The Pose Sequence
Balanced Knee to Chest
Why? Stretches glutes and low back while developing balance and stability.
How: Balance on your right leg, holding under the left thigh and drawing it toward your rib cage while maintaining a lengthened spine. In all balance poses, find something to focus your gaze on, and keep your breath smooth and even.
Tip: If your balance is shaky, keep one hand on a wall or a chair-back until you feel steadier. Working the little muscles in your feet and ankles is important, too.
Balanced Pigeon with Chest Expansion
Why? Stretches hips, glutes, piraformis, chest and shoulders while developing strength and balance.
How? From Balanced Knee to Chest pose, keep the left knee bent, taking the left ankle across the top of the right thigh and flexing the left foot. Gently rotate the left knee out until you feel a stretch in left hip (you don't want to feel any pain in the knee). Keeping an extended spine, hinge your torso toward your left shin to feel a deeper stretch. Stay here if the pose is already challenging or progress by adding the chest and shoulder stretch by interlacing your fingers behind your back and lifting your arms up and away from your low back. Keep your eyes focused on a still spot.
Why? Stretches hamstrings.
How? From Balanced Pigeon, step your left foot back about two to three feet from your right foot. Your heels should line up, your right toes will be angled straight forward and your left toes will be angled out at about a 45-degree angle. Keeping your right knee slightly bent and your hips level to the floor, hinge forward and support by placing your hands on your right shin. Keep your front knee bent as much as feels comfortable.
Forward Fold with Chest Expansion
Why? Stretches the hamstrings, chest and shoulders.
How? From Pyramid Stretch, step your left foot forward and stand with feet hip-distance apart and parallel. Interlace your fingers behind your back and fold forward keeping the knees slightly bent and the hips aligned over the ankles. Lift the arms up and away from the tailbone until you feel a stretch in the front of the shoulders and chest as well as the hamstrings. Release your torso toward your thighs.
Why? Stretches hamstrings.
How? From Forward Fold, bend your knees as much as you need to, put your hands on the floor, then step your right knee back to the floor, putting extra padding under the knee if it is sensitive. Your left knee is directly over your ankle. Shift your weight back into the right knee, extending your left leg straighter until you feel a stretch in your left hamstring. This is a deep stretch. Your left leg does not need to be straight.
Why? Stretches hip flexors and quads.
How? From Runner's Stretch, shift your weight forward so your left knee is directly over your left ankle with one hand on either side of your left foot. Bring your hands to your left thigh and press your torso up, extending and lengthening your spine (not leaning forward). Hinge your hips forward until you feel a stretch in the right hip flexor and quad. If you feel comfortable, you can release your hands from your thigh and bring them up over your shoulders, reaching through your fingertips as you breath in, releasing the hips toward the floor as you breath out.
Why? This is one of the best total-body strength and flexibility poses, stretching calf muscles, Achilles and hamstrings, while strengthening and stretching the shoulders and lats.
How? From Crescent Lunge, bring both hands down on either side of your left foot and step your left knee back to meet your right knee so you are on all fours with your hands shoulder-distance apart and your knees under your hips. Curl your toes under, press through your palms and lift your tailbone up so you are in an inverted V position. Keep your knees slightly bent if your hamstrings are tight. Work toward straightening your legs. Inhale and think of extending and lengthening your spine, exhale and allow the heels to sink down toward the floor as you continue to press through your palms.
Before moving on, repeat poses one through three with the left leg, followed by a second Forward Fold.
Repeat poses five and six on the other leg followed by a second Downward Dog.
The featured pose sequence is from Karen Dubs' DVD, Flexible Warrior: Athletic Yoga for Triathletes Vol. 1. The DVD is part of the Spinervals International multisport series by Coach Troy Jacobson. Dubs is a registered yoga teacher and ACE certified fitness professional specializing in yoga for athletes. She has trained a wide range of athletes including triathletes, runners, cyclists, swimmers and Baltimore Ravens football players. For more information, visit flexiblewarrior.com.