I recommend all of my clients to include at least one yoga based session into their training regime every week to compliment their cardio and strength sessions. This is a great way give the muscles a good stretch after all that hard work and also take some time to relax and concentrate on their breathing.
Each of these poses is fantastic for your entire body, but they each target a specific set of muscles to stretch, strengthen, and soothe when you’re sore. Did a crazy ab workout yesterday? Look no farther than cat and cow poses. Shoulders sore from doing tons of reps? Child’s pose is your panacea. Read on for more, and click on the headings for video demos.
This stretch is exactly what it sounds like: from a comfortable standing position, bend at the waist, letting your arms drop down towards your feet. This is one of the first steps in a sun salutation, if you’ve been practicing yoga! You’ll feel it in your hamstrings, and you can add arms and shoulders to the stretch by grasping your hands behind your back and raising them over your head while bending forward. Remember not to “bounce” in this stretch, continually trying to reach your toes or the floor; bend until you feel the stretch in your hamstrings, and then hold for at least 30 seconds. This pose helps reverse blood flow to your upper body and arms, which can help your muscles recover more quickly.
This pose can look and feel pretty awkward when you’re first getting into it, but there’s nothing better for opening up your neck, shoulders, and quadriceps. Camel pose can be tough if your shoulders and/or neck are super tight, but they’ll benefit from being eased into this position. What’s more, this pose stretches the entire front of your body once you’re able to get into its full expression. Traditionally, camel pose is thought to treat anxiety, improve posture, open all of your airways, and energize your whole body. Practicing this pose regularly will also begin to improve the flexibility of the front of your body, which is often neglected in favor of focusing on hamstring flexibility. Camel pose relieved pressure on your back and hamstrings while stretching your upper body, so it’s perfect for sore shoulders, arms, back, buttocks, and backs of the legs.
Triangle pose isn’t too difficult, but it can be tough to work your hand all the way to the floor if you haven’t been working on your flexibility diligently. Remember that you can always rest your hand on your leg, and if you practice regularly you’ll find it sliding closer and closer to the floor each time. This pose allows you to get an amazing stretch in your legs without stressing your hamstrings as much as a forward bend might. If your hamstrings are especially sore and tight, this might be the pose for you. Because triangle pose opens your entire body, especially your hips and shoulders, it’s good for almost any muscle soreness. The twist of your spine and torso in this pose is also supposed to improve your digestion.
As you can see from the video, upward facing dog pose is simply a more advanced expression of cobra pose. Choose whichever expression is best for you, whether you can’t hold upward facing dog yet, you need something extra easy because you’re sore, or you want a challenge today. This pose will relieve muscle soreness and tension in your back by sending extra blood flow there, and in your abdominal muscles, shoulders, and chest by stretching them across the front of your body. Think of these poses as mini backbends, placing relatively little pressure on your arms while still giving you the benefits of extending your abs and chest. These poses are traditionally thought to relax and strengthen your back, open all of your airways, and stimulate your digestion. Cobra pose feels amazing the day after your toughest ab workouts!
Yoga instructors often flow between these two poses at the beginning of a class to warm up the spine and neck. When you’ve got a sore back–whether from your last workout or from hunching over your desk all day–get on the floor and do some cat/cow poses for instant relief. These moves increase blood flow to your back and make you feel super relaxed, which can alleviate neck and shoulder tension. These poses are also supposed to “massage” your organs, improving your digestion and stimulating blood flow. Cow pose also expands your chest and opens your airways, so take some deep, relaxing breaths. Cat pose helps to strengthen your spine and massage the muscles that support it, increasing blood flow and flexibility to reduce soreness and stiffness.
Now we’re getting all the way down onto the mat! Like cat and cow poses, this pose is designed to gently massage your organs and increase spine flexibility, but this time with a twist. Reclined spinal rotations are excellent for a sore back and for sore abdominal muscles: you’ll feel your entire core stretch and relax. If you extend your top leg while rotating to one side, you can also get an excellent stretch in your glutes. As you move side to side, you’ll also feel your glutes and hips get a nice massage, which can soothe away muscle soreness just as well as a stretch can. Be sure not to rotate too quickly side to side; if you remain on one side for at least 30 seconds, you’ll feel the muscles of your back relax and achieve a deeper stretch.
This is yoga’s most iconic resting pose for a reason. If you don’t do it regularly, you’ll be shocked at how wonderful it feels to lower your forehead to the mat and release your arms down along your sides. If you need a shoulder stretch, you can also extend your arms in front of you, pressing your hands into the mat as you would in downward facing dog. Child’s pose feels great any time you need to relax, but it’s particularly good for sore shoulders, back, and chest because it releases almost all of the muscles in your back and upper body. You’ll also find that any neck tension will be alleviated when your forehead rests against the floor. Remember to breathe deeply and steadily in this pose to get the most out of the relaxation and rejuvenation.
Let’s wrap it up
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