Can you run a marathon but struggle to touch your toes? You’re not alone. In fact, I’m right there with you.
I can hop, shimmy and twirl for an hour-long Zumba class without taking a break. I can pedal to the medal at spin class until the floor below me is covered in sweat without a second thought. But getting my fingertips below my calves for a cool down stretch? Not so much. I never thought much of it, until I was approached with an odd request.
“You should come to my Wednesday night yoga class,” my cycling teacher said.
I stifled a laugh. “Yoga isn’t for me,” I replied.
She eyed me down, clearly a bit offended. “And why’s that?”
I stopped and thought hard to come up with an acceptable answer. The truth was, I had no good reason to assume yoga wasn’t for me. I also didn’t know what a huge impact flexibility has on my workouts. News flash! Stretching and lengthening balled-up muscles can increase athletic performance plus help prevent injury.
Needless to say, I was at Yoga the following Wednesday. And after 2 years, I still practice this powerful exercise at least once a week. Practice these 5 yoga poses to increase YOUR flexibility!
- Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Why it’s great: This is the ultimate resting pose. And let me tell you – this stretch feels amazing after any type of intense workout. But you don’t have to exercise to enjoy this pose. Sometimes I like to take a rest in child’s pose if I’m stressed, tired, or just need a good stretch! This pose is best known for releasing tension in the back, shoulders and chest.
How to do it: Slowly lower to your knees. Push your hips back and rest your glutes on the heels. Rest your head between your arms, and walk your fingertips forward as far as you can.
- Triangle (Trikonasana)
Why it’s great: Unlike child’s pose, Triangle is not the type of pose you can jump out of bed and practice. Make sure your muscles are warm and loose before trying this pose. Triangle pose stretches the waist, opens up the hip, and strengthens core muscles.
How to do it: Inhale deeply and slowly fold at the waist to bring your left hand to your left ankle. Lift your right arm upwards and spread the fingertips wide. Your shoulders should be stacked on top of one another. Gaze up towards your fingertips.
- Down Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Why it’s great: If you’ve heard of yoga, you’ve probably heard of this pose. It has many health benefits, including lengthening and strengthening the spine, toning and strengthen the arms and legs, and a 360-degree stretch in just one pose.
How to do it: Start on all fours with your knees directly below your hips and your hands directly underneath your shoulders. With your hands firmly planted on the mat, pull your belly in and lift your knees away from the floor. Position your tailbone towards the sky as you straighten your legs. Push your chest towards the tops of the thighs, push your heels towards the floor, and rest your head between your biceps.
- Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
Why it’s great: I have no way to describe this other than it feels delicious. Whether you’re a runner, swimmer or triathlete, tightness in the hips is a common complaint, and this pose is meant to relieve just that. Pigeon pose opens the hip joints, lengthens the hip flexors and stretches the thighs, gluteals and piriformis muscles.
How to do it: Begin in a plank position. Slide your right knee forward and towards your right arm. Slide your left leg back as far as your hips allow. Keep your hips square to the floor.
- Runner’s Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
Why it’s great: As the name states, this pose looks similar to a runner about to begin a race. It’s also a great pose for runners as it treats the typical sources of lower-body soreness, like tight quads, hamstrings, and hips.
How to do it: Start in down dog. Exhale and step your right food forward between your hands. Make sure your knee is aligned over your heel. Lower your left knee and stretch the left leg as far back as you can. Keep your chest up and your gaze just above the tip of your nose.