Post-Run Yoga: 7 Standing Stretches + an Important Reminder

This is part two of the Post-Run Yoga Stretches series.

Read part one here...

👉 Post-Run Yoga: 10 Smart Stretches to Help You Keep Going

First, let's review a few things. 

Common misconceptions about yoga...

“I’m NOT flexible enough for yoga.” 

  • You do not have to be flexible; in fact, hyperflexibility leads to instability which can lead to over-stretched, weak muscles and compromised joints. 

“I thought yoga/stretching WASN'T GOOD for runners.” 

  • True, over-stretching is not good for runners. Yoga helps runners through both passive and active stretching, which is defined as contracting one set of muscles to open the opposing muscle group, without the use of a band, strap or even hands to pull you farther into the pose. 

FYI... yoga is a dynamic, heat-building practice that encompasses:

  • Greater range of motion (ROM) of the joints 
  • Flexibility
  • Coordination
  • Strength
  • Focus
  • Balance
  • Control
  • And it’s all synchronized to the breath with an after-effect, in my opinion, unparalleled to any other physical endeavor. 

In other words, yoga is not simply sitting on your butt, passively stretching or pulling yourself into contorted, painful shapes.

"Yoga is not simply sitting on your butt, passively stretching or pulling yourself into contorted, painful shapes."

—Brynn Cunningham

5 facts about yoga ever runner needs to know

Yoga can help you...

1. Calm Down. Yoga allows us to bring down the high vibration of running by utilizing deep breathing.

2. Restore Energy. The breath allows us to bring the energy back into homeostasis, particularly after high intensity, hill repeat, speed-focused or interval runs.

3. Support Recovery. When we breathe deeply, we activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the restorative center of our body, allowing for optimal post-run recovery. Combined with proper rest and fueling after the run, yoga can help get us refill the tank.

4. Improve Balance. When synching breath with movement while flowing through yoga postures, we train ourselves to sync breath with movement outside of yoga, i.e., daily life.

5. Breathe. Yoga poses are the catalysts to prompt us to use our breath.

Do you see the common denominator in all of these statements?

It's the breath. (That's the important reminder!)

Yoga can help runners speed recovery, prevent injuries, and improve mindset to keep going.

Yoga = stretching + breath

  • Right now, take a deep breath through your nose with your mouth closed if possible. 
  • Do it again. Keep breathing deeply in, filling up the belly, ribs, back and chest, as long as you can, and then breathe deeply out.

There, you are doing yoga. One might even say you are meditating.

So let’s get to it. Where were we?

We just finished running. 

Let’s transition to the next thing in life slowly, with post-run yoga.

When I finish a run, my intention is to target all six planes of the body, as follows:

  • Forward bend to stretch the backside of the body
  • Backbend to stretch the front side of the body
  • Side bend right 
  • Side bend left
  • Twist right
  • Twist left

When doing the following poses, please keep in mind the following:

  • If something is particularly sticky or tight, hold it longer than the three to eight recommended breaths.
  • Ease slowly into the poses.
  • Find where you can be in the pose without constricting the breath or straining - if you can’t breathe where you are, back off.
  • If it hurts in a sharp, abrupt way, stop.
  • I prefer to remove my running shoes if weather permits and put on Luna Running Sandals for post-run yoga at the trailhead, but you can keep shoes on if you’d like or go barefoot.

Do not:

  • Bounce in the stretch
  • Push beyond pain or your own limitations to see how far you can go
  • Grab and strain for your toes, which causes tension in the neck and shoulders - relax the arms wherever they fall comfortably 

7 standing post-run yoga stretches you can do anywhere

The poses are listed in order so that they flow well when done one right after the other, which is how I usually progress through the series.

In other words, I go from triangle pose to pyramid to revolved triangle and so forth on one leg before switching to the other leg, which means I do Standing Wide-Legged Forward Fold twice. 

Feel free to do them that way, or switch legs after each pose or several poses. Experiment for a while, change it up every time, find something that works for you.

