We partnered with Core Power Yoga to feature the best yoga poses for strengthening the muscles and body parts that runners use most. From downward dog to dancer's pose, Cari Merriam, Core Power Yoga teacher and national program manager—also a runner herself—gave us a crash course on her go-to moves for stronger, better and faster running.
Forward Folds1 of 9
Forward folds are incredible for runners, as this pose stretches the hamstrings and calves, while it simultaneously strengthens the thighs. Less is more in a forward fold.
Take it easy and bend your knees while you slowly lower into a fold. Align your hips over your knees, as you fold at your hip crease and bring the top of your pelvis forward. Remember to bend your knees as much as you need, engaging the quads, as you relax your head and neck forward.
Half Splits2 of 9
The half split, aka, runner's lunge, is another wonderful way to stretch your hamstrings and calves, while also opening the lower back.
To get into this pose, start in a lunge position and release your back knee onto your mat. Align your shoulders over your hips and straighten your front leg. From here, lengthen your spine and start to hinge over your extended leg. Feel free to bring a soft bend to your front knee and remember to keep your spine long.
Standing Splits with Jivamukti Squats3 of 9
This is the ultimate posture for runners. It stretches the back of the leg, the front of the thigh and the groin.
As you move into the squat, you are creating balance between the right and left side of your body, strengthening the standing leg and opening your hips.
From forward fold, tent your hands in front of you and lengthen your spine. Rock your weight into your right leg and extend your left leg backward into the air. Keep your pelvis and hips parallel to the floor by internally rotating the left thigh. Lengthen through your hamstring and relax your head and neck forward.
Standing Splits with Jivamukti Squats (continued)4 of 9
As you exhale, draw your extended left leg toward your outer right calf. As you bend your knees, squeeze your inner thighs and drive your belly to your spine. Repeat on other side.
Pyramid Pose5 of 9
Pyramid pose is an all-time favorite for runners. It helps calm the nervous system and mind after a run, while it stimulates the abdominal organs. It's also a really great stretch post-run to open and stretch the spine, hips and hamstrings.
From standing, step your right foot abut two feet forward and level and square your hips. Keep your toes pointed forward as you place your hands on your hips and activate your quads. Press down into your big toe and soften the back of your knee joints. Hinge from your hips, lengthen your spine and slowly fold your belly over your right foot. Bend your front knee as much as you need to keep your hips level.
Extended Hand-to-Big Toe Pose6 of 9
Runners take a lot of impact on their ankles and feet, so postures that help strengthen these areas are key to a runner's success in the sport. The extended hand-to-big toe pose can strengthen the legs and ankles, as it stretches the hamstrings and calves and helps open the psoas/groin.
From standing, elevate your right knee toward hip height, firm your belly and stack your knee over your ankle. Grasp your big toe with your first two fingers. Place your arm to the inside of your thigh as you activate your front thigh muscles of the standing leg and press your outer thigh inward. Gently unfold the leg forward, straightening your leg and spine. Begin to direct your leg open to the outside of your hip.
If your hamstrings are tight, go easy and grasp your hand around the outside of your shin and gently move your knee to the outer edge of your hip; you can also use a strap. Repeat on other side.
Lord of the Dance Pose7 of 9
If you run a lot, the front line of your body can sometimes be as tight as the back. lord of the dance, aka, dancer's pose, is great for opening your shoulders and chest, as you stretch your quads, groins and abs. This pose will also strengthen your legs and ankles for long runs, while improving your balance.
From standing, shift your weight on to your right foot and bend at the knee, lifting your left heel toward your left glute. Strengthen down into your standing leg and firm your quad. Bring your left hand into your hip with your palm facing up. Reach back with your left hand and grab the outside of your left foot. Extend your right arm over your head. Broaden your chest and kick your foot into your hand. Lean your torso forward, and extend your front arm up and out. Repeat on the other side.
Downward Dog with Crossed Heel8 of 9
Downward dog is a wonderful release that fights fatigue after a long run, and it's a great posture to reset your whole body. It elongates and releases tension from your spine, as it stretches your arms, shoulders and back. When you cross one heel over the other, you receive an extra stretch in your hamstrings, calves and IT band/psoas.
Kneel on all fours, placing your hands at shoulder width and your knees at hip width. Press down into your thumb and index fingers as your lift your hips into downward facing dog. Keep your knees slightly bent and drive your belly button toward your thighs as you stretch your heels down toward the floor. Cross your right ankle over your left and press back again to feel the deep stretch through your outer leg and hip. Repeat on the other side.