7 Benefits of Yoga for Runners

July 11, 2023

Faye Johnson
Group of women practicing yoga in a yoga class

In the world of running, there are often ideas floating around that might not be entirely accurate. One prevailing misconception is that running alone is sufficient for overall fitness and well-being.

However, for runners seeking to enhance their performance and foster a holistic approach to health, integrating yoga into their routine can be a game-changer.

You might wonder, 'Is yoga good for runners?' Spoiler alert: it absolutely is, and here's why!

Runners of all levels can benefit from incorporating yoga into their regular cross training plan, you can improve your running, aid your recovery, prevent injury, and support your overall health.

Yoga can improve your cholesterol and blood sugar levels by improving metabolism and can lower blood pressure by improving artery relaxation and efficiency of the heart.

Here are 7 ways in which adding yoga into your routine can significantly enhance your running experience:

1. Improved Flexibility

Yoga can appear quite serene, perhaps “not hard enough” or give you the idea that it “won’t work me hard enough”, but in yoga, you engage lots of underutilized muscles, stabilizing muscles that often get neglected, especially with a sport like running.

Take a simple balance pose, like Warrior One or Triangle pose, and you might feel your feet having to work harder than usual to keep you grounded. This then means that your ankle muscles are engaged, calf muscles are stabilizing along with your hamstring, glutes, and quads. Oh, and you’re engaging your core muscles, back, and shoulder muscles too. It is a chain reaction throughout the muscles to ensure that you can hold the pose effectively and not fall over!

This is all very useful to us as runners as it aids in better balance and co-ordination (any of you trail and fell runners out there – this is golden!). By doing yoga stretches, you ensure that these often-neglected muscles are actively involved, enhancing your overall running performance.

2. Strength Building

When you engage in regular yoga practice, it challenges various muscle groups with its diverse poses, fostering a balanced and resilient foundation of strength personalized to your body.

Unlike traditional strength training, which often isolates specific muscles, yoga promotes a synergy of movement that enhances your overall muscular endurance, stability, and coordination. This integrated approach not only contributes to your physical benefits but also offers a unique form of strength adaptable to diverse activities, including running.

By incorporating yoga into your routine, you unlock a pathway to improved strength that goes beyond traditional methods, enriching your overall fitness experience.

3. Enhanced Posture

How often are you told to “run with good form” or “keep good running posture”? Posture is not only important in day-to-day life, but also in our running. It aids in the efficiency of our running, our breathing, and the utilisation of our arm drive.

Maintaining good posture is crucial not only in daily life but also in running, influencing efficiency, breathing, and arm drive. Yoga, renowned for developing core strength, focuses on engaging abdominals, back, and pelvic muscles, essential for runners. Strengthening your core is particularly vital during the later stages of training runs or races when fatigue sets in.

Yoga helps you sustain an upright posture even amidst exhaustion, minimizing the risk of injuries by enhancing your overall running form. Prioritize these aspects through yoga to bolster your core and improve your running efficiency. Prioritising these aspects through yoga not only bolsters your core but also serves as a valuable tool to improve your running form.

A group of runners practice yoga classes together.

4. Balanced Breathing

Yoga brings about benefits to our breathing awareness, control, and aerobic capacity, emphasizing the importance of conscious breathing. In yoga, the breath guides movements and flows, proving invaluable for holding poses and tapping into muscular strength and endurance.

It teaches you to breathe mindfully through discomfort, enabling better control and the ability to push yourself harder—a crucial skill for running!

When choosing a type of yoga, factors like experience and desired intensity come into play. However, trying various styles is a great way to discover which benefits you and brings you enjoyment.

5. Injury Prevention

Yoga encourages flexibility in the hamstrings and hip flexors, helping prevent injuries by lengthening your running stride. Embracing the benefits of yoga for runners enhances your ability to generate more power through the running cycle with these efficient mechanics, crucial for maximum muscle engagement. This translates to covering more ground in less time, potentially running faster. Running efficiency, a big key to success, is especially vital over longer distances and more challenging terrain.

As a regular runner, you probably feel some tightness in your hips, hamstrings, quads, and calves from time to time, particularly if you have completed a hard training run or a race.

The poses in yoga, such as Downward Dog and Warrior, help to develop your range of movement, especially in the hip complex, preventing injuries. This then means that you can move more freely, and as a result, keep the many muscles that attach and link into your pelvis able to work more efficiently without restriction or discomfort. This is a win-win for your running!

6. Reduced Stress

In the demanding world of running, stress can be a significant hurdle to optimal performance. Recognizing the importance of stress management, incorporating consistent yoga practice into your training routine becomes a valuable strategy.

Through practices like deep breathing and meditation, yoga aids in calming the mind, lowering cortisol levels, and promoting relaxation responses. This not only fosters mental resilience but also contributes to improved focus, offering runners a more enjoyable and sustainable experience on their running journey.

