You might be thinking “Standing still and stretching on the floor, how will that help me with triathlon?”. Hear me out. Firstly, it’s the holidays and we should all take a little bit of a break and take a breather to relax. Secondly, it’s a great stress reliever and after shopping for gifts and looking at my budget, I could use a stress reliever. I’m betting you could, too.
picture courtesy of: popsugar.com
Start out Easy
The mountain pose is an easy way to start and helps with breathing and the arches of your feet. Stand with your legs together, arms together, and palms facing out in front of you. Focus on keeping your back straight, your core tight and breathing with a measured, relaxed pace. Gently lift only your toes up. Then place your toes back on the ground but keep the stretch in the arches of your feet. Remember to keep equal weight on all parts of your feet to prevent injuries. You will feel this in the arches of your feet.
This one is my favorite and a variation of this stretch can be made into an exercise. For the bridge pose, lie down on your back with your feet together and your arms together. Slowly drag your legs so that your feet are flat on the ground, shoulder width apart. Your legs should be halfway between your body and where they were when they were extended. Gently push off the ground, exhaling your breath. Your head, shoulders, and bottoms of your feet should be the only thing touching the ground. Move your arms underneath your body and hold your hands together. Hold this pose to stretch your hip flexors and abdominals, while strengthening your glutes and hamstrings.
The pigeon is often incorporated into stretches for dance, because of its ability to stretch the outer thigh. Start out with your right foot tucked so it is touching your left hipbone area. Your left leg should be extended behind you with the knee straight down touching the floor. Be careful not to rotate your hips and not to place your right knee pointing in the center. Your hips should be straight and parallel to each other, not leaning either way. Lean forward until you can feel the stretch, but you are still comfortable. If you are flexible your chest can touch the ground, that may take some time though, so don’t be worried if your arms are the only part of your upper body touching the ground. Switch legs to stretch both sides.
The Fun Section
The following poses are in my opinion the most fun of all yoga classes. They stretch you out and relax you at the same time. Who said workouts had to be boring anyway?
The Happy Baby
When my sister and I first started doing yoga together I looked at her with confusion when she was ecstatic that the instructor told us to get in the happy baby pose. It’s a weird name and there was no way a happy baby could produce this good of a stretch. Start by lying down on your back. Then, as a baby would, grab your outer right foot with your right hand and your outer left foot with your left hand. If you are doing this stretch properly your core should be exposed and you will probably feel a little bit like a frog, I know I do. Then rock side to side, back and forth. While you are rocking, pull your legs down to the mat or floor to deepen the stretch. Careful not to go to fast, this is a slow stretch and will help your hips and legs.
The Child’s Pose
Now that we’ve grown up from the happy baby, we can work on the child’s pose. Start sitting on your legs, with your shins on the ground so that your gluteus maximus is sitting on the bottoms of your feet. Imagine you are a karate master for this sitting position. Then take your arms shoulder with apart and stretch forward with your arms. Your lower body should remain in the sitting position. You should feel the stretch in your upper legs, lower back and shoulders. Keep your head down and focus on your breathing. This stretch is a great way to relax. Stay in this position for as long as you want.
The Corpse Pose
Gruesome by name, but literally the best pose after any hard workout, the corpse pose should be incorporated into any post workout or hard day. Lie down on the ground with your feet shoulder width apart, they should not be touching. Spread your arms so they are not close to your body but relaxed with palms facing toward the sky. That’s it. Just lie there and focus on breathing. Slow your breathing down so it is evenly paced, I like to breathe in on five counts and breathe out on five counts. This will slow down your heart rate and relax your mind and body. The corpse pose is amazing at focusing your mind and relieving stress. Stay in this pose for as long as you feel like, or until you wake up.
The Long Stretch
Yoga is a great way to stay active, while relaxing. During the holiday season, take a day or two to practice the stretches and add new ones that you like to strengthen your body and mind.
Relax, Breathe, and Happy Holidays!