Walking can be an easy way to build fitness and enjoy the great outdoors, but the repetitive motion can tighten muscles, particularly the hips, hamstrings and lower back. Practicing a few yoga poses after a walk helps lengthen and stretch your muscles, keeping you balanced, flexible and walking for miles.
1. FORWARD FOLD WITH CHEST OPENER
We often focus on stretching our lower body after a walk or run, but the repetitive motion of swinging our arms can tighten our chest and shoulders. Add this chest opener variation to your forward fold and you’ll loosen the hamstrings, lower back, chest and shoulders.
The move: Stand at the top of your mat. Inhale and sweep your arms overhead. Keep your low belly drawn in to help counteract arching your back. As you exhale, hinge from the hips and swan dive forward with your arms out like wings. If you can, keep your torso long and your knees straight. Rest your hands on a block, hold onto your ankles or place your palms on the floor. Let your head be heavy and relax your eyes. After a few breaths in your standing forward fold, bring your arms behind your back, interlace your fingers and let your arms fall over your head. Try to keep your palms together.
2. KNEELING LUNGE
Kneeling lunge is a great pose for athletes, particularly walkers and runners, because it stretches the quadriceps, hips and hamstrings. Practice it regularly and you’ll discover greater flexibility in your legs.
The move: From your forward fold, bend your knees and plant your hands on the floor. Step your left foot back and lower your knee to the ground. Make sure your right knee is over your right ankle, not in front of it. You may want to fold your mat in half or place a blanket under your left knee for added padding.
Slide your left leg back until you feel a gentle stretch through the top of your thigh and groin. Press the top of your left foot and all five toes into the ground. Stay here, with your hands framing your right foot or inhale and lift your torso up. Hold here for 5–10 breaths and then, on an exhale, frame your right foot, turn your left toes under, engage your left leg, step forward to the top of the mat and repeat on the other side.
3. HALF LORD OF THE FISHES
This twist releases tension and stiffness in the lower back and hips.
The move: Sit on the floor or the edge of a blanket with your legs extended. Cross your right leg over left so your right knee points to the ceiling and your right foot sits outside your left knee. You can keep your left leg straight with the foot flexed or bend your left leg so your left foot rests near your right hip. Try to keep both sits bones on the ground.
Inhale, elongate the spine and stretch your left arm overhead. Exhale and twist to the left, releasing your left hand to the floor behind you. Inhale and stretch your right arm overhead. Exhale and twist, bringing your right elbow to rest against the outside of your right knee. Continue to find length through the torso with each inhale, being conscious not to collapse through the chest. Hold for 3–5 breaths and repeat on the other side.
4. SUPINE PIGEON
This pose stretches the groin, glutes, piriformis, hip flexors and psoas, which all help loosen the hips. And, looser hips can help relieve back pain and lengthen your stride.
The move: Lie on your back and make an L-shape with your legs so your knees are over your hips and your feet are even with your knees. Cross your right foot over your left thigh, just above your knee. Hold onto the back of your left thigh and gently pull both legs toward you. Flex both feet and keep your left foot at knee height or higher. Hold for 5–10 breaths and switch sides.
5. HAPPY BABY
This pose, a natural for babies, stretches the hips, hamstrings and back.
The move: Lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest. Reach for the outsides of your feet or shins, depending on your flexibility and open your knees slightly wider than your hips. Stack each ankle directly over the knee, flex through your heels and press your tailbone into the earth. Hold the pose for 5–10 breaths before releasing your feet back to the earth.
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