1. Triangle/ Trikonasana Pose

1. Triangle/ Trikonasana Pose (Variation 1)
  • Stand with legs about three feet apart, depending on your height and leg length, and what’s comfortable for you 
  • Point the right foot toward the right and turn the left foot in about 45 degrees
  • Engage the quadriceps muscles to protect the low back and back of the legs and in order to safely open the opposing muscles through active stretching
  • Contract the core muscles by drawing the navel toward the spine
  • Press the big toes down to stabilize at the midline and soften the other toes
  • Reach the right arm forward and place your hand below the kneecap on the shin. If you can keep the chest open, pointing toward the side, as pictured, you can glide the hand down the shin toward the ankle. Hold lightly without putting all your weight on the hand or shin.

Variation One (photo above)

  • Reach the top arm up to the sky. Look down, to the side or up at the lifted hand. 
  • Hold for three to eight breaths
  • Repeat on other side

Variation Two

1. Triangle/ Trikonasana Pose (Variation 2)
  • Reach the top arm up to the sky then over the side of the face to increase the stretch down the side of the body.
  • Hold for three to eight breaths
  • Repeat on other side

Variation Three

1. Triangle/ Trikonasana Pose (Variation 3)
  • Reach the top arm behind you, with the forearm along the low to mid back. Hold onto the top of the right leg if you can reach. Breathe into the back body, feeling the breath against the forearm in order to maintain an engaged core and full back body.
  • Hold for three to eight breaths
  • Repeat on other side

Make it dynamic: 

  • Inhale and reach the top arm up to the sky and over the side of the face, then exhale as you reach it down toward the ground and back up, making a big arm circle. Repeat for eight to 25 reps, or as many as feels good for you on that particular day.

Benefits: 

  • Stretches hamstring, inner leg of the front leg, outer leg (IT band area) of the back leg, outer hip/ glute area, ribs, side body and chest 
  • Strengthens legs, core and feet if done barefoot or in minimalist trail running sandals
  • Improves hip, pelvis and shoulder mobility

2. Pyramid/ Parsvottanasana Pose

2. Pyramid/ Parsvottanasana Pose (Variation 1)
  • Stand with legs about three feet apart, depending on your height and leg length, and what’s comfortable for you 
  • Point the right foot toward the right and turn the left foot in about 45 degrees or more
  • Engage the quadriceps muscles to protect the low back and back of the legs and in order to safely open the opposing muscles through active stretching
  • Contract the core muscles by drawing the navel toward the spine 
  • Press the big toes down to stabilize at the midline and soften the other toes
  • Square the hips forward, so both hip bones are pointing in the same direction 
  • Begin to fold forward over the front leg, keeping a microbend in the knee

Variation One (photo above)

  • Place both hands on the shin below the kneecap as you lengthen from the top of the head through the tailbone. Gaze down to elongate the neck.  
  • Hold for three to eight breaths
  • Repeat on other side

Variation Two

2. Pyramid/ Parsvottanasana Pose (Variation 2)
  • Place the hands outside of the front foot as you lengthen from the top of the head through the tailbone. Gaze down to elongate the neck.  
  • Hold for three to eight breaths
  • Repeat on other side

Variation Three (advanced)

2. Pyramid/ Parsvottanasana Pose (Variation 3)
  • Interlace the hands behind the back. Draw the heels of the hands together and put a slight bend in the elbows to avoid hyperextending. Lean forward over the leg, which still has a microbend in the knee, resting the chin or nose to the shin. 
  • Hold for three to eight breaths
  • Repeat on other side

Benefits: 

  • Stretches hamstrings, backs of the legs, low back and shoulders if doing the advanced variation
  • Strengthens legs, core and feet if done barefoot or in minimalist trail running sandals
  • Improves hip, pelvis and shoulder mobility if doing the advanced variation  

3. Revolved Triangle/ Parsva Trikonasana Pose

3. Revolved Triangle/ Parsva Trikonasana Pose (Variation 1)
  • Stand with legs about two to three feet apart and hip-width distance wide
  • Point the feet in the same direction, squaring the hips to face in the same direction
  • Engage the quadriceps muscles to protect the low back and back of the legs and in order to safely open the opposing muscles through active stretching
  • Contract the core muscles by drawing the navel toward the spine 
  • Press the big toes down to stabilize at the midline and soften the other toes
  • Begin to fold forward over the front leg
  • Place the opposite hand on the ground on the inside of the front leg; if you can’t reach, use a block or water bottle to prop your hand upon

