5 Yoga Moves to Soothe Sore Muscles

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by Greatist
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A strong bod, clear head, and increased energy are a few of the many rewards of hard work in the gym. But sometimes too much of a good thing leaves you stiff, sore, and tired. To maximize all the effects of your hard work, it’s important to take a little time out to recover and restore your body.

This whole-body yoga sequence, inspired by Yoga Tune Up, is perfect for those days when you want to do something but also feel like you need a break or as an addition to your normal routine.

The key here is freedom and ease. Don’t try to win the world’s stretchiest human contest in one session! Mobility and flexibility take time—just like any other aspect of fitness. Meanwhile, your body will thank you for taking a little extra time to recover and restore. And don’t forget to breathe!

shoulder flossing1. Shoulder Flossing

For this move, you’ll need a yoga strap or light resistance band (a belt or rolled-up towel works too). It’s a great move to mobilize and treat all your major shoulder muscles—including the heavy hitters like lats, pecs, and rotator cuffs—which get blasted doing things like banded push-ups and renegade rows. Bonus: Use shoulder flossing to alleviate the effects of slouching in front of your computer too much.

1. Stand tall with feet hip-width apart.

2. Hold the yoga strap in front of hips with a wide grip (about three-and-a-half to four feet apart).

3. Keeping the arms straight, sweep them forward and up overhead.

4. Continue moving arms behind you until the strap touches the lower back or butt.

5. Reverse the action to complete one rep. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

Tips: Keep your abs tight and your spine stable. Make sure your arms are wide enough to remain straight throughout the move. As your shoulders warm up, narrow the grip by small increments along the strap/band.

boomerang side bend2. Boomerang Side Bend
This pose opens up the entire side seam of the body from the triceps to the lats to the obliques. Use it to treat your core muscles after deep ab work or heavy overhead sessions. Bonus: This move provides the added benefit of stretching the primary breathing muscles, the diaphragm and intercostals. Who doesn’t need to breathe easier?!

To do this move, you’ll need a wall, doorway, or post.

1. Stand with the right side of your body toward the wall about one foot away from it. Place the right hand against the wall at about hip-height, fingertips pointing up.

2. Reach the left arm up along side the left ear. Arch the spine toward the wall until the left hand reaches the wall.

3. Internally rotate the left arm and bend the left elbow so the left palm rests on the wall about 12 inches above the right hand, left fingertips pointing toward the ground.

4. Press both palms against the wall (if that is too challenging, or you encounter limited range of motion, place your left hand on a yoga block or similarly-sized item) and allow the side of the body to bow out, away from the wall.

5. Keeping the hands in place, add a little juice to the stretch by isometrically pulling the hands away from each other like you’re trying to peel the paint off the walls. Hold for 30 to 90 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Tips: Maintain a neutral spine from front to back by engaging your abdominal muscles.

bridge3. Bridge
This is a classic yoga pose that opens your chest, shoulders, spine, and hip flexors. It’s a great way to alleviate the stresses of a heavy squat week or marathon training that has your hips feeling like cold steel. Bonus: By engaging your glutes you can tone your tush while you stretch!

1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor about hip-width apart, and your arms alongside the body with palms facing down.

2. Peel the hips off the floor and lift the chest toward the chin. Actively lengthen the lower back by tilting the tailbone toward the back of the knees.

3. With your glutes engaged, roll the shoulder blades together and tuck the arms underneath the body. Interlace the hands behind the back.

4. Actively press the arms down into the floor to increase the arch of the body. Hold for 30 seconds.

5. To come out of the movement, release the hands and roll down to the floor one vertebrae at a time. Do 3 reps.

Tips: Squeeze a yoga block between your knees to keep your back from feeling tweaky. And if interlacing the hands behind the back is tricky, you can hold onto a yoga strap (or resistance band or belt) instead.

reclined spinal rotation4. Reclined Spinal Rotation
This restful move mobilizes the spine and muscles of the lower back that get taxed—big time—from things like deadlifts and kettlebell swings. Bonus: The wringing action of the twist goes deep into the gut and aids digestion.

1. Lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest. Keep your thighs together.

2. Keeping your knees together, drop your legs to the right so that your outer right thigh rests on the floor.

3. Keep the legs together and the knees flush as you roll your chest open in the opposite direction to create a twist in the spine.

