Whether you’re an avid marathon runner or someone who jogs 5k a few times a week, there is one thing we all have in common: tight hips.

It could take months or even years before you notice the long-term effects of running, but the odds are that sooner rather than later, all that running and little to no stretching will catch up with your body and bones. So why is yoga so important for runners?

Running and yoga go hand in hand. When you think about a high-intensity sport like running, the first thing that comes to mind (aside from the benefits) is the strain and long-term damage on tissue and bone that is essentially irreversible. When you include a complementary practice like yoga into your regular routine, you will not only continue to build strength and stability to help improve your running game, but also begin to stretch tight muscles and remove excess tension in the joints.

Beginning a yoga practice doesn’t even have to cut into your running time. Start with a practice that you know you can commit to and work your way up from there. Begin each session with a warm-up to get your muscles ready to stretch safely, and include some of these yoga postures to create happy hips for life!

Pigeon

Benefits: Targets the outer hip and surrounding area including the iliotibial (IT) band. Pigeon (also known as the king of hip openers) is a must have for active runners. Since it directly targets the large band of fascia running from the outside of your knee to the top of the pelvis (and is often the first tissue group affected by running), make this pose a priority and stick with it for at least a couple minutes on each side.

Things to note: It is always easier to go deeper than it is to go too deep and be stuck. Ease your way into this pose, starting somewhere that is challenging but still manageable. If this variation is too intense, modify by laying on your back in a reclined pigeon pose or place a bolster or pillow under your front thigh to elevate the hips.

Low Lunge

Benefits: Opens the hip flexors, psoas, and quad muscle of your extended back leg. Also, it begins stretching the outer hip and sacrum of the bent front leg.

Things to note: Your front knee should be stacked right over your ankle, not past it. If your knee starts bending deeper than a 90-degree angle, slide your back knee further away until you feel a deeper stretch.

Toe Squat

Benefits: Stretches the bottoms of your feet and the fascia between your toes. Helps to increase blood flow to the feet, ankles, and calves. Stimulating the pressure points on the bottoms of the feet can improve the nervous and immune systems and help to eliminate toxins.

Things to note: This is a tough one! If it is too difficult to sit back on your heels, place a block or pillow between your glutes and heels. Hold for as long as you can and remember to breathe deep and even.