WITH PROPS - MODIFICATIONS FOR INTERMEDIATE & BEGINNER!
I don't know about you, but I love getting deep into the legs and hips after a long day. Especially if my day includes lots of driving/traffic, stationary jobs or habits, weight lifting, or if I'm on my feet for long periods of time. These activities can tighten up the muscles all the way from the lower back down to the heel. This can cause a higher susceptibility to injury and limit your range of motion. Proper stretching is so important to include in your daily routine to keep the tissues, muscle, & joints healthy and mobile!
Not only do the muscles tighten up when we don't stretch but the energy, or Qi, won't flow through the body properly either. Imagine the fluidity difference of ice and water. Water is free and mobile, it is calm but has strong force. Ice is solid & heavy but inflexible and lacks fluidity making it unflowable. Strength & flexibility go hand in hand. #strongandsexy One without the other provides a space for imbalances and once again, a higher susceptibility to injury. We want energy to flow freely throughout the body because that stimulates healing, building, & repairing mechanisms of the physical body. As well as supporting clean and healthy blood flow.
Let's get to it, shall we?
Each asana is held for 1 minute each. Focus on the breath and your body's feedback, modify as needed.
#1: Hamstring release w/ strap
Make a loop with your strap, belt, or band to go around the base of your right foot first. Start in the modified position above and slowly start to lengthen both legs. Engaging both feet, gently pull the strap so the right toes work their way towards the nose, left leg stays down. Hold for one minute & repeat on the other side. KEEP THE TAILBONE DOWN!
Areas of focus: Hamstrings, calves, feet
Modifications: Bend at the knee and bring in the resting leg with the foot flat on the floor (as pictured above)
#2: IT Band release & spinal twist w/ strap
Taking the same position as #1, starting with the right leg again. This time take hold of the strap with your left hand and guide the right leg across the left side of the body. Bend into the top knee if this is too intense but keep the resting leg straight. BREATHE & KEEP THE BODY RELAXED. Switch sides when you're ready.
Areas of focus: IT band, low back
Modifications: Bend into the knee
#3: Low lunge to Runner's stretch
Keep the knee stacked over the ankle in your lunge. Use blocks or come to your fingertips to lift the chest off of the thigh. Sink the extended legs hip flexor into the floor nice & slowly. Pause for a few breaths. To flow into runners stretch, begin sending the hips back, keep them square. Straightening out the front leg and flex the front foot so the heel is pushing into the mat. Keep the chest pulling towards your flexed foot, avoid rounding in the back in either of these. Switch back & forth every 5 breaths 3x and then repeat on the other side.
Areas of focus: (lunge) Hip flexors, glutes, groin (runner's) hamstrings, calves, feet
Modifications: Use blocks (as pictured above)
#4: Quad Release
Come back to low lunge on your right side, left knee to the floor. Bring the palms on top of your right thigh, tuck the tailbone, stack the hips over the back knee. Take hold of the back foot using the corresponding hand. Simultaneously pull the back heel in towards the sits bones and sink into the outside of the right hip. Try and keep the hips stacked, chest lifted. Hold for a minute, flowing in and out of the breath, listening to your body. Inhale to back off, exhale to go deeper. Repeat on the opposite side.
Areas of focus: Quads, hip flexors, groin, shoulders
Modifications: Use a strap to grab your foot (as pictured above)
Extra challenge: Lift the heel of the front foot to incorporate balance & strength.
#5: Straddle split variations
Position A: Straddle side stretch
Start in a wide legged position on the floor. Take the right forearm to the inseam of the right leg on the floor. As you lift the left arm pull the ribs out & up to open the chest, ground the sits bones. You should feel this immediately in the left side. If you feel ready to, begin reaching the fingertips towards the right toes (foot is flexed). Avoid compromising the open chest to reach the toes! Always keep the shoulders away from the ears. Push your forearm into the floor to keep from sinking and to open the chest deeper. Breathe here for 1 minute and switch sides.
Areas of focus: Groin, pelvis. hamstrings, ribs, spine, feet
Modifications: If you need to modify, place a block or 2 underneath the forearm. To modify further, bend the left knee to take to foot into the groin to keep the left hip open.
Position B: Straddle split
Sitting in a straddle position, legs out ALMOST as wide as you can get them. Never start at your max work your way up to it. Bring your fingertips to the floor, ground the sits bones, pull up from the navel to lengthen the spine, reach the heart forward to avoid rounding in the back. On the exhale begin walking the hands out in front of you slowly or place the forearms down - keep the chest forward, throat open! Pausing each time the asana deepens. You don't need to force yourself to the floor. Listen to YOUR body.
Areas of focus: Groin, pelvis. hamstrings, spine, feet
Modifications: Use block variations as pictured above. The goal is to lengthen the belly across the top of the block to keep the spine straight.
#6: Seated Forward Fold (strap + blocks)
In a seated position, extend both legs out in front of you. Inhale to reach the arms up as high as you can, keeping the shoulders down. Exhale to fold, or roll, over the tops of the legs, maintaining a long spine. Navel wants to touch the thigh before the head to the shins! Shoulder's are away, push the grip of the feet into the soles as the torso reaches forward.
Areas of focus: Hamstrings, calves, spine, feet
Modifications: Place a block in between your feet and squeeze to remind you to engage in the inseams of the legs and quads. Use your strap again! Pull the strap in towards you as you lengthen the spine to bring the crown of the head towards the toes.
It's so important to rest & reset after each day so you can show up fully charged and ready to perform at your highest frequency! Whether you practice yoga or not, stretching NEEDS to be a part of your day to keep your mind & body healthy and clean.
Check out other yoga related posts here!