7. Better and Quick Recovery

Incorporating yoga into your post-run routine is a game-changer for enhanced recovery. Adding yoga to your regimen brings forth a multitude of benefits, as it helps alleviate muscle tension and soreness through gentle stretches and relaxation techniques.

Yoga's positive impact on your recovery is further underscored by its ability to enhance blood circulation, facilitating the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your fatigued muscles. This dual action not only expedites the healing process but also reduces inflammation, minimizing your risk of overuse injuries.

By dedicating time to post-run yoga sessions, you unlock the rejuvenating benefits for both your body and mind, creating a harmonious balance essential for sustained peak performance. Yoga helps you optimize your recovery, providing a holistic approach that extends beyond physical restoration, promoting mental well-being as well.


When it comes to choosing the best type of yoga for runners, one style stands out: Vinyasa yoga. This dynamic practice synchronizes movement with breath, making it an ideal match for the rhythm of running.

Vinyasa's flowing sequences help to enhance flexibility, strengthen key muscle groups, and improve overall endurance – all crucial aspects for runners aiming to excel on the track or trail. Additionally, the emphasis on controlled breathing in Vinyasa aligns with the breath-focused techniques used in running, facilitating better lung capacity and stamina.

While other yoga styles offer their own benefits, Vinyasa's blend of movement, breath, and mindfulness makes it a top choice for runners seeking to optimise their performance and reduce the risk of injuries.


Well, here are some key yoga poses to try and include, low lunge, tree, child's pose and butterfly!


Best yoga poses for runners | Low lunge

This is an excellent hip opener of an exercise; the low lunge stretches the hip flexor complex and quadriceps. Many runners suffer from tight hips, which can lead to under active gluteal muscles, resulting in potential knee and/or low back problems.

When starting this exercise, it can be performed with the front toe up against a wall to help promote balance and stabilisation.

How it’s done:

  • From a standing position, take one step forward while keeping the second leg in place.
  • Bend the knee of the front leg at a 90-degree angle.
  • Lower your back leg to the floor or hold it straight. Make sure to keep your back straight, your tailbone tucked under and your hips facing forward.
  • Reach your arms straight above your head. If you have problems keeping your balance, try focusing on a point in front of you and breathe calmly.


Downward dog pose

Within this pose you open up and stretch your arms, back and legs. This pose allows you to open up your calves and hamstrings and stretch your feet and achilles tendon while pushing your heel towards the ground, making it the perfect yoga pose for runners. 

In addition to being extremely regenerative, this pose improves circulation throughout the body as the head is below the heart.

How is it done:

  • In this pose, it is important to avoid over-stretching your legs. Keep your back straight and make sure you lift your sit bones high.
  • You can leave your knees slightly bent if you like. If you want to stretch your calf and hamstring muscles, bend one knee and then the other.
  • Your arms should always remain straight with your biceps facing up.


Triangle pose

This pose stretches the hips, groins, hamstrings, the muscles surrounding the knee, calves, ankle joints, shoulders, chest, and spine. It also strengthens the abdominal muscles, obliques, back, legs, knees, and ankles. A real all-rounder!

This pose includes a light spine strengthening twist as well. This pose is great for runners because it helps to open the groins and hamstrings and improves balance by strengthening and stretching the ankles.

How is it done:

  • Stand with legs straight, feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
  • Raise arms parallel to the floor at shoulder height.
  • Stretch body to one side, maintaining a straight back and forward-facing hips.
  • Reach arm down while keeping weight evenly distributed on both legs.
  • Bend down with back straight, aiming for hand to touch the floor or placing it on the shin.
  • Ensure back foot remains on the floor.
  • Stack shoulders on top of each other, maintaining a straight line.
  • Look up at the ceiling while in the pose.


Tree pose

This pose is great for strengthening the calves, ankles, thighs, and the spine, while simultaneously stretching the shoulders, groin, chest, and inner thighs, and opening the hips. Another benefit of the tree pose is that it can also reduce flat feet and relieve sciatic pain.

How is it done:

  • Stand upright, maintaining a straight back and active legs.
  • Bring one foot up the inside of the other leg, placing it above the knee (avoiding the knee itself).
  • Ensure the knee of the bent leg points to the side, stretching the lumbar muscles.
  • Extend both arms above your head.
  • Maintain balance by focusing on a point in front of you.


Childs pose

This pose is meant to be a comforting, gentle stretch, and resting pose. With the child’s pose you stretch your hips, knees, thighs, low back, and ankles. It also releases back and neck strain and helps blood flow to the brain and spine.

For runners, the child’s pose aids in keeping the ankles flexible and supple, while stretching the tops of the shins and the feet. This pose is great to take at any time throughout the practice if you need a break.