Variation One (photo above)

  • Hold the hip of the front leg with the arm on the same side and press the hip away from the armpit as you lengthen from the top of the head through the tailbone. Gaze down to elongate the neck.  
  • Hold for three to eight breaths
  • Repeat on other side

Variation Two

3. Revolved Triangle/ Parsva Trikonasana Pose (Variation 2)
  • Hold the top of the front ankle with the opposite hand and reach the other arm up to the sky as you lengthen from the top of the head through the tailbone. Gaze down, to the side or up to the top arm. 
  • Hold for three to eight breaths
  • Repeat on other side

Variation Three

3. Revolved Triangle/ Parsva Trikonasana Pose (Variation 3)
  • Hold the top of the front ankle with the opposite hand and reach the other arm back behind you so the forearm rests against the low to mid back as you lengthen from the top of the head through the tailbone. Breathe into the back body, feeling the breath against the forearm in order to maintain an engaged core and full back body.
  • Gaze down, to the side or up to the sky.  
  • Hold for three to eight breaths
  • Repeat on other side

Benefits: 

  • Stretches hamstrings, backs of the legs, outer hips and legs and chest
  • Strengthens legs, core and feet if done barefoot or in minimalist trail running sandals
  • Improves hip, pelvis and shoulder mobility if doing variation three

4. Cross-Legged Forward Bend

4. Cross-Legged Forward Bend
  • Standing upright, cross one ankle in front of the other
  • Align the toes so they are flush with one another, both feet along the same line
  • Feet can be slightly apart
  • Engage the quadriceps muscles to protect the low back and back of the legs and in order to safely open the opposing muscles through active stretching
  • Contract the core muscles by drawing the navel toward the spine 
  • Fold forward over the legs; if folding forward is not possible, stand with something like a rock or step in front of you so you can hold onto it
  • The front knee will likely be bent
  • If the right leg is the one behind, walk the hands toward the left to stretch the back outer hip and leg and vise versa
  • Hold for three to eight breaths
  • Repeat on other side

Benefits:

  • Stretches the hamstrings, backs of the legs, outer hips and side body
  • Strengthens inner thighs if you squeeze the in toward one another 
  • Improves mobility in the hips and pelvis 

5. Standing Wide-Legged Forward Fold/ Prasarita Padottanasana

5. Standing Wide-Legged Forward Fold/ Prasarita Padottanasana
  • Stand with the legs three to four feet apart, depending on your height, leg length and the openness of the backs of the legs - play with what works best for you
  • Turn the toes in a tiny bit and heels out in order to protect the low back
  • Engage the quadriceps muscles to protect the low back and back of the legs and in order to safely open the opposing muscles through active stretching
  • Contract the core muscles by drawing the navel toward the spine 
  • Fold forward to your own degree
  • Place the hands on the ground underneath of your shoulders or hook the pointer and middle fingers (peace fingers) around the big toes and touch the thumb to the tip of the pointer finger (see photo above)
  • Press the big toes down into the ground
  • Draw the shoulder blades down the back away from the ears to elongate the neck
  • Make sure the legs are not so wide that you cannot lengthen the spine and neck
  • Hold for three to eight breaths
  • Repeat on other side

Benefits:

  • Stretches the hamstrings, backs of the legs, outer hips, outer legs and side body
  • Strengthens the feet, legs, ankles and outer shins  
  • Improves mobility in the hips and pelvis 

6. Side Lunge/ Skater/ Skandasana Pose

6. Side Lunge/ Skater/ Skandasana Pose (Variation 1)
  • Stand with legs three to four feet apart 
  • Feet face in the same direction
  • Engage the quadriceps muscles to protect the low back and back of the legs and in order to safely open the opposing muscles through active stretching
  • Contract the core muscles by drawing the navel toward the spine 
  • Shift your weight toward the right leg as you bend the right knee and press the hips back

Variation One (photo above)

  • Press palms together in front of torso and rest right forearm on top of right thigh. Gaze down to elongate the neck.  
  • Hold for three to eight breaths
  • Repeat on other side

Variation Two

6. Side Lunge/ Skater/ Skandasana Pose (Variation 2)
  • If ankle and knee mobility allows, bend into the right leg until you are all the way down in a half squat. The heel may be lifted. Press the right arm into the inner right leg as you reach the left arm up to the sky. 
  • Hold for three to eight breaths
  • Repeat on other side

