Running offers many benefits. Physically, it can help you lose weight and build strength in your lower body. Research also reveals that runners tend to live longer than non-runners by about three years. Engaging in yoga-based hip stretching is a good complement to a regular running routine.Benefits of Stretching the Hips Before and After Running
Some of the most common running injuries involve the lower leg. More specifically, they are injuries to the knee, ankle, and foot. Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and runner’s knee all fall into this category. So, it’s only natural to create fitness routines directed toward strengthening these key areas. Adding stretching exercises that focus on the muscles in the hip area provides advantages as well.Stretching Relaxes Tight Hip Flexor Muscles
The term ‘hip flexor’ refers to a group of muscles in the upper thigh and groin. These muscles make it possible to raise and lower your right and left leg during your run. They also enable you to bend and swivel at the hips, such as when lacing or unlacing your shoes.
If you spend a lot of time on the road or trails without adequately stretching your hip flexors, they can tighten up. This can cause pain or discomfort when you run. If the hip flexor muscles become too tight, they can stretch or tear. This type of injury can keep you from the sport you love.
Regular stretching helps relax the muscles in the hip area. Stretch before you run and you may notice less of a pull in the hip. This helps you run further, longer, and with less pain. Stretch after your run and it can ease soreness associated with tight hips.Stretching Helps Open the Hip Joint
Stretching is also a great hip opener. When your hip flexor muscles are tight, your hip joint doesn’t work as effectively as it should. This equates to shorter strides and can lead to imbalance or injury.
Lengthy runs can also tighten and shorten the hip muscles. Shorter hip muscles keep the joint from opening fully when you run. It’s as if a rubber band is wrapped around your hip area, restricting your movement. Stretching helps prevent this from occurring.
When you stretch your hip muscles often, it elongates them. This allows for maximum range of motion and flexibility in the hip. It also helps support a healthier gait.
If you change the way you run because of a closed hip joint, it can create even more problems. Your knee and lower leg fall out of alignment, increasing your risk of injury and pain. Over enough time, it can even lead to issues in the upper body.Stretching with Yoga Builds Muscle
One of the benefits of holding yoga poses for extended periods of time is that it increases muscle mass. So, doing yoga-based hip stretches also helps build muscle. This muscle serves to add more power to your runs.
Research also indicates that gaining muscle mass provides performance benefits for endurance runners. Strength training helps boost sprint speed. It also improves running times and has positive effects on energy.
What are the best stretches for runners who want to loosen up their hips? Here are five to consider.#1: Easy Pose
This yoga stretch is perfect for beginners because it isn’t overly complicated. To do the easy pose, sit on the floor with your legs crossed so each foot sits below the other leg’s knee. When you look down, your legs should form a triangle, each thigh representing one side and your shins representing the third.
Place your hands in your lap with the palms facing the ceiling. Hold the pose as long as you’d like while continuing to inhale and exhale. Halfway through, switch your legs around so each foot takes turn resting under the other leg’s shin. This gives the muscle on each hip the opportunity to stretch and relax.#2: Fire Log Pose
This hip stretch is also good for runners who experience sciatica, or pain that runs from the lower back and down the length of their left or right leg. To perform this stretch, sit on the floor with your knees bent. Roll your shoulders back and down before sliding your right foot under your left leg so it is below the left knee.
Keep your torso long and back straight and exhale as you bend forward at the hips. Rest your forearms on your left leg. Continue to breathe in and out. With each exhale, try to bend forward more. This helps better stretch your hips. Bend far enough forward and you may also feel stretching in your glute muscles (the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus). Hold this stretch for 30 to 60 seconds before returning to the start position and switching your legs so your left foot sits under your right leg.#3: Bound Angle Pose
If your goal is to open your hips, this stretch delivers. Begin by sitting on the floor, your legs extended in front of you. While exhaling, bend your knees and pull your feet as close to your groin as you can. The soles of your feet should be pressed together. Let your hips and leg muscles relax while letting your knees drop toward the floor.
If you can’t get your left or right knee to touch the ground, that’s okay. Just let them get as close as they can without forcing them. Hold this position up to five minutes before inhaling as you lift your knees back up. Straighten your left and right leg again to return to the starting position.#4: Downward Dog with Crossed Legs
The downward dog is good for stretching the hamstring muscle. Cross your legs while doing this yoga pose and it will stretch your hips too. To get into the downward dog position, get on the floor on your hands and knees. Your right knee should be directly below your right hip and the same for the left side. Exhale as you lift your knees off the floor, straightening your legs as your hips rise into the air. Keep your knees slightly bent to avoid creating knee pain.
Next, move your right foot on the other side of your left leg. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Return your right foot to the downward dog position before moving your left foot in front of your right leg. Hold this position another 30 to 60 seconds to elongate the hamstring and hip.#5: Lunge Pose
Also known as a runner’s lunge, this pose gives a good hip stretch. Start by getting in a plank position. Bring your right foot forward so it sits next to your right thumb. Your right knee should be between your arm and upper body. Consciously relax the muscle in your hips and back so both drop closer to the floor. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds while inhaling and exhaling.
Return to the plank position, then move your left foot forward so your left knee is between your upper arm and chest. Again, hold for 30 to 60 seconds to relax the muscle in the upper area of your left leg.
Stretching the hips via these yoga poses provides many benefits to runners. To learn more about yoga’s additional benefits, the ISSA offers Yoga Instructor Certification. This course also teaches proper form and how to design a safe and effective yoga routine. In it, you will learn how to stretch all the muscle groups in the body. This provides for a more comprehensive training routine.