It’s no secret that yoga is good for you.
Regular yoga practice is known to alleviate tension, lengthen muscles, increase flexibility, correct posture and comprehensively balance your mind and body. But the benefits don’t stop there.
Whether you’re a runner, swimmer, tennis player or kick-boxing fanatic, yoga is one of the most accessible forms of exercise for nearly any one, at any age. In fact, many athletes and bodybuilders strongly support incorporating yoga into their strength training routines. Yoga can help prevent injury in the off-season and increase endurance, in addition to improving your physical performance.
While you don’t need to be hyper-flexible or practice yoga six times a week to reap its benefits, regular practice is the most effective. Incorporating these some simple moves into your strength training routine can help you feel less stressed, more balanced and stronger in no time.
Here are four of the best poses to get your started:
- Downward Dog
Begin with your hands and knees on the ground. Next, lift your tailbone toward the ceiling, and straighten your arms and legs so your body is shaped like an upside down “V.” If you are first beginning your yoga practice, it is okay if your feet lift slightly off the ground; although the goal is to eventually keep your heels on the ground, to ensure you get the full stretch. Hold your position for 30 to 60 seconds before you release it.
Downward dog lengthens and decompresses the spine and stretches and strengthens the hamstrings, glutes and Achilles tendon.
Again, start on all fours, with your hands and knees on the ground. Slide your right knee toward your right hand and position your knee at two o’clock. Move your left leg back as far as your hips will allow while keeping your hips square. You will not be able to open your hips to the fullest if your hips are not square, and it will place unnecessary pressure on your back. To keep pressure off your knee caps, your right thigh should have a slight external rotation, and your left thigh should have a slight internal rotation. Breathe and release the belly to experience a full release in the hips, and begin by staying upright on your hands while moving your hips forward and down until you feel more comfortable in the stretch.
This pose helps stretch groin, glute and psoas muscles, alleviate sciatic pain and facilitate a deeper hip opening.
- Warrior One
Standing tall, take one giant step forward with one leg. Then, bend the same knee, so your quadricep muscle is parallel to the floor. With the bottom of your foot placed firmly on the floor, make sure your other leg is stretched out behind you. Raise both your arms straight above you, pointing your fingertips toward the ceiling. Look up toward your fingertips and relax your shoulders down your back. After taking a full breath in and out, repeat the pose on the opposite side.
Warrior One stretches your shoulder and hip flexors and encourages a deeper front squat.
- Extended Side Angle Pose
Step your feet farther apart that you would in triangle pose, and again turn your right foot 90 degrees to the right and your left foot 10 -15 degrees in the same direction. Bend your right knee, keeping your knee directly over your ankle, and stretch your right arm out, away from you. Move your right hand to the floor or place it on an elevated block and reach your left arm overhead. Hold this pose for three to six breaths and repeat on your other side.
The extended side angle pose strengthens the core and stretches and opens the hips, hamstrings, groin, shoulders, chest and spine.