Variation 3

6. Side Lunge/ Skater/ Skandasana Pose (Variation 3)
  • If ankle and knee mobility allows, bend into the right leg until you are all the way down in a half squat. The heel may be lifted or down. Press palms together in front of the heart and push the right elbow into the right inner thigh as the inner thigh presses back. The toes of the left foot may be pointing straight up to the sky or forward, as shown above. 
  • Hold for three to eight breaths
  • Repeat on other side

Benefits: 

  • Stretches inner thighs and legs and back of the lower legs and ankles and chest if doing variation two
  • Strengthens legs and feet if done barefoot or in minimalist trail running sandals
  • Improves hip, pelvis and ankle mobility

7. Crescent Lunge/ High Lunge/ Anjaneyasana Pose

7. Crescent Lunge/ High Lunge/ Anjaneyasana Pose (Variation 1)
  • Step one leg about four feet back, feet hip width-distance apart
  • Stay on the ball of the back foot
  • Press into the two big toes to align to the midline and assist in balancing while softening the rest of the toes
  • Contract the core muscles by drawing the navel toward the spine and hollow out the belly by dropping the tailbone slightly toward the ground without tucking it

Variation One (photo above)

  • Place the right hand on the right quad and the left hand on the hip. Keep a deep bend in the back knee. Gaze down for balance or forward. 
  • Hold for three to eight breaths
  • Repeat on other side

Variation Two

7. Crescent Lunge/ High Lunge/ Anjaneyasana Pose (Variation 2)
  • Place the right hand on the right quad and reach the left arm up to the sky then side bend toward the right. Keep a deep bend in the back knee. Gaze down for balance, forward or up to the sky. 
  • Hold for three to eight breaths
  • Repeat on other side

Variation Three

7. Crescent Lunge/ High Lunge/ Anjaneyasana Pose (Variation 3)
  • Reach both arms up to the sky. Keep arms shoulder-width distance apart or interlace the hands and point the pointer fingers up to the sky. Begin to straighten the back knee though it does not have to go totally straight. Gaze down for balance, forward or up to the sky. 
  • Hold for three to eight breaths
  • Repeat on other side

Benefits: 

  • Stretches quadriceps, chest (variation three), front body, side body (variation two) and lower abdomen
  • Strengthens legs, hips and glutes and feet if done barefoot or in minimalist trail running sandals
  • Improves hip, pelvis and knee mobility

Post-yoga stretching: Build up & make it your own

If seven poses seems like too many, start with one pose and hold it for three breaths per side.

The next day, choose another pose. Play with the sequence. Add poses from this sequence to the poses from:

Keep adding poses and the number of breaths until you tailor your post-run yoga session to meet your wants and needs. 

Some days you’ll have time for more, some days less. 

The purpose is to decompress and settle into the breath in order to elevate your recovery experience, which is as equally important as your training session. 

Questions about poses?

Please post in the comments. 

Happy running and happy yoga!

Favorite Yoga App for Daily Morning Practice: 

 What Brynn’s Wearing: 

Brynn received her 230-hour yoga instructor certification from the Asheville Yoga Center (AYC) in North Carolina in 2015. Prior to formal training, she began teaching at community centers in 2011.

She took her first yoga class at age 18, in 2001, when someone suggested it would be good for her as a runner. Yoga became a daily practice for her in 2009.

Each morning, she wakes up and practices for 60 to 90 minutes to begin the day with the breath and movement.

Brynn founded Inhale Exhale Run first as a blog where she could write about yoga and running and then as a way to bring Yoga for Runners Workshops and yoga classes to groups and studios.

Past and present yoga clients and teaching locations include: 

  • Nemacolin Woodlands Holistic Healing Center & Spa 
  • Uniontown YMCA
  • Uniontown Area High School Cross Country and Track & Field Teams
  • Laurel Highlands High School Girls Soccer Team
  • Penn State University Eberly Campus Cross Country Team
  • Morgantown Running Store - special events 
  • Waterkeeper Alliance Annual Conference
  • Private Sessions by request

Photography by Colleen O’Neil

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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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