Professional yoga teacher Bethany Eanes talks of her experience teaching yoga to cross-fitters who she perceives as often, “‘A-Type’, task-driven personalities”, she mentions: ‘I feared if I took it too easy, they would all stop coming to yoga. But, as my teacher always says, “Give them what they truly need. Not what they think they need” . This set of poses is aimed at restoring and recovering , whether you do them on the same day after the training/event or on a light day. On an alternate strength/cross-training day the sequence would be more focused on active poses to complement your training such as high lunges, chair, boat , dancer, bridge etc.
You can practice these poses in this order, and if you like you can add some light sun salutations into the sequence as of pose 2 for transitions or warm up.
1. Supine hamstring stretch with strap:
Good for hamstring release and fluid release from legs.You can use any kind of strap for this pose – it can be a belt from your wardrobe, or a stretchy theraband or canvas yoga strap – anything that gives you some resistance. While you lay here, point and flex the foot and roll the ankle out to restore good blood flow. After this stretch it feels great to take the leg across the body into a twist to open up the chest, waist and outside of the hip.
2. Downward facing Dog
Stretches whole backline of the body; back, rear of hips, hamstrings, calves, Achilles. It is also an inversion which puts the head below the heart – which is good for blood flow, the brain, energy levels and mood. Slightly bent knees recommended in warm up.
3. Ragdoll and forward folds.
Great for opening the lower back, releasing the neck, lengthening the whole spine and hamstrings. Bending the knees a lot for your first couple at least is recommended instead of locking out the knees.
4. Kneeling lunges (with optional side stretch)
To aid range of motion in the hip flexors and hamstrings. If you lean your chest forward you are into hamstring, upright with tailbone tucked under gets flexors. Feels great to add an upper body opening taking hold of wrist and reaching off to the side.
5. Half splits
Great for opening the hamstring and lengthening the lower back. Never hesitate to use blocks and even bend the knee slightly if you’re feeling quite tight.
6. Pigeon pose ‘the wonder pose’
Amazing for releasing the glutes, hamstring and hip flexors. A block under the hips can keep them square and take pressure off the bent knee. If this pose brings pain to your bent knee, refer to our recent video on open eagle (aka ‘figure 4’ or Open Eagle pose) variations to do this pose on your back or in seat.
7. Half Hero Pose
Designed to stretch the quads and hip flexors. If you find it easy to lay all the way back, then feel free to bend the long leg and place the sole of the foot to the floor. If on the other hand this pose brings pain to the bent knee, then roll onto your belly for half bow pose instead.
8. Wall Plank
Opening up the shoulders, back and hamstrings. Even deeper chest/back opening than downdog but doesn’t involve as much pressure in the wrists and shoulders.
9. Legs up the Wall
Draining fluid away from the legs and calming the nervous system. If you only have time for one pose, make it this one – help your training-weary legs recover while you take a moment to relax. You can stretch the arms out in T-shape to open the chest. If hamstrings are really tight you can bend your knees slightly or do legs bent up on the couch instead of a wall.
Becoming a more relaxed, focused and aware athlete. Please NEVER skip this part!
For variations to make the pose more relaxing or more comfortable with blankets or bolsters, please refer to our Kula video on Savasana. This pictured variation loosens and relaxes the lower back. Connecting back to this idea of what you really need, not what you think you need, do not be under the impression that Savasana is an unnecessary part now the main ‘working out’ or ‘stretching’ part is done and run for the door. You are missing perhaps the most beneficial part of the yoga practice. Savasana is where the real magic happens. Savasana is proven to improve sleep, reduce stress, quell negative mental chatter, manage (and walk through) fear, and can inform your entire approach to training and racing.
However this time is not only for the mind. The body is making connections and pathways that you are not conscious of – not only is this time the body integrates the new information it’s received so that the next time you come back to yoga or training you can be more kinaesthetically familiar and progress (deeper, stronger etc) but also your body establishes which muscles require the first attention for healing. Who would have thought lying on your back could do all this?
For a super detailed list of over 100 poses and their benefits check out “The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga” by Sage Rountree.
About the author Emily Thomas: Ever since her first yoga teacher claimed that all such high intensity activities were ‘bad’ for the body and having a strong reaction to this notion, Emily has had a particular interest in the balance that yoga can bring to those who practice other enjoy both as part of a healthy lifestyle. Like many at Kula, she is a yoga teacher who enjoys weight training and cycling as complements to yoga.
Catch Emily at Kula’s “Yoga For Athletes” workshop on Saturday May 23, 1-3 p.m. More info and to book online see https://kulayoga.com.au/workshops.