Yoga for Trail Runners and Hikers

Yoga for Trail Runners and Hikers

📅July 15th, 2015, 17:00

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir

We love playing on Central Oregon trails, and find ourselves out exploring even more in the summer when the snow is gone and the sunshine is abundant. With the USA Mountain Running Championships just around the corner, and many weeks of snow free exploration ahead, we are focused on strength, flexibility, and skills that we need for a full summer of injury free trail time.

Yoga and trail running and/or hiking are the perfect combination, as yoga helps build focus, balance, and flexibility – the three most important things needed when out on the trails. Use the following yoga for trail running and hiking exercises as part of your training plan to help prepare your body for the added demands you’ll find on the trails.


Trail exploration is more rugged than other activities you’ll find yourself attempting throughout the year. One second of lost focus on the trails can cost a lot – and can definitely lead to injury!

Almost every pose in yoga helps increase focus and awareness through breath work and intentional movement. To bring this awareness to the trails, start off each yoga practice in a comfortable seated position – or lying down if that works better for you. Close your eyes and focus on breath. As you breath, count your inhales and exhales so that they are the same length – inhale for a 4 count, hold breath for a moment, and then exhale for a 4 count. Repeat this practice and notice as you focus on the simplicity of the breath that your mind clears and you become more aware.

Obviously, you’re not going to lay down in the middle of the trail and close your eyes (well, unless you’re really tired…), but you’ll notice as you practice this breath work that you are able to integrate the calming, focus, and awareness during any activity – from stressful moments at work to tricky sections of trail!


Balance is the key to getting yourself across cold mountain stream crossings without being forced to slosh onward during your adventure with the wet socks and shoes/boots you are guaranteed to have after losing balance and falling in – and also what keeps you upright when the trail gets rocky.

Many traditional yoga postures are focused on building stabilizer muscles that help improve balance, but here are two of our favorite poses that you can practice to keep your feet dry and yourself upright on the trail:

Warrior 3:



For Warrior III, one leg extends back as the torso leans forward. If your hamstrings are tight, which will be the case for most of us, bend the standing leg until you can square the hip of your extended leg off to the ground as you can see above. If balance is a challenge, this pose can be done next to the wall or with the toe of the back leg just above the ground to start. As you advance, your arms can extend forward.

Start by holding the pose for 3-5 breaths on each side and increase as you build strength and balance.


Eagle Pose:



Bend your knees, sink your hips, and cross one leg over the other as if you are sitting in a chair. The toe of the top leg may touch the floor, and you may also do this pose close to a wall as you increase your balance. Once you are balanced, extend your arms forward and then cross one arm under the other. To help with balance here, find a point that’s not moving on the floor a few feet in front of you to focus your gaze.

Start by holding the pose for 3-5 breaths on each side and increase as you build strength and balance.



Maintaining just the right amount of flexibility is important as trails often present unexpected obstacles we must conquer. To be sure you’re ready to clear downed trees and make it through rugged river crossings, try these stretches to keep your lower body limber for whatever you find while exploring!

Single Pigeon:


Bring one leg under your body with you knee next to your wrist. For most athletes, the foot of the bent leg will be under the opposite hip flexor, but the more flexible your hips are, the closer the shin can come to parallel (bring foot closer to opposite wrist). Make sure the foot behind is flat, with the top of the foot pressing lightly in to the ground, and if the hip of the bent knee is extra tight, you can place a block or another prop under the hip for extra support. For this variation, Renee’s torso is lifted, but you can also walk your forearms forward and let your torso drape forward as you gain more flexibility.

Hold for 8 breaths on each side and repeat each side 2 times.

Seated Twist:


Have a seat on the floor with one leg extended and step the opposite foot over the extended leg. If you can not keep the sit bone of the crossed leg on the floor once you step over, grab a block or blanket to lift your hips off the ground slightly. Start by extending the arm opposite your crossed foot and twisting to place your arm to the outside of the bent knee. Hold this for a few breaths and then bring the same arm to the inside of the bent leg for the counter twist. The variation pictured above is the counter twist, so be sure to twist with the opposite arm outside first.

Hold for 8 breaths on each side and repeat each side 2 times.


Try these poses on your own, or come join us for one of our upcoming Recharge Yoga classes to learn more about how to use yoga to help build focus, balance, and flexibility for the trails – or whatever sport you love the most!