About the Author: Kirsten Kupras, PT

Kirsten Kupras, PT is a physical therapist and certified yoga instructor with MovementX in Portland, Oregon.

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Our Top Yoga Poses for Runners: 9 for Mobility and 4 for Strength

A lot of people in the Pacific Northwest are moving their exercise routines outdoors. From biking and dog walking to running and hiking, people are excited to stretch their legs and get some fresh air.

But with all this moving and shaking, we must also be aware of what a long day at your desk or office can do to our body. Prolonged time spent sitting could lead to some unwanted joint stiffness and muscle fatigue when we go out for that first run.

Yoga is the perfect compliment to running in that it stretches muscle groups that can often feel stiff while also strengthening muscle groups like the gluteals and abdominals that are essential for good running mechanics.

In this article, we’ll outline 9 mobility-focused and 4 strength-focused yoga poses for runners to help you stay running fast, strong, and pain-free.

9 Mobility-Focused Poses

Here are our nine favorite yoga poses for runners that are beneficial for stretching tight muscles and mobilizing stiff joints…


1.) Low Lunge (Crescent Variation)

Low lunge crescent variation yoga for runners

This is great for runners who sit at a desk for work to keep the hip flexor muscles open. When these muscles are tight, your stride length and running mechanics can be negatively affected.

2.) Hip & Groin Opener

Hip and Groin Opener yoga pose stretch for runners

This is another great yoga pose to alleviate lower back stiffness and prepare the hamstring muscles before going out for a run.

3.) Horizon Lunge with Quad Stretch

The horizon lunge is a deeper version of low lunge with added quad opener stretch which moves the stretch more into your adductor muscles.
4.) Figure 4 Stretch

An attainable hip opener stretch for all levels of yoga experience. This targets your piriformis muscle, gluteals, and other muscles involved with ensuring your running form is strong and symmetrical.

5.) Supine Twist (Restorative Pose)

This pose wrings out your spine and rejuvenates it with fresh blood, oxygen, and nutrients. It also helps regulate sympathetic nervous system activity and relaxes your body.

6.) Supta Baddha Konasana (Restorative Pose)

This is a great stretch to lengthen your adductors and opens the groin.

7.) Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold)

This is a great gentle hamstring opener and lower back release. Let’s dive into these last three important poses in a bit more detail…

Begin with your knees bent quite a bit. Slowly fold your upper body forward, draping your chest over your thighs. Inhale to your fingertips and straighten your arms. Exhale gently engage the low belly by pulling the belly button up and back, cinching in around the waist. You will feel the low belly lift off the thighs just slightly.

Maintaining this low belly contraction, try to tilt the pelvis forward to tilt the sit bones up towards the ceiling. Only begin to straighten the knees if you can maintain this tilt of the pelvis, and only go as far as you can comfortably. Focus on your breathing, taking long slow deep inhales, and long slow exhales. Relax the shoulders, face, and jaw. Options of arm variations can also be taken.

In running, it is actually beneficial to have slightly ‘tight’ hamstrings. If you had long, lengthened hamstrings, it would be more difficult to have appropriate elastic recoil to quickly get your foot off the ground when running. So, if you are a runner… when you go into pashimotanasana or uttanasana, don’t get all worked up if your hands are nowhere near your feet. Simply bend your knees and enjoy the stretch!

8.) Low Cobra

This is a chest opener and passive hip flexor stretch.

Begin on your stomach, inhale, and place your hands close to your body under your shoulders. Exhale cinch around the waist to engage the low abdominals. You should feel your pubic bone gently press into the floor at the same time the low back and sacrum should lengthen.

Maintaining this subtle engagement of the low belly and tilt of the pelvis into the floor, inhale push through your hands lifting the shoulders and chest up off the floor, gently pushing through the tops of the feet on the floor. Lift the chest as far as is is comfortable, be sure to not clinch the glutes as you lift. Slowly lower the chest on the exhale. Repeat for 3 breath cycles.

9.) Twisted Chair Pose

This not only strengthens your glutes, quads, and core, but is also a great rotation mobilization for your thoracic spine.

Begin in Tadasana, mountain pose. Bring big toes to touch with heels slightly apart, reach arms up overhead. Sit your hips back bringing weight into the heels and keeping knees over the ankles, knit the low ribs in and lengthen the tailbone to the floor. Bring hands down to heart center, inhale, then exhale twisting to the right bringing the left elbow outside of the right knee. Lengthen through the top of the head as you inhale, exhale and twist a tiny bit further by pushing your elbow into your knee and your knee into your elbow. Stay for 5 breaths on each side.

4 Strength-Focused Yoga Poses

Stretched out by now? Let’s shift our focus to our 4 favorite yoga poses for strengthening muscles to help you run fast and with proper form…

1.) Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III)

Ever heard of the “chi pose” in the running world? Warrior III will help strengthen the glutes and spinal stabilization muscles to help you attain that ideal position when striking the ground during your stride. The more stability you can achieve with this difficult pose, the better!
2.) Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana)

This is a great yoga pose to build gluteus medius strength, improve balance and proprioception, as well as increase core stabilization.

Start in a warrior II position with the front foot pointing toward the top edge of your mat. Arms are reaching in opposite directions, bottom ribs knit in and low belly is engaged. Slowly bend through the front knee as you shift your weight forward bringing the front hand to the mat and the back leg lifted so it is up in line with your hips. Open the chest and the pelvis so hips and shoulders are stacked on top of each other. Eyes can look straight ahead or up at top hand. Modify with block as shown, or lift bottom hand off mat for more of a challenge.

3.) Tree Pose (Vrkasana)

Looks easy, right? Try it… it is more challenging than it looks. This pose is great for strengthening the intrinsic muscles of your foot and toes. To make it even more challenging, try moving from a hard/smooth surface to a carpet, thick yoga mat, or thin pillow!
4.) Side Plank

This improves shoulder stability, and strengthens your gluteus medius, obliques, and transverse abdominals.

Start on your side with your hand under your shoulder or just slightly in front. Stack your hips and feet, inhale push through your hand, engage the low abdominals, and lift the hips. Top hand can reach up to the ceiling and eyes can look down at the hand on the floor or up to the top hand. Push through the hand on the floor to engage around the shoulder joint. Keep the hips lifted to maintain a straight plumb line through the spine to the feet. Modify with bottom knee bent or top foot on floor as shown.


The balance of strength and flexibility is one we should always strive for. To schedule with one of our doctors of physical therapy who specializes in the treatment of runners or yogis, request a session today.

About the Author

Kirsten Kupras is a physical therapist and certified yoga instructor with MovementX in Portland, OR. Having grown up as an athlete herself, Kirsten Kupras is passionate about sports and helping her patients recover from injuries and optimize their performance. She is trained in women’s health and pelvic floor treatments. Kirsten Kupras also enjoys running with her dog (Dozer), yoga, cycling, cooking, and traveling the world.

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