You’ve just finished an intense long run or race. Your post-run protein smoothie was gone ten minutes ago—what else can you do to ensure you recover as fast as possible? Yoga is a great way to recharge, but the thoughts of heading out to that heated vinyasa class might not be particularly appealing when you don’t really want to move. Never fear—here is a sequence of five restorative yoga poses that target your legs, and best of all, you don’t even have to stand up. Read on for an efficient, relaxing post-run routine that will have you sleeping like a baby by the end even if you haven’t raced today.
1. Wide-legged seated forward fold / Upavistha Konasana.
In a seated position, use your hands to carefully pick up one knee from underneath and send your leg out to the side. Repeat on second side. Once in the general wide-legged position, press into your palms behind you to gently pick up your body and send your legs a little wider. Remember that you should not be stretching to max capacity here; just go until you feel a good overall leg stretch. Keep feet a little flexed. Inhale tall; exhale and keep your spine long as you walk your palms away from you. You might find that you get a deeper stretch just by pausing on your forearms for a more extended period of time, perhaps 1-2 min. Otherwise, on your next exhale, gently round your upper body into the pose. You might also rest your forehead on a cushion or yoga block.
2. Bound Angle Pose / Baddha Konasana.
From your upavistha konasana, gently pick up one knee from the inside edge to bend your knee and bring your foot towards the center of your mat. Repeat on second side to connect soles of feet. Press your palms behind you to pick up your body, bringing body as close to your feet as is comfortable. Especially press pinky-side edges of feet together. Follow the same breathing pattern as our first pose; on the first inhale and exhale, get taller and fold keeping length through your spine. On your subsequent exhale, round into the forward fold. This pose is extremely restorative with a yoga block under the forehead. Remember that if a yoga block doesn’t offer enough height, you can stack up a bunch of pillows to rest your forehead comfortably.
3. Pigeon Pose / Eka Pada Rajakapotasana.
From baddha konasana, cross your feet at the ankles and press palms in front of you to come onto hands and knees. From hands and knees, tuck toes under and send hips up and back to transition into downdog. From downdog, inhale to send one leg high into the sky; exhale to plant this foot outside its corresponding front palm. Release your back knee and the top of your back foot to the mat.
You should now be in a low lunge with both palms on the inside edge of your front leg. Press your forearm into shin and shin into forearm gently. (Be sure that your back leg is far enough back—you should not be directly on top of your kneecap.) Pause for a few breaths here. Then, continue to stay here, or if comfortable, drop to your forearms (or as an intermediate spot, you can always rest your closer forearm on a block). Pause for a few more breaths here, continuing to press arm into leg, leg into arm.
Now, pick up your palm/forearm closer to your leg or remove your block to “heel-toe” your front foot across the front of your mat. The more parallel your leg is to the front of your mat, the deeper your stretch will be. You can angle your knee more forward if needed. Important: go with whatever angle of the front leg allows you to keep your hips square to the mat (i.e. avoid rolling to your outer hip, but press down evenly into both). Inhale tall, then exhale to walk your palms out and let forehead rest towards or on the mat. Pause for 1-2 min. This pose alleviates IT band tightness and is especially great to incorporate into your routine after running track or hill workouts.
4. Yin Yoga Ankle Stretch.
After completing pigeon on your second side, do roll your weight to your outer hip to swivel your back leg up to the front of the mat. Cross feet at ankles to come back to hands and knees. Bring heels and knees together to line up lower legs; on an exhale, walk hands back to sit onto your heels. Bring palms behind you to lift knees off the mat, shifting weight to your feet. Keep chest lifted—you can think of this as a slight backbend. This is a great stretch for the front of your shins, which normally don’t get a lot of attention. Pause here, continuing to breathe for 1-2min.
5. Legs up the Wall / Viparita Karani.
Sit sideways next to a wall—this allows you to get your body close to the wall. Swivel legs up the wall as you let upper body come to rest on the floor. If your body is not quite against the wall, scoot one side then other side of your bum until you’re closer. Tuck shoulder blades gently under your back, letting palms rest up towards the sky. Relax here 3-7 min.
Even a short period of time dedicated to yoga can go a long way towards speeding your recovery from your last big track workout or road race. The above can be completed in 15 minutes, but if you have even less time, I recommend just going with pigeon pose (also known as the "pose which can singlehandedly cure your IT band woes"). Of course, if you do have a little extra time, let yourself pause in the poses that feel best or most productive at that particular moment. Let yoga complement your running and find your way back to the starting line with fresh legs in no time at all.
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