Downward Facing Dog With Calf Stretch (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
This stretch targets the backs of the legs, hips and lower back.
Place your feet hip-width distance apart and your hands shoulder-width distance apart. Lift your hips to make an inverted “V” shape, and gaze toward your thighs.
Take some time here to bicycle the knees back and forth, sway the hips and start to feel some soothing stretching sensations in the backs of the legs. Feel the stretch deeper in the calves by placing the left toes on the right heel and pressing that heel toward the floor. Hold here for a few breaths and switch sides.
Low Lunge With a Twist (Pavritta Anjaneasana)
From Downward Dog, step the left foot between your hands and drop the right knee. Get long in your upper body and begin to sink your hips down toward the floor. Think about your spine growing in both directions. Reach your arms above you, palms facing in, and let your shoulders fall down your back, spreading your collarbone.
To take this into a twist, which strengthens and stretches the spine, bring your palms together at your chest. Inhale to lengthen your spine even more and then twist toward the left. Your right elbow or triceps can rest on the left thigh or beyond. Stay here to deepen the twist from your waist, rolling your ribs and chest upward, for three to five breaths. Pull the left knee inward toward your midline while reaching your left hip behind you. Switch sides and repeat.
Hamstring Extension/Half Splits (Ardha Hanumanasana)
Unwind from the low-lunge twist and bring your hands to either side of the front leg. Bring your hips back toward your rear heel so your front leg can straighten. Lift the toes of your front foot and begin to stretch your chest toward your toes.
Blocks can be helpful under the hands in this pose to help create length in the spine while you deepen the forward bend. If you feel this stretch more behind the knee than in the meat of the hamstring muscles, increase the bend in your front knee. Hold for three to five breaths and switch legs to repeat on the other side.
If this pose is hard on your knees, lie down on your back with a strap around the extended leg to feel a good hamstring stretch.
Pigeon (Ardha Kapotanasana)
Transition back to Downward Dog and float the left leg up toward the ceiling. With an exhale, bring the leg in, bending the knee toward the nose and then out to meet the outside of the left wrist. Let the right leg settle down, so the top of the knee is square on the mat, the leg is directly behind the hip and the toes are pointing straight back. Settle in to square the hips and flex the left foot. If your hips are particularly tight, place a folded blanket or a block underneath your left hip for support. Elongate the spine and walk your hands in front of you so your upper body relaxes on or near the floor. Hold here for five to 10 breaths. If this hurts your knees, lie down on your back with your knees pulled into your chest. Place the left ankle on the right thigh. Grab the back of the right thigh with both hands and pull in toward your chest.; push the left knee away from your chest. Transition to the other side through Downward Dog to stretch and release the legs.
Seated Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
This pose also works the hips, but goes deeper into the back and shoulders for greater release.
Come to a comfortable seated position. Stretch out both legs in front of you and find evenness in your hips. Bring the left leg across the right so the left foot is on the floor and the knee is bent. Take the right heel to the outside of the left hip. If the right hip lifts from the floor, reverse that decision and stretch your right leg out on the floor, keeping it engaged and strong. Inhale and stretch your arms overhead, lengthening your spine. As you exhale begin to twist to the left, letting the arms fall comfortably. Allow your breath to deepen the twist, lengthening on the inhale, and continuing the twist on the exhale. Continue for five to 10 breaths and repeat on the other side.
Butterfly (Baddha Konasana)
From a seated position, bring the soles of your feet together and press the knees out to the sides. Wrap your hands around your ankles or feet. Sit tall and even on your hips. Inhale and lengthen your spine. Exhale and hinge from the hips, bringing your chest toward your toes. Continue to lengthen with your inhales and sink into the pose with your exhales. Hold for five to 10 breaths.
If your hips feel too tight to remain comfortably in this pose, you can elevate them by sitting on a folded blanket or a block. You can also place blocks under your knees for added support.
This pose adds focuses on core strengthening, which is always a good idea to support your athletic endeavors. Sit tall on your sit bones with the soles of your feet on the floor and knees bent. Bring your arms forward with palms facing in toward your knees. Inhale and lengthen your spine, lifting your chest. As you exhale, start to lean back. Stop when you feel your back begin to bend. You can leave your feet down or lift them to knee-height. Continue to lift your chest as you hold and breathe deeply for five to 10 breaths.
Incline Plank (Purvottanasana)
This pose is a good counter pose to boat pose, as it works on opening the whole front side of the body.
From boat pose, bring your hands behind your hips, shoulder-width apart, with your fingers pointing in the direction of your toes. Stretch out your legs and point your toes toward the floor. Inhale and lift your hips off the floor. Lift your chest. Push into your hands to bring the shoulders down your back. Keep stretching your toes to the floor while lifting the front of your body away from the floor. Hold and breathe for five to 10 breaths.
Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)
For the final pose, lie down on your back and bring your knees toward your shoulders. Grab the backs of your thighs and encourage your knees to come closer to your shoulders as you work to flatten your whole spine to the floor, including your tailbone. To deepen the stretch, grab your toes or the inside or outside edges of your feet and draw your feet toward your shoulders. If it feels good, rock side to side, giving your back a little massage. Breathe deeply and hold for as long as you feel comfortable. In this pose, you are using gravity to open your hips and groin. It might also feel good on your hamstrings if they are really tight.
Your muscles will thank you for incorporating this sequence into your running routine. Even if you don’t have time to perform all the poses, even just a few will release tightness and help prevent injury.