If you read my previous post on yoga, you know I’ve been inflexible pretty much all my life. While the root cause is probably genetics, I’ve also played sports since elementary school, and added running and strength training during college. Oh, and let’s not forget that younger me didn’t bother with stretching. So by the time I started practicing yoga, I had about 25 years of accumulated tightness to work with.
My experience is why I decided to share these yoga for athletes resources, rather than more generic resources for beginners; if your background is similar to mine, beginner videos that assume an average level of flexibility can be a frustrating starting point. Plus, if you turned to yoga to improve your running or other athletic activities, most beginner videos lack the specificity you’re looking for.
I take the occasional in-person yoga class, but mainly follow online videos, so over the past couple years I’ve built up a list of the yoga videos I turn to most often. While most aren’t titled “yoga for athletes”, they focus on opening parts of the body that tend to be chronically tight for athletes: hips, hamstrings, and shoulders. As I practice yoga mainly for flexibility and recovery, these are mostly slower, relaxing yoga classes, with an occasional more vigorous flow thrown in. And finally, I rarely have time for an hour-long class, so most of my go-to videos are 30 minutes or shorter.
Given those criteria, here are the websites and Youtube channels that I rely on most often.
Disclaimer: All these videos are taught by qualified yoga teachers, but I am not a yoga teacher. This is just what works for me, and not advice on what you should do.
A beginner class at your local yoga studio
Yes, I did just say I mainly practice with online videos, but I still recommend starting with at least a handful of in-person classes. While online teachers can give detailed instructions, what they can’t do is check your alignment and give adjustments when necessary. I took a series of beginner classes when I first started yoga, and having someone give feedback on my form helped me become confident that I could correctly follow the instructor in videos.
My favorite resource for a short, focused yoga practice. Candace has tons of 15-30 minute videos focused on opening specific parts of the body (or strengthening, if that’s what you’re looking for). Her website also has several 30-day yoga programs, which are a helpful starting point if you’re not sure what to do on a daily basis. Here are a few videos I repeat often:
30-minute restorative yoga for hip flexibility – lots of hip openers. Since it’s a restorative class, it’s all seated/lying poses and moves slowly with plenty of time to stretch in each pose.
15-minute hip opening yoga sequence – similar to the previous class, just shorter.
30-minute restorative yin practice – if you’re not familiar with yin, it’s a very slow practice where you hold poses 3-5 minutes. This is very short for a yin class, but still includes both hip and upper body opening poses.
5 and 10 minute morning and evening yoga – these aren’t so much specific to athletes, but they are some of my favorites. Taking a few minutes to wake up and wind down for the day really makes a difference in my stress levels and sleep quality.
This site has a large library of videos from several teachers. You can filter by difficulty, video length, and style – including yoga for runners and yoga for athletes. Some of my favorites:
Yoga for runners: injury prevention – about 20 minutes long; focuses on hips, hamstrings, and IT band area.
Happy hamstrings – another 20 minute class, this one focused on hamstrings. The poses start out gentle and gradually get more intense, so if stretching your hamstrings tends to be painful this is a good class to loosen them up.
Yin/yang flow – a few minutes of sun salutations followed by a handful of yin poses that focus on the hips and hamstrings.
Heavenly hips – this is usually the video I turn on when I have a full hour for yoga. It’s a flow class, but not a power flow – you’ll linger in poses and gradually stretch things out. If my hips are feeling especially tight or out of alignment, I always leave this class feeling like they’re “fixed”. Note that this class includes flying pigeon, which is out of reach if your IT band is as tight as mine; I just skip it.
Power yoga for shoulder stability – a full hour of power yoga, so I prefer to use this as a substitute for a strength workout rather than adding it to my workout schedule. Lots of shoulder opening work. This is an intermediate class, so tougher than most on this list; it builds up to attempting forearm balance.
Kassandra’s videos are mindful of where athletes tend to be most tight; her yoga for athletes videos provide a good stretch without including poses that I have to severely modify to get into. Some classes to try:
Yoga for runners: getting into the IT band – IT band stretches that gradually get more intense. Not painful, as IT stretches tend to be if I try to go too deep too quickly (but can still be pretty uncomfortable).
Yin yoga for runners: hips and hamstrings – the poses here can be pretty intense, but they’re still accessible even if you’re very tight.
Yoga for your feet – 5 minutes of foot stretches and massage. Great for post-long run.
Yin yoga for hips – a beginner yin class with gentle poses; try this if you find the yin for runners class too intense.
She only has one specific yoga for athletes class, but I find Lesley’s instruction very clear and easy to follow. Here are some of my favorite classes:
Quickie hip stretch – Hits all the basic hip stretches in 15 minutes.
Yoga for flexibility: upper back and hips – this hits most of my tight spots in a 20 minute class. Since it’s short, you may want to pause and hold some poses longer.
Yoga for flexibility: shoulders – lots of shoulder stretches, and they can get pretty intense. You’ll want a strap or something equivalent if your shoulders are tight.
Do you practice yoga to improve athletic performance?
What styles of yoga do you prefer?
Linking up with Wild Workout Wednesday.