How is it done:

  • Kneel on the floor with knees hip-width apart and big toes touching or pointing behind you.
  • Bend over, laying your torso down between your thighs.
  • Sit back on your heels, resting your forehead on the mat.
  • For an increased back stretch, actively stretch your arms forward and push your tailbone back.
  • Alternatively, place your arms at the side of your body to give your shoulders a rest.


Butterfly pose

Being a great stretch and yoga pose for runners, the cobbler’s pose opens the inner thighs, knees, and groin, and even boosts mobility in the hips while releasing tension and strengthening the muscles of your back.

How is it done:

  • Sit with a straight spine.
  • Bend knees out to the side, bringing the soles of your feet together.
  • Keep your back as straight as possible.
  • Note that your knees may sit high, which is okay, especially for runners with tight muscles around the groin/hips.

Gradually work on this exercise to improve flexibility. Consistent practice will lead to increased flexibility over time.


Yoga dates back about 2,000 years ago. The Indian sage Patanjali is believed to have collated the practice of yoga into the Yoga Sutra. The true meaning of Yoga is the union of body, mind, soul, and spirit. According to Yoga, we suffer because of the illusion of separation between our individual consciousness from Universal Consciousness or Brahman. This is a metaphysical concept of Hinduism referring to the ultimate unchanging reality, that is uncreated, eternal, infinite, transcendent, the cause, the foundation, the source and the goal of all existence. The Yoga Sutras are a practical to guide your spiritual journey of remembering that union.

Yoga combines physical poses, breathing techniques, and meditation, however improved fitness was not originally a primary goal—mental focus was. It wasn’t until the practice started to gain popularity in the Western world in the 1920s and 1930s that better physical fitness benefits became a priority.

There are many types of yoga. Some of the most popular are:

Ashtanga yoga: Applies six established sequences of postures that rapidly link every movement to breath.

Bikram (or “hot”) yoga: Rooms are heated to nearly 40 degrees Celsius and 40 percent humidity. It consists of 26 poses and a sequence of two breathing exercises.

Hatha yoga: Any yoga practice that teaches physical poses.

Power yoga: A more athletic type of yoga that is based on ashtanga yoga.

Benefits of Regular Yoga Practice (Backed by Science)

Flexibility naturally diminishes with age, but a study conducted in 2019 discovered that practicing yoga not only slowed down the decline but also enhanced flexibility in older adults (source).

Meditation, breath work, and auditory rituals, like chanting and sound baths, have all also been shown to significantly lessen tension and relieve stress (source).

Research on air force personnel revealed that yoga proves to be an effective practice for building strength across various age groups of healthy participants (source).

Research indicates that yoga enhances both balance and overall performance in athletes (source).

The emphasis of yoga on mobility and flexibility can play a role in enhancing alignment by releasing frequently tight muscles, like the hamstrings, and improving the spine's range of motion (source).

According to Mayo Clinic, "Yoga therapy helps people recover from injuries, surgeries, and chronic conditions. It reduces symptoms and boosts overall health and vitality.

A review from 2020 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine discovered that yoga can effectively alleviate symptoms of depression. Additionally, a separate study in the same year found that yoga can also reduce symptoms of anxiety.


So, what have we learned? Yoga is more than a path to inner peace; it's a powerhouse workout that can significantly boost your running performance. Adding yoga into your routine enhances balance, muscular strength, flexibility, and breath control, while also addressing muscle imbalances and improving posture.

Despite the seeming tranquility of the practice, yoga demands quite a lot from our bodies. Poses like the Warrior One, Triangle Pose, Downward Dog, Tree, Child's Pose, and Butterfly, among others, not only enhance our physical capabilities but also our mental resilience. These poses encourage us to embrace discomfort, focus our mind, and develop patience — all crucial elements of long-distance running and dealing with challenging terrains.

Remember, the key to successfully integrating yoga into your routine is patience and consistency. It might take time to notice improvements, but when you do, they'll be worth the wait. So lace up your running shoes, roll out your yoga mat, and get ready to take your running to a whole new level as you enjoy these health benefits.



Absolutely! Yoga's flexibility, strength, and mindfulness benefits can enhance your running game, making you a more balanced and efficient runner. Namaste to better runs


For optimal results, aim for 2-3 yoga sessions per week. Strike a balance between recovery and training to maximise the benefits for your running journey.


While both have merits, yoga often takes the lead for runners. Its focus on flexibility, breath, and mindfulness align well with running's demands, reducing injury risks and improving performance.


Absolutely! Yoga's benefits, such as improved flexibility, strength, and focus, can make running feel smoother and more enjoyable. It's like giving your running shoes a supportive boost!

Author: Faye Johnson - Level 4 PT, UKA Running Coach, and coach at Maximum Mileage Coaching!

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