Running is a coordinated sport that requires not just your legs but your entire body to work in sync. New runners discover this within weeks of starting their training, when they find their hip flexors and glutes too stiff to accommodate long spells of running. In fact, inflexible hips can be problematic for seasoned runners too – often leading to situations like runner’s knee, IT-band Syndrome and tightness in the lower back.
Tight hips are largely a result of inadequate strength workouts, poor running form, overuse of certain muscle groups and sitting for long periods at a stretch. The following yoga asanas are ideal for loosening your hip flexors and making the surrounding muscles stronger and more stable. And they’re quite simple to execute as well.
The surprisingly deep hip opener stretches the piriformis and gluteal muscles, as well as the outer legs and IT band. Additionally, the backs of the arms and rotator cuffs also get quite the stretch.
A classic restorative posture, Baddha Konasana, also known as the Bound Angle or Cobbler’s pose is a great way to passively release tension from the hips. It also stretches the inner legs and increases the hip mobility – an important benefit for runners.
Also known as Thread the Needle pose, this asana is a safe and effective way to open and stretch the hips, particularly the piriformis muscle. It also helps in releasing tension throughout the entire body, particularly in the knees and lower back, and adds to one’s mental ease and clarity.
The Warrior pose comes with several benefits: it stretches your hips, groins and shoulders and ppens your chest and lungs. It’s also an energy booster for tired limbs and helps to develop balance and stability. Virabhadrasana II is also good for abdominal muscles, and aids in improved circulation, respiration and digestion.
Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana
This pose is perfect for tight hips because it stretches the hip rotators (the buttocks area) and the hip flexors (the long muscles that run along the front of your thighs and pelvis). It also requires substantial external rotation in the front leg and internal rotation in the back leg. It leads to increased suppleness when practised consistently and also makes your movements while running and walking more flexible.
As with all workouts, exercise caution while executing all poses, even one that seem simple. Pay attention to how your body responds and stop immediately if you experience too much pain and discomfort. It helps to have a practicing yoga instructor take you through the more complex ones the first few times.
Main Image: Catherine Tingey