Yoga will make you a better athlete. It’s an excellent cross-training activity that promotes strength building, improves flexibility and aids your recovery after a workout. The repetitive motions from lifting and running can tighten muscles, leaving you stiff and sore. Enter yoga. It’s the yin to your workout’s yang, helping to improve every aspect of your performance.
These five moves not only will help you stretch your muscles post-workout, but they’re also a great way to relax after a long day.
1. Cat/Cow Pose
This pose takes you through spinal flexion and spinal extension, which can help alleviate back pain and improve spinal mobility. Start in a tabletop position with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Begin with a neutral spine, with your back flat and abs engaged. Inhale, and on the exhale, round your spine toward the ceiling, tuck your chin toward your chest and let your neck release. Inhale and arch your back, relaxing your belly. Lift your head and tailbone toward the sky. Flow back and forth, repeating at least 10 times.
2. Child’s Pose
This pose is a nice way to release your lower back. Kneel on a yoga mat with your knees hip-width apart, big toes touching behind you. Inhale, and as you exhale, lay your torso onto your thighs. Rest your arms beside your legs, palms facing up, or extend your arms in front of you for a gentle upper-back stretch. Stay here for five to 10 breaths.
3. Bridge Pose
This pose is a good stretch for your hip flexors and chest. Lie on your back on the floor, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor about hip-width apart. Walk your feet back so they’re directly under your knees. Exhale and press your feet and arms into the floor as you lift your pelvis. Keep your thighs and feet parallel as you lengthen your tailbone toward the back of your knees. Tuck your shoulder blades toward your spine to open your chest. Keep your head and neck looking forward; don’t turn to the side. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute. Exhale and slowly release your spine back down to the floor.
4. Reclined Spinal Twist
This move stretches your back and glute muscles, and it lengthens, relaxes and realigns the spine. Lie on your back, legs extended. Bend your right knee and cross it over your torso to the left, and extend your arms out in a T position. If it’s comfortable on your neck, turn your head to the right. Keep both shoulders evenly on the floor, making sure they don’t curl up. Hold for at least five breaths, feeling your spine lengthen. Keeping your abs tight, lift your knee back to center, hug both knees and switch sides. Hold for five breaths and return to center.
5. Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose
This is a great pose to practice after a long workout. It encourages your legs to relax and coaxes your chest to open and your back to release. Place a blanket or pillow against a wall and sit as close as you can next to the blanket. Lie on your back, place your feet on the wall with your knees bent, and slide over so your glutes and lower back are on the blanket. Adjust so your butt is touching the wall, then extend your legs up the wall. You can keep your arms by your sides or behind your head. Close your eyes and feel gravity pull you down and the wall and blanket support you. Hold five minutes or longer.