We ALL know we SHOULD stretch post class but many of us run off to work or to events without even staying for the cool down IN class.
Here is a simple guide for if you have 10 minutes post class or when you get home. Including stretching in your weekly routine is so beneficial to the body and to your recovery, but mostly it helps to prevent injury. When our muscles are activated throughout exercise and not given time to release, let go and lengthen, they get tighter and tighter until perhaps we cause ourselves an injury. Stretching also allows you to start to clear the stress hormone Cortisol from the body so you begin to feel more at ease in both body and mind.
Here are 5 poses to get you started, some with modifications to back off or go deeper.
Variation 1: If you are feeling tight, keep the back knee down on the floor, and try and straighten through the spine and neck rather than round the spine. Support with the finger tips either side of you.
Variation 2: To go deeper lift the back knee and lift high on the ball of the back foot. Keep the spine lengthening over the front thigh.
Variation 3. The same cues as variation 2 but to get into the front calf too then flex through the front foot.
Variation 1: Lunge one knee forwards and allow the pelvis to draw forward. Make sure you engage the core so you don't drop into the lower back. To open the chest, sweep the arms up above the head. Cushion the back knee if it feels painful.
Variation 2: This is a juicy stretch for the quads and hip flexors. It's super deep so get into it carefully and, most importantly, cushion the back knee, if painful. Instead of dropping the pelvis forward, draw the pelvis back in line with the back knee tuck the tailbone under and lengthen the spine.
MY FAVOURITE to target multiple areas in one pose.
Variation 1: Unlike the crescent lunge, the front foot is WIDE here with both hands on the inside of the foot. Turn your front foot out 45 degrees and allow the pelvis to draw forward.
Variation 2: Go deeper by opening the front knee with your arm and drawing the chest up towards the ceiling.
Variation 3: Go even deeper by dropping on to the forearms.
Variation 4: To get super deep and juicy here, bend the back knee and reach for the foot, spiral your chest towards the ceiling and allow your top shoulder to drop open and back.
Variation 1: Locust pose. Lie on belly and interlace hands behind back, lift chest up, keep neck long and lengthen out of lower back.
Variation 2: Bow pose. To go deeper here, hold on to ankles and lift chest and thighs off the floor, press the feet behind you more and make sure you don't pinch into your lower back.
Take the feet wide and parallel the inner edges of your feet, pull up through the thighs and take the arms up and over. If you feel super tight, keep a soft bend in the knees.