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Wall yoga for runners: do it in your pajamas

Try these simple stretches to gain mobility and ease tight muscles

legs up the wall

Wall yoga is perfect for those times when you need to loosen up tight or achy muscles, but don’t have the motivation to leave the house (or the floor). Having even a very basic yoga practice can be complementary to your running program, and will help alleviate muscle pain and improve mobility–and the wall can be the ideal free tool.

While you still get the benefit of a deep stretch, the wall does most of the work for you. Here are three stretches you can take to the wall this evening, and modifications to help you adjust each pose to work for your body.

Legs up the wall

Legs up the wall is the go-to pose for athletes. This inverted pose helps with your overall recovery by increasing blood circulation and draining any fluids that are pooling in your legs, while also stretching your hamstrings and giving lower-body relief.

While you’re giving that lower body both some care and increasing mobility, you’ll also be soothing your mind–studies show that the legs-up-the-wall pose has a calming effect on the central and peripheral nervous systems.

How to do it

Sit with your right side against the wall, with bent knees and your feet drawn in toward your hips. Swing your legs up against the wall as you turn to lie flat on your back.

Place your hips against the wall or slightly away from it, and place your arms in any comfortable position–stay here, adjusting as needed, for up to 20 minutes.

Modifications: place a pillow or rolled-up blanket beneath your hips if that feels more accessible, feel free to keep knees bent and feet planted, or straighten one leg at a time.

After you’ve spent some time in each pose, release slowly by gently pushing yourself away from the wall. Relax on your back for a few moments before hugging your knees into your chest and rolling onto your side, and taking your time to eventually find your way upright.

Wall butterfly

Butterfly pose targets the low back, hip, and thigh muscles, and helps reduce soreness, encourage flexibility, and increase range of motion.

How to do it

If you aren’t already in legs-up-the-wall-pose, find your way back there, bringing hips close to the wall and sending legs upwards.

Bring the soles of your feet together, creating a diamond or butterfly shape. Bend your knees and allow your feet to come toward your hips. Try holding for five minutes, but feel free to stay in longer if you’d like.

Modifications: to deepen the stretch, gently press your hands into your thighs.

Figure four stretch

Figure four stretch, sometimes called ‘thread-the-needle’ stretch, targets two notoriously tight areas for runners–glutes and hips. The stretch you feel very deep in your glutes is a muscle called the piriformis, which runs from the base of the spine to the top of the femur and helps with hip rotation and stability.

How to do it

Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Bend your right knee and place your outer ankle at the bottom of your left thigh, just above the left knee. Slowly bend your left knee and press your foot into the wall, and then lower your left foot until your shin is parallel to the floor (or however close to parallel you need to bring your foot to feel a stretch).

You’ll feel a stretch in your right hip and thigh. Hold this position for five minutes, and repeat on the opposite side.

Modifications: adjust the placement of your foot against the wall, bringing your heel toward your hips to deepen the stretch.

Yoga studios can be intimidating, particularly for those new or returning to yoga. I’ve taught yoga for years and I still find it disconcerting to practice in a new place.

seated yoga pose
Photo: Karen Milne

I love wall yoga, because I can move gently through a relaxing routine in my pajamas, listen to my own tunes or practice in silence, and feel calm and re-energized post-session. Add some regular yoga breaks to your running training, and you’ll start to notice both physical and mental benefits.

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