Even the most die-hard athletes could use a little “om” in their training regimens.
Ruby & Pearls Yoga Studio co-owner Heather Holland outlines a few essential hip openers to help improve flexibility in any sport.
Many popular sports and fitness regimens, such as CrossFit, running, and cycling, are full of linear movements. To get an accurate picture of what that means, imagine a football player running down a field, hips closed. Other commonplace strength training exercises like squats and dead lifts also keep the hips in just one position. But learning how to open up the hips and shoulders allows for more flexibility, strength, and ease in linear, repetitive movements that so many of us athletes practice every day on the field, on the court, or in the gym.
These yoga asanas will not only help open the shoulders, hips, and chest, but more importantly, they’ll give you an overall stress reduction on your body. Hold each for a minimum of 90 seconds to allow the fascia (fiber-like tissue that surround the muscles) to release.
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Stretches the entire body. This is the pièce de résistance of yoga.
· Start on hands and knees (hands lined up under shoulders, hips and knees in-line)
· Curl toes under, bend knees generously, press feet into the floor, and raise the hips up. Press towards the back of the room
· Keep a bend in the knees for tight hamstrings
· Spread fingers out wide, keeping hands shoulder-width apart and feet hip-width or wider
· Let head hang loose and continue to press through the hands to take pressure off the upper torso and balance out the weight in the pose
· Hold for 30 seconds (goal: build up to 90 seconds), taking deep inhales and exhales through the nose
· Body should be in the shape of a wide upside-down “V”
· Back to hands and knees to recover; repeat
Benefit: Opens and increases hip flexibility; stretches hamstrings and thighs; relieves fatigue, anxiety, and tension.
· From Downward Dog, move right foot forward and place next to your right hand
· Slowly lower left knee to mat and tuck the tailbone
· On a big inhale, lower elbows towards the mat while keeping the right shoulder and right knee tucked next to each other
· Stay for 5 breaths
· Press back slowly to Downward Dog
One-Legged King Pigeon Pose
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
Benefit: Hip opener. Beware — you will have a love/hate relationship with this pose!
· On all fours, slide right knee forward towards right hand and drop in a right angle on the mat
· Curl left toes under and straighten the leg back as far as your hips will allow, then uncurl toes
· Square the hips. If this is not possible for your particular mobility, place a rolled-up towel under your right hip
· Keep torso upright with hands/arms in a Downward Dog position, or lower elbows to the mat. Cross forearms and make a pillow for your forehead
· Try to relax and soften. Hold for a minimum of 90 seconds to allow fascia to release
· Transition back to all fours and repeat with left leg
Cow Face Pose
Benefit: Stretches arms and shoulders, and internally rotates hips. Also opens up the chest and extends your latissimus dorsi. Can help aid chronic knee pain and decompress the spine.
· From a seated position, place a bent right knee on top of a bent left knee
· Make sure hips are resting on the floor. If they cannot due to limited mobility, place a rolled towel under the tight hip
· Stretch your torso, straighten your back, and extend your left arm up to the ceiling
· Bend the left elbow and bring the left palm to rest on your upper back
· Bring your right arm out to your side and bend at the elbow, moving your right hand to the back of your neck
· Clasp right fingers with left. Modification: grab your shirt or use a towel instead
· Keep the left elbow lifting up and close to the left side of your head. Keep the right elbow pulling towards the floor and closer to the body. Be sure to sit up straight
· Breathe, breathe, and breathe!
· Hold 1 to 5 minutes