscle in the body
  • Place two or three bolsters, pillows and/or blankets underneath the lower legs
  • Lie the arms along the sides
  • Close the eyes
  • Relax every muscle in the body

More on Yoga for Runners

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Brynn Cunningham
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Trail runner, ultrarunner, white water boater, cyclist (mostly MTB), swimmer, backcountry skier, yogi, mom and writer. www.inhaleexhalerun.com

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