Do you have clients that cringe at the thought of stretching at the end of a session or students that constantly cut out of class before the cool-down? For some, it’s a question of perceived lack of time. For others, the thought of spending time stretching doesn’t sound exciting or sexy, despite the fact that a regular routine of static stretching can help increase flexibility, enhance joint range of motion and even improve posture. Before your client throws in the towel on their next training session, consider taking a few minutes to introduce these four yoga poses as a way to breathe new life—and bring added benefits—to your client’s conditioning program.
Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
At the center of the mat come to a hands and knees position, with the wrists aligned below the shoulders and the knees aligned below the hips. With the spine extended begin to walk the hands forward toward the front edge of the mat, allowing your forehead to release to the floor or to a folded towel beneath you. Continue to keep the hips stacked over the knees as you actively reach forward with the arms to stretch the back, breathing deeply as you hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. For additional sensation, flip the palms to face one another, allowing the outer edge of each hand to press into the mat. You may also opt to curl the toes under if you so choose.
Wide-legged Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana)
Begin in a standing position facing the long edge of the mat with your hands on your hips. Step the feet approximately 3 to 4 feet apart, depending on your height and degree of flexibility. Keep the feet parallel to one another, with both sets of toes pointing to the long edge of the mat. With the core engaged to maintain length in the spine, slowly exhale as you hinge at the hips, allowing the torso to fold forward and the crown of the head to draw toward the floor. Slowly release the arms and hands toward the mat or a block if that best serves you, keeping a slight bend in the knees to protect the joints. Hold this position and breathe deeply for 20 to 30 seconds, stretching the hamstrings, calves and inner thighs.
Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
Begin in a seated position on the mat with your legs outstretched in front of you. Slowly bend the right knee and step the right foot over the left thigh, planting the right foot into the mat while keeping the right knee pointing up toward the ceiling. From this position bend the left knee and draw the left heel toward the right hip, keeping both sit bones rooted into the mat. If bending both knees creates too much sensation in the hips, keep the left leg extended along the mat. Place the right hand behind the right hip and, as you inhale, extend the left arm toward the ceiling while keeping the spine elongated. As you exhale, gently rotate the torso to the right, allowing the left elbow to draw inside the right knee if accessible. With each inhale continue to lift through the sternum, creating length in the spine, and with each exhalation gently twist, allowing mobility in the thoracic spine to move you slightly deeper into the pose. Breathe deeply as you hold for 20 to 30 seconds before repeating on the opposite side.
Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)
Begin in a supine position with both knees drawn in toward the chest. Grip the feet directly with the hands or loop a band or strap around the feet for greater accessibility. Keeping the torso rooted on the mat, gently begin to open the knees wider toward the edges of the mat while gently drawing the soles of the feet toward the ceiling. Keep the ankles dorsiflexed and positioned in line with the knees so that the lower legs begin to draw perpendicular to the floor. For added sensation equally press your hands into your feet as you press your feet into your hands to create a bit of resistance. Allow your upper body to continue to rest comfortably on the mat, lengthening your spine from the tailbone to the base of your skull. Hold the pose for 20 to 30 seconds, stretching the hips and groin.