Working out can be so great for our bodies. It provides our body with strong muscles and strong cardiovascular systems to just name a couple of its benefits. One thing that working out also does that isn’t quite the best thing for our bodies, is that when we work the muscles hard they tend to tighten leaving us feeling tight, sore and possibly decreasing our flexibility and mobility. A big thing that a lot of people neglect with their workouts is saving time for stretching. Trust us when we say that you will be so much more appreciative of stretching later in life if you don’t already. Maybe you don’t stretch because you don’t have time. Well, create the time by prioritizing. Or maying you don’t stretch because you don’t know which stretches to do. Well, now is the time to welcome these three yoga stretches into the end of your workouts. They can be done after any workout.
Downward Facing Dog
This is the ultimate yoga stretch/pose. It stretches and strengthens the body in so many ways, making it a great stretch after any workout. It stretches the calves, hamstrings and lower-back muscles, plus builds strength in the shoulders and arms. If you are someone with tight hamstrings or tight shoulders, this pose may take a while to feel comfortable in the pose, but with practice, the body will adjust to and may even want it more.
- Begin on your hands and knees. Align your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. The fold of your wrists should be parallel with the top edge of your mat. Point your middle fingers directly to the top edge of your mat.
- Stretch your elbows and relax your upper back.
- Spread your fingers wide and press firmly through your palms and knuckles. Distribute your weight evenly across your hands.
- Exhale as you tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor. Reach your pelvis up toward the ceiling, then draw your sit bones toward the wall behind you. Gently begin to straighten your legs, but do not lock your knees. Bring your body into the shape of an “A.” Imagine your hips and thighs being pulled back from the top of your thighs. Do not walk your feet closer to your hands — keep the extension of your whole body.
- Press the floor away from you as you lift through your pelvis. As you lengthen your spine, lift your sit bones up toward the ceiling. Now press down equally through your heels and the palms of your hands.
- Firm the outer muscles of your arms and press your index fingers into the floor. Lift from the inner muscles of your arms to the top of both shoulders. Draw your shoulder blades into your upper back ribs and toward your tailbone. Broaden across your collarbones.
- Rotate your arms externally so your elbow creases face your thumbs.
- Draw your chest toward your thighs as you continue to press the mat away from you, lengthening and decompressing your spine.
- Engage your quadriceps. Rotate your thighs inward as you continue to lift your sit bones high. Sink your heels toward the floor.
- Align your ears with your upper arms. Relax your head, but do not let it dangle. Gaze between your legs or toward your navel.
- Hold for 5-100 breaths.
- To release, exhale as you gently bend your knees and come back to your hands and knees.
Instructions for Downward Dog from Yoga Outlet
This pose is a great way to stretch the hip flexors, psoas, glutes and outer hips.
- From downward facing dog, bring the right leg up toward the ceiling.
- Bend your right knee and bring that leg forward as if you were going to step into a lunge. Instead of stepping into a lunge, place your foot down on the mat as you bring your right knee to the floor. Bring your foot in as close as you can into the body to keep the knee down but ideally, you want your shin parallel to the top of the mat.
- Release your left knee to your mat. Your left leg should be flat on the floor with your foot pointing straight back.
- Make sure your hips are square towards the front of your mat.
- If you find this to be a good enough stretch then stay on your hands. If you think you can stretch deeper, then go ahead and lower down to your forearms. If you can go even deeper then try to bring your chest to the mat with your arms straight out in front of you.
- Hold this side for 30 second to 3 mins and then continue the stretch with the other leg.
You probably already know how to lunge, but adding a twist into your lunge is great medicine for the spine. You get the added benefit of stretching and strengthening the legs and hips.
- Get into your lunge position.
- While keeping your back leg more straight than in a normal lunge, reach the same arm to the ground and place it right outside the front foot.
- Now take the other arm and rotate your upper body to reach your arm that is not on the ground up into the sky.
- Hold for some deep breathes before you release and switch sides.
What are your favorite yoga poses/stretches?