Yoga for Runners: 4 Poses for Unstoppable Glutes & Core Strength

What if yoga for runners could help you develop unstoppable glutes and core strength to run all the miles, go the distance, and still feel good?

It's possible.

Mastering the right poses with consistent practice can be a game-changer...

...especially for runners who struggle with a weak core or weak glutes (one of the prime movers for runners).

In this post, WeeViews Ambassador, ultrarunner and yoga teacher Brynn Cunningham shows you the 4 yoga for runners poses that will help you get from where you are to where you want to be.

Runners: Ready to build a stronger core and strengthen your glutes?

If practiced mindfully and with intention and focus on poses that target the glutes and core, yoga can act as an excellent strength-training and conditioning practice for runners.

In Core Workout for Running: 8 Yoga Poses for a Stronger Core and Yoga for Runners: 6 Plank Poses to Build Core Strength, we learned why a strong core is important for runners and that the core is comprised of:

  • The low back
  • Abdomen
  • Obliques
  • Hip flexors 
  • Glutes
  • And according to most sources, even the chest

Now, let’s look at why strong glutes are important to runners:

  • Prevents injury, particularly of the low back, legs, knees, ankles and even the feet
  • Stabilizes the pelvis, thus the entire lower body
  • Powers each push-off 
  • Increases the ability to accelerate quickly 
  • Ensures balanced use of muscles while running (i.e., when glutes are strong, it prevents runners from becoming quad dominant) 
  • Assists in becoming a more efficient runner, as strong glutes powers us forward rather than side-to-side

Alignment cues for all poses in this article:

  • Draw the navel to the spine 
  • Knit the ribs toward one another so they do not flare out, which puts undue pressure on the low back. Do this especially if you are very flexible. 

When to practice the poses

They are best practiced within a body or weight-based strength routine, such as yoga. 

  • The poses can also be done before, during (if you want to mix it up!) or after a run.

How to practice the poses

  • Option One: Hold each pose for 30 to 60 seconds (five to eight breaths) before switching to the next set of poses. Do one to three sets of each pose, choosing different versions each time or the ones that work best for your body.
  • Option Two: If practicing within a yoga class, these poses are often woven throughout, incorporating many other types of poses, and held for one round of breath. 
  • Some of them can be practiced as reps - inhaling to lift and exhaling to lower, for eight to 40 reps, depending on the pose of your preference. 
  • Practice them at least twice a week for best results.

Yoga for runners: 4 poses for glute & core strength

Ready to lean the 4 yoga for runner poses to help you develop glute and core strength?

Here's what we'll cover...

  • Boat Pose/ Navasana, four versions 
  • Low Boat Pose, three versions 
  • Bridge Pose, four versions 
  • Butterfly Bridge Pose, two versions

1. Boat Pose/ Navasana, four versions

Boat Pose, bent-knee version (Photo/ Colleen O’Neil)
Boat Pose, straight leg version (Photo/ Colleen O’Neil)
Boat Pose, holding outer edges of the feet (Photo/ Colleen O’Neil)
Boat Pose, revolved (Photo/ Colleen O’Neil)

Instructions:

  • Start in a seated position
  • Lean back slightly to bring the knees to the chest
  • Lift the shins so they are parallel to the floor (photo one)
  • Draw navel to spine
  • Reach arms forward

Four Versions:

  • Bent knees (photo one)
  • Straight legs (photo two). If version one feels easy or you’re looking for a challenge, try straightening one leg, then the other. Return to version one if you feel pain or tugging on the hip flexors or low back. 
  • Holding outer edges of the feet (photo three). Reach to the outer edges of the feet and pull the legs in toward the belly. Pull down so that the elbows are outside of the shins. Look up at the toes. 
  • Revolved (photo four) From version one, twist the torso and arms to the right, hold for several breaths, then twist to the left.

2. Low Boat Pose, three versions

Low Boat Pose (Photo/ Colleen O’Neil)
Low Boat Pose, arms reaching back (Photo/ Colleen O’Neil)
Low Boat Pose, revolved (Photo/ Colleen O’Neil)

Instructions:

  • Start Boat Pose
  • Roll back so you’re resting on the small of the back
  • Draw navel to spine
  • Press low back into the mat

Three Versions:

  • Low Boat (photo one). This can be done with the knees bent keeping the legs straight puts pressure or pain on the low back or hip flexors. 
  • Arms reaching back (photo two). Reach the arms back behind you while reaching the toes forward, creating a stretching feeling. Gaze up, keeping the back of the neck neutral.
  • Revolved (photo three). From Low Boat, twist the torso and arms to the right. Hold for several breaths, then twist to the left. This can also be done with bent knees. 

3. Bridge Pose, four versions

Bridge Pose (Photo/ Colleen O’Neil)
Bridge Pose, heels lifted (Photo/ Colleen O’Neil)
Bridge Pose, toes lifted (Photo/ Colleen O’Neil)
One-legged Bridge Pose (Photo/ Colleen O’Neil)

Instructions:

  • Start by lying on the mat
  • Walk the feet in so the heels are in front of the butt
  • Bring feet and knees hip-width distance apart
  • Reach down so that the fingertips graze the backs of the heels 
  • Draw navel to spine
  • Press low back into the mat

Four Versions:

  • Bridge pose (photo one). Extend the arms along the sides of the body, palms facing down into the mat. Root into the big toes, pinkie toes and heels as you lift the hips off the mat. Option: hold for several breaths, or inhale up, exhale down, for as many reps as you can. 
  • Heels lifted (photo two). From regular bridge pose, lift the heels as high off the mat as you can.
  • Toes lifted (photo three). From regular bridge pose, lift the toes as high off the mat as you can. Option: Go from inhaling to lift the heels, exhaling to lower, and inhaling to lift the toes, for as many reps as you can. 
  • One-legged (photo four). From regular bridge pose, press the left foot firmly into the mat as you lift the right knee into the chest then extend the right leg up to the sky. Options: hold for several breaths, or exhale to lower the hips and inhale to lift for as many reps as you can. Repeat on other side.

4. Butterfly Bridge Pose, two versions

Butterfly Bridge Pose (Photo/ Colleen O’Neil)
One-legged Butterfly Bridge Pose (Photo/ Colleen O’Neil)

Instructions:

  • Start by lying on the mat
  • Bring the soles of the feet together as the knees fall out to the sides, as in Supta Baddha Konasana, or reclined butterfly pose 
  • Draw navel to spine
  • Press low back into the mat

Two Versions:

  • Butterfly Bridge (photo one). Press into the outer edges of the feet to lift the hips while keeping space in the low back and tailbone slightly tucked (especially if you are very flexible). Hold for several breaths or inhale to lift, exhale to lower, for as many reps as you can. 
  • One-legged (photo two). Start in Supta Baddha Konasana. Lift one left straight up to the sky. Press into the outer edge of the foot on the mat to lift the hips. Hold for several breaths or inhale to lift, exhale to lower, for as many reps as you can. 

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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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