Continuing on the theme of 'Yoga for....' I thought I'd write a blog about how Yoga compliments high intensity exercise such as Crossfit (although it could be any other form of workout/weight lifting/HIIT etc) with a few of my favourite 'post workout' asana. Whilst these activities seem to contradict each other, lots of us find the fast pace acts as an energising yang to the calming yin of our yoga practice. It's also just nice to mix it up a bit, trying different styles of yoga and different forms of exercise to keep the body on its toes!
Crossfit combines weight lifting with high intensity aerobic and anaerobic workouts. The quadriceps, hamstrings and shoulder muscles are used A LOT and it's therefore really important to give them a bit of TLC. The following asana are great for this:
Eagle Pose stretches out the shoulder blades. You can do just the arms, or cross the legs, sitting back in chair pose which will test your balance!! For the arms, cross one arm over the other and interlace your palms. As you exhale start to draw your arms away from your, lifting them up slightly. Use your breath to move you deeper into the pose, being gentle.
Lizard pose (Utthan Pristhasana) helps to open the hips, which can get really tight when doing lots of squats!! You can come down onto your hands, or place a block underneath your forearms if the stretch is too intense. Try not to let your front foot roll out too much, keep grounding through the big toe and pressing into the back foot as you sink your hips down.
Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakoptasana) is another great stretch for the hips and glutes. Keep pressing into the outside edge of your front foot to protect the knee, and try to keep your back foot in line with your leg. You can keep your body up or walk your hands forwards and rest your forehead on them for a deeper stretch
From pigeon you can come into a great quadricep and hip stretch by bending your back leg up and drawing it in towards your thigh/buttock. Try to keep the hip of your back leg moving forwards to prevent your hips from twisting. If you can't reach the foot you can wrap a strap/scarf around the foot and hold on to this instead. To deepen the stretch bring the foot into your elbow crease.
An alternative is to bring your front foot up into a lunge first, and then bend your back leg up. You can either twist here, or keep your body and shoulders facing forwards. Keep squaring your hips to the front of your mat and try to gently resist your hand with your foot.
Cow face (Gomukhasana) with the legs and arms helps to open the chest and access your hips. If it's uncomfortable to sit in this position come to kneeling or sit comfortably. As you breath out try to draw your elbows towards the centre line of your body, whilst gently tucking your pelvis under to prevent your lower back arching. If you can't reach fingertips hold on to a strap or scarf.
There are so many more asana, each having a different focus, but these are a good starting point and building block. If you are doing any form of intense exercise it's really important to rest and stretch in order to prevent injury. Your nervous system is also placed under a lot of stress and it needs time to recover otherwise you will 'over train'. Therefore the benefits of yoga go beyond just 'stretching' (we all know this!!). Focusing on your breath helps to calm the nervous system leading to more successful recovery. It also helps to focus your mind, which is something we all need. There is a culture of pushing your body to it's limits, constantly bettering yourself and your performance... which is ok, progression is a good thing! But sometimes it's also ok to give yourself some time to just 'be' in your body. Having greater body awareness will help you to notice which parts are weak, which are over compensating in an exercise, which areas are tight, and all of this will improve your performance. The benefits are endless....