No matter what your fitness level, yoga can ease the physical discomforts that come with even casual athletic activity. The combination of body-opening yoga poses and deep breathing promotes blood flow to stiff or overused muscles, helping them heal faster.
Whether you routinely bike 20 miles or simply take a regular morning walk, you'll find that incorporating simple yoga poses into your routine can counteract tightness and stress, strengthen your mind/body connection, and help you more fully enjoy your favorite fitness activities.
What it does: Running tends to shorten the muscles in your legs, particularly your quads and hips. This pose helps lengthen those muscles and open up your hip area.
1. Stand comfortably with your hands by your sides. Lift your left foot behind you and take hold of your inner ankle with your left hand while extending your right arm forward.
2. Keeping your gaze out over your fingertips, exhale and lean your torso forward, gently lifting your left foot up and back while pressing it into your palm to open the leg. Focus on stretching and opening through the pose for four or five breaths. Repeat with the opposite leg.
What it does: The constant pounding of running puts extreme stress on your knees. This pose can help prevent one of the most common injuries, called runner's knee, in which the kneecap doesn't track properly over the joint.
1. Stand comfortably with your hands by your sides. Exhale and step your right leg forward about 3 to 4 feet. Inhale and raise your right arm straight ahead and your left arm straight back, palms facing downward. With your right foot pointing straight ahead, position your left foot at a 45-degree angle. Keep your hips and shoulders square.
2. Bend your right knee so that your thigh is close to parallel with the floor. Keep your knee in line with your ankle, not protruding out over your toes. Gaze over the tips of your right fingers. Hold for four or five breaths and then repeat on the other side.
What It Does: Most swimming-related injures involve the shoulder area. The position of the arms in this pose helps improve flexibility in the shoulders and keep the rotator cuff muscles strong. 1. Stand comfortably with your hands by your sides. Bend your knees slightly and shift your weight to the left leg. Balancing on this leg, wrap your right leg around until you've hooked it around your lower left calf. Reach it as far as you can without losing your balance. 2. Cross your arms at your elbows, with your right arm under your left. Try (as best you can) to touch your palms together while keeping your fingers pointed upward. Hold for four or five breaths and then repeat, using opposite arms and legs.
What It Does: Swimming works the entire body. This pose helps stretch the hamstrings, back, shoulders, wrists, and Achilles tendons.
1. Get on all fours with your hands aligned with your shoulders and knees directly under your hips; the tops of your feet should be on the mat.
2. Inhale, curl your toes under, and spread your fingers. Exhale, raise your tailbone, and push into the mat with your hands. Elongate your spine; straighten your legs.
3. Keeping your head neutral and your back flat, activate the muscles in your arms and legs; push your heels down toward the floor. Hold for four or five breaths.