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The movements inherent to yoga and trail running may seem wildly different, but they share one important trait: Both put you in the present moment. Lose your focus for an instant and you may wind up face-down on your mat or in the dirt. Of course, yoga can help you develop the focus you need to run well on trails. “Yoga improves muscle strength and range of motion, two attributes that are important to develop when we’re dancing over rocks and roots and ascending and descending off-road terrain,” says running coach Ian Torrence of Flagstaff, Arizona, a veteran of over 165 ultramarathons. Get started with these four poses: Practice Mountain Pose before or during runs for endurance and stability on the trails, and do the rest post-run as a cool down.
4 yoga poses to practice before trail running
Good for strengthening the lower body and core; relaxing the arms, chest, neck, and face.
Stand tall, knees over feet, hips over knees. Level your pelvis, lengthen your spine, and relax your neck, shoulders, and arms as you lightly engage your core and feel your chest expand with each breath. In Mountain Pose, find the balance between steadiness and ease.
Good for strengthening the feet, ankles, thighs, hips, and core muscles, all of which allow for controlled lateral movement on the trail.
Start in Mountain Pose and shift your weight to your right leg, then hinge from your right hip crease as you lift the left leg behind you. For more intensity, lift your arms along your sides or reach them overhead. Hold for 10 breaths, and repeat on the other side.
Good for improving your balance on uneven terrain—especially because your hands bisect your gaze, making focus an extra challenge.
Cross your right knee over your left as you sit back and down into a squat. Cross your elbows, too, right under left, and move the backs or the palms of your hands together. Hold the pose for 10 breaths, and repeat on the other side.
Half Kneeling, Half Squat
Good for your calves, shins, ankles, and feet, which get a real workout on uneven trails. This hybrid pose keeps your leg joints and muscles balanced and flexible.
With your right leg in a kneeling position, move your left leg into a squat. Start with your left toes in line with the right ankle, but slide them forward to lighten the stretch or backward to deepen it as suits you best. For more intensity, gently lean the weight of your torso on your left thigh. Hold for 10 to 15 breaths, and repeat on the other side.