Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Stretching after a workout

I know, I know, most people hate stretching and skip it altogether. I used to be one of them. It wasn’t until I started yoga that I realized that stretching after a big workout makes a HUGE difference. First of all, it helps you calm your mind and body. Some of the most peaceful moments I have felt in my life are right after a big workout, in some kind of yoga pose. Besides feeling awesome afterwards, it helps the recovery process. It helps to loosen up those muscles you were just working. It also helps reduce the soreness that can come the day after an intense workout.

An important thing to note is that I am by no means flexible. And you really don’t need to be to reap the benefits of stretching after a workout. It’s important not to push yourself too hard in a stretch because you probably won’t hold the stretch long enough to have any benefit to your muscles and you endanger pulling something. Not a good idea. It’s important to understand the limits of your flexibility and not to push it too hard.

Now I’ll talk about some yoga poses/stretches that are super awesome after a workout. Not only do they feel great, but they are good for you! Help reduce that lactic acid build up!

Half pigeon/quad stretch.
This one is an awesome stretch to help stretch those quads. You want to put your front leg in a “pigeon” pose (for those yoga lovers) and grasp the back leg with your hand. For the not so yogis, see below for a good picture of the stretch. You should feel a nice stretch in both legs. Make sure you keep your weight centered so you don’t rock back and forth. Make sure you hold it for at least 30 seconds on both sides.

Now for the reclined pigeon pose

This one is a good stretch for the hips and gluts. Tuck your knees to your chest, making sure your back stays flat against the back (otherwise you risk hurting your lower back). Pull one leg over, placing the ankle on the lower thigh of the opposite leg, holding onto that opposite thigh with your hands. Make sure to hold these for 30-60 seconds on both sides. Do NOT rock in the stretch, just put a continuous stretch on your muscles.

Triangle pose

I love this pose, it always feels amazing after a big workout. Put your legs in a straddle, tip one hip up, and fold at the waist. Stretch one arm up, while the other reaches for ankle. You don’t need to grab onto the ankle, just feel the stretch of your arms as you open up your chest to the side of the room.

Wide legged forward bend
Another good stretch is clasping your hands behind back and bending at the waist with legs in a straddle. It is usually easier to do if you concentrate on pulling your palms together in the clasp in order to get a nice deep stretch in the shoulders. This one is especially good if you sit hunched at a computer all day, but it also feels good after a workout.

These final two poses should be done after the more active poses that I outlined before. You should stay in each of these for a few minutes, really letting go of any thoughts or worries. You will feel amazing after a couple of minutes with your eyes closed.

The first one is having the soles of your feet touching while you are lying on your back, opening up your hips. Rest your arms on the ground (either out or by your sides) and let gravity do the work. We tend to carry a lot of tension in our hips, so this is a nice restorative pose.


Finally, the last pose you can try is a wide legged child’s pose. This is great to stretch out any last tension in your shoulders, while stretching out the hips as well. Take a few minutes to enjoy the pose, relaxing and letting your mind go blank.
Wide Legged Child's Pose

These are just some of my favorite stretches after a workout. I really do think they are beneficial, both psychologically and physically. While it may be tempting to just plop yourself down on the couch after a nice long workout, take some time to really stretch out those muscles. It will become your favorite part of all workouts, guaranteed!

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