Lengthening and Repairing Through Yoga

With summer upon us, our bodies are forever busy as we try to soak up every moment of sunshine and enjoy all the outdoor activities our beautiful valley offers. Runners, hikers, and bikers alike, if we find just a few minutes each day to counter all the work we ask of our bodies, the benefits are noticeable as we lengthen and repair the major muscles we use to travel up and down our mountains. Here are few simple (simple does not mean easy) poses to get you going. 

Remember it is always a good idea to start with some gentle movement (a brisk walk, a few sun salutations) to warm up the body before asking it to open up. Move just into the first edge of each pose (do not go to the full depth) and let the body open slowly with time and your breath. I give guidelines for how long to hold each pose, but feel free to spend longer in any of them if it’s comfortable and the body is asking for more. 

1. Open Up Your Feet

  1. Come to all fours, bring the inner edges of your feet and your ankle bones together, tuck all ten toes under and sit back on your heels (keep pressing the inner feet and ankles together), hands on your thighs (option to place a blanket or pillow between your hips and heels, or your hands down to the floor in front of you to ease off if this is really intense). Let the soles of your feet open, lengthen, and release as best you can. Hold for 10-15 breaths (don’t hold the breath), come back to all fours, un-tuck the toes, wiggle, tap the feet to release the pose.
  2. Start the same way as a., but this time point your toes behind you and bring the tops of your feet to the floor. Hold for 5-10 breaths and release in the same way.

2. Low Lunge – Targets Quad/Hip Flexor
From all fours, bring your right foot between your hands, ankle stacked right under your knee. Bring your hands to blocks level with the front foot and directly under your shoulders so you can lengthen your spine finding one long line from your tailbone out through the crown of your head, reach the sternum long and widen the chest (don’t round and collapse forward). Hold for 10-15 breaths. Option to bring the hands to the right thigh, reach the tailbone down to the earth, crown of the head to the sky for an additional few breaths, or right hand to thigh, raise left arm to sky. Repeat sequence on the opposite side.

3. Reclined Hand to Big Toe –  Targets Hamstrings, IT band
Lie on your back, bend your knees, soles of feet on the floor. Reach your right leg into the air, with one side of a strap (band or scarf) in each hand, place the strap across the ball of your foot, ankle flexed, press your heel towards the sky, leg in line with the hip. Knee can be as bent as you need, but ensure your toes, knee, and quad are pointing in the same direction (behind you) to keep the leg aligned. Left leg is either bent, foot on the floor OR long on the ground, ankle flexed, leg engaged, aligned with the hip, toes, quad, knee pointing toward the sky. Hold 10-15 breaths. Pass both straps into your left hand, keep the right hip glued to the floor, and take the right leg across the body just an inch or two to move into the outer edge of the raised leg. Hold for 5-10 breaths. Repeat other side.     

4. Reclined Pigeon – Targets Glutes
Lie on your back, knees bent, feet on the floor. Cross your right ankle over your left knee, lift head and shoulders to reach arms through, take hold behind your thigh, or in front of your shin. Option to use the strap around your shin/thigh if you need more space (longer arms). Release your head and shoulders down, hug your legs into your chest. Shift a little side to side to find that sweet spot. Press your right knee away from you to deepen the stretch, but never any pain in the joints! Back off if this is the case. Hold for 10-15 breaths. Repeat other side. 

5. Reclined Bound Angle – Targets Inner Legs,  Chest
Lie on your back, knees bent, feet on the floor. Bring your blocks (or pillows/stacks of books) to either side of your hips. Let the soles of your feet come together, knees fall open, and place the blocks under the outer edges of your legs just at that place where you start to feel a stretch (closer to the hips for more support). Arms can be down by your sides, out in a T position, or over head, circling the face, palms facing up. Hold for 10-15 breaths. 

For similar poses and additional variations paired with slow deliberate movements, join Katie at Soar Studios every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 7:15 for Deep Stretch. No yoga experience necessary. Visit soarstudios.ca or contact me katiejoyce@outlook.com for more info.