The Friday 5: My 5 Favorite Balancing Poses

Hey everyone! For today’s Friday Five I am going to talk about my five favorite leg strengtheners. This post was inspired by Judy’s post on the importance of single leg stability. It’s super important for runners to have strong legs, but also have stabilizing muscles in our legs for balance. So these five yoga postures (and movements) not only help gain stabilizing muscles in your legs and hips, but also a lot of strength and flexibility. Remember to do each posture on both sides!! Also, Sydney (my cat) is featured in all of the photos. 🙂

Standing Splits

We’ll just start with a posture that I find incredibly challenging. It requires extremely flexible hamstrings and hips, which not all of us have. Start with your feet together in a forward fold. Then shift your weight to one side and lift the opposite leg as high as you can. Once the leg is lifted, draw the hip of the lifted leg down very slightly. As a modification, you can use blocks or books beneath the hands or bend the standing leg.

Standing Splits – For me this is one of the most challenging poses

Standing Stick to Knee to chest

This is a movement, not just a single posture. Start in standing and reach your arms up over head. Shift your weight to one side and hinge forward at the hips while lifting the opposite leg. Stop wherever you start to lose balance. Eventually you may get to the point you that you can create a “T” with your torso and legs. This is called Standing Stick. Hold for one breath, and then begin to lift back up, bend the lifted leg and once you are upright, pull the lifted leg in towards your chest. Return back to standing sticks. Make sure to draw your hips in towards center so that one hip isn’t popping out. Repeat 4 times and do both sides.

Standing Sticks


Standing Knee to Chest

 Standing hand to big toe pose

This is another very challenging pose that requires a lot of flexibility. Start in standing. Shift your weight to the left and draw the right knee towards chest. Then, draw that knee up a little higher than you think you need to using your right hand hand. Take the index and middle finger of your right hand around your right big toe. Begin to draw the leg forward and then out towards the side. The leg does not need to be straight, and as with any standing posture, feel free to lean up against a wall. Make sure that your left hip is not popping out and try and draw it in towards center. Repeat on the other side.

Hand to Big Toe Pose

Eagle Pose to Standing Stick

This is a bit of a strange posture. Start in standing by taking your right arm over your left arm and see if you can bring your palms together (if not, that’s ok. Just get it as close as you can). Make sure your feet are together and then bend the knees and drop your seating bones back (like there is a chair behind you). Take your left leg over your right (just like your arms are but the legs and arms are opposite). You can try to wrap your right ankle around your left leg, if not, just let the foot stick out. This is Eagle Pose. Hold for a breath or two.

Eagle Pose

Then, unravel the right leg away from the left leg (keep the arms the way they are) and start to kick that leg straight back. Now you are in standing stick again, with the arms in a different variation. Take a breath and then slowly come back into eagle pose. Repeat 4x and do both sides.

Standing Sticks with Eagle Arms

 Half Moon Pose

Most people benefit from a block or pile of books for this pose (or chair as well). Take the block and place it out in front of your feet. Come to standing and hinge forward at the hips for a forward fold. Place your right hand on the block and make sure your wrist is stacked under the shoulder. Shift your weight to your right foot, take your left hand to your left hip and begin to lift the left leg up. Keep the foot flexed and take your left hip above your right hip so your left toes are facing towards the left. Maybe lift that left hand.

Half Moon Pose

Thanks everyone for checking this out and thanks to Mar on the Run, Eat Pray Run, and You Signed Up for What?! for hosting the linkup.


What is your favorite balancing posture? Do you work on single leg stabilization?

Runners CAN do yoga!

I love running with people. I find it to be really beneficial and fun to delve into a more social side of running. I’m sure that it wouldn’t surprise you that on social runs, I often end up talking to people about yoga, but the conversation often goes something like this…

Runner: What do you do when you don’t run?

Me: I teach yoga.

Runner: I didn’t think runners could do yoga.

This conversation almost always sends me into a fit of rage. Of course runners can do yoga!! In fact, runners NEED yoga. Not only does it help stretch out overused and tight muscles, but the mental benefits are exactly what you need to get through the last few miles of a long run. Somehow, yoga got the rap that it is only for people who walk in ready to chill in full splits. It also got the rap of being something “extra”… not a workout, but this thing you sometimes do… like once a month… you know, if you have the time.

I promise you, consistent yoga will help your running.

This is not only because it will help keep you limber and less injury prone, but learning to quiet your mind is the only way you can beat the negative thoughts that ALL of us struggle with. Yoga teaches us about our bodies, our breath, and tendencies we might have in our thoughts. It also teaches us how to set an intension (and stick with it), it teaches us how to not fly off the handle when someone does something you don’t like, and it makes us strong. If you can do a handstand, you’ve got some serious core strength.

Check out her handstand! She is so strong!
Check out her handstand! She is so strong!

Sometimes I hear how runners probably can’t touch their toes, and that is why they can’t do yoga.

I have been running a lot longer than I have been doing yoga. I was a sprinter by the time I was 6 and I played soccer starting at 11. When I began my yoga practice (as a disgruntled adolescent that was going because their mom said they should), I could barely touch my knees. My hamstrings were like rocks. Over the years, my practice started to get more consistent and eventually, my palms were on the ground.

Standing head to knee pose took many years to build flexibility through consistency and perseverance in my yoga practice.
Standing head to knee pose took many years to build flexibility through consistency and perseverance in my yoga practice.

Am I now a better yogi because my hamstrings are loose? 

NO! Absolutely not. Nothing happened when I touched my toes, well, besides me touching my toes. No rainbows or unicorns appeared. I just touched them. No one high-fived me or threw a party. Maybe I look a little “prettier” (to Yoga Journal Magazine‘s standards) in some postures. I am, however, not “better at yoga” for it. I still lay in relaxation trying to quiet my mind, just like everyone else.

If I have not convinced you yet, here are some runner’s that practice yoga:

Scott Jurek
Shalane Flanagan
Kara Goucher
Lauren Fleshmen
Meb Kefkezighi

They practice for various reasons. Some are looking for the mental benefits, others are looking for strength and flexibility. Regardless, yoga can give you all of these things.

Elites are not the only ones! Here is a pretty awesome (AND FAST) blogger who has a beautiful yoga practice.

So, don’t let the negative talk win. All runners can do yoga. All runners should do yoga.