When most runners think of yoga, they tend to imagine an active practice: bend yourself into upward-facing dog, arch into downward-facing dog, and so on. These better-known types of yoga – including flow, power and hot varieties – build strength, balance and range of motion in a way running does not. The classes appeal to runners because you feel like you’re working out.
(Related: A runner's guide to yoga classes)
Yin yoga, on the other hand, involves holding gentle poses for up to 10 minutes. Remaining still for such a long time is hard – especially for runners – but relaxing into these poses promotes joint mobility and prevents degeneration. Plus, the inward focus developed through yin yoga can help you better tolerate discomfort and keep calm in the face of adversity – skills that will carry over into your running.
To practise, come into a pose and go to the ‘first point of resistance’, where you feel a mild stretch in the areas the pose targets. Then, stay there: as your muscles relax, the stress will transfer to your denser connective tissues.
(Related: 8 reasons runners should do yoga)
Start by holding each pose for three minutes; as you gain experience, add time. In between, rest on your stomach or back, noting the effects of the previous pose.
Want to see the moves in action? Watch the video here.
1/ Twisted deer
How: Sit with your feet on the floor, mat-width apart. Drop your knees to one side to create a pinwheel shape with your legs. Walk your hands away from your body and drop to your forearms. Hold, then repeat on the other side.
Why: This pose internally and externally rotates the legs, which is a complementary action to the constant hip flexion and extension that takes place while running. This pose also gently stretches the quadratus lumborum, a spine and hip stabiliser located in the lower part of the back.
2/ Inside dragon
How: Step your left foot forward, slightly wider than your hips, planting your hands or forearms inside your left leg on the floor. Hold, then repeat on the other side.
Why: This pose targets the hip flexor of the back leg. Running can shorten your hip flexors, which then pull on other areas of the body, creating imbalance. You’ll also feel this pose in your front leg’s inner thigh and groin, areas that are vital for your knees’ stability.
How: Place your elbows under your shoulders with legs relaxed. Keep your head in a neutral position, let it fall forward or rest it on a block.
Why: Running, poor posture and ageing can flatten the spine’s natural curvature. Sphinx pose causes a gentle compression to help maintain spinal health and integrity.
4/ Sleeping swan
How: Take your left knee forward, externally rotating your thigh. You may place a block or blanket under your thigh (near your knee). Keep your left shin as parallel to the front of the mat as is comfortable. Fold forward to the degree you safely can, avoiding sensation in the knee. Repeat on the other side.
Why: You’ll release two tight areas (your outer hip on the forward leg and the hip flexor of the back leg) and promote proper hip function.
5/ Cat tail
How: Lie on your left side, supporting your head in your hand. Draw up your right knee to rest on the ground and reach your right hand to hold your left foot. Stay on your side or roll back to achieve a slight twist in your spine. Hold, then repeat on the other side.
Why: Running shortens the quadriceps. They benefit from a release in this pose.