4. Breathe deeply and use a strong exhalation to deepen the twist. Hold for 60 to 90 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Tips: If your shoulders are tight, don’t worry about getting your arm or shoulder to the floor. Roll the top hip bone away from the waist to access some serious stretch in the outer corner of your hip and IT band.

reclined hamstring stretch5. Reclined Hamstring Stretch
Relax and get to the heart of those crazy-tight hammies. Bounce back from deadlifts or high volume hamstring pull-ins on the TRX. Bonus: Use this move to chill out after a stressful day. Be sure to have your yoga strap/resistance band/belt/towel handy for this one.

1. Lie flat on your back. Hug your right knee into your chest. Straighten the left leg so the heel is directly in line with left hip and the toes face the ceiling.

2. Loop the yoga strap/band over the bottom of your right foot and straighten the leg up to the sky so that the right leg is perpendicular to the floor.

3. If the right leg won’t go to 90 degrees, don’t worry. Bring the leg up as high as you can while keeping it straight.

4. Breathe deeply and easily and work to intensity but not pain. Hold for 60 to 90 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Tips: For super-tight hamstrings, add a contract-relax action by attempting to push the right leg back down to the ground while drawing the same leg back toward you with the strap. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat two or three times. Also, keep the down-leg engaged by pressing it into the floor to lengthen the hip flexor.

 

Elizabeth Wipff is a yogi, Yoga Tune Up® teacher trainer, and CrossFit coach known for helping students streamline posture, improve performance, and eliminate pain. As a yoga instructor, Elizabeth has pursued multiple disciplines—from Iyengar-inspired to Vinyasa. She is a certified CrossFit trainer and a USA Weightlifting sports performance coach. Elizabeth has presented trainings at YogaWorks studios and CrossFit boxes nationally and is a lead coach at CrossFit Virtuosity in Brooklyn, NY.

 

All photos courtesy of Greatist.

About the Author

Greatist
Greatist

Greatist helps you find what’s good for you. Not like “eat your vegetables, they’re good for you.” More like “here are some choices you can realistically make, stick with, and feel really good about.” Because in the end, you don’t have to choose between being happy and being healthy; they’re really the same thing.

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6 responses to “5 Yoga Moves to Soothe Sore Muscles”

  1. Thank you for this, Elizabeth! I so need it right now after a week of intense squatting and lifting!!

  2. Avatar Sue Richadson says:

    I am suffering from sciatica at the moment,which yoga moves will help please?

    • Avatar threeems says:

      4 and 5 help me the most. I have the same problem, usually caused by too much sitting and too little activity. Also simply lying prone and pressing alternate knees to your chest will help loosen things up.

  3. Avatar Coach Levi says:

    #3 and #4 are some of my all-time favorite moves!

  4. Avatar Mary Michelson says:

    I have fibromyalgia and need some stretches for my neck, sholders and balance. If you could recommend some exercises I could do at home I would appreciate all help I can get. Thank you for your assistance.

    • Avatar Training4life says:

      Here are some stretches that worked for my neck. Simple, but effective.
      Stretching
      Flexion: Standing or sitting with an upright posture, lower the chin towards the chest until you feel a stretch in the muscles at the back of the neck. Hold for five seconds and repeat five times.
      Extension: With an upright posture, tilt your head back (opposite of flexion) so that your nose is towards the sky. You should feel this stretch in the back of the neck and the muscles of the upper shoulder. Hold for five seconds and repeat five times.
      Right and Left Rotation: In a neutral spine position, rotate the head so that the chin is pointing directly towards each shoulder. You should feel a stretch on the sides of the neck. Hold for five seconds and repeat five times on each side (left and right).
      Right and Left Lateral Flexion: In a neutral spine position, bend the neck so that your ear goes towards the shoulder. You should feel this stretch at the sides of the neck. Hold for five seconds and repeat five times.
      Chin Tucks: In a neutral spine position, place two fingers on the chin to gently guide the head back, away from the forward head posture that most people have adopted as neutral. This is a subtle movement. You should feel a stretch in the muscles of the upper neck and shoulder. Hold for five seconds and repeat five times.

      As you become more comfortable with these stretches you can increase the hold of each stretch, just don’t do as many (i.e. hold for 20 to 30 seconds but only do 2 to 3 repetitions). If you’re more of a visual learner, check out this video.

      Strengthening Exercises
      Wide Rows: Also called elbow presses, this exercise is performed by holding the elbows away from your body at shoulder height. As you would with a rowing exercise, bring the elbows back and squeeze the shoulder blades together towards the spine. Hold 5 seconds and repeat 10 times. When this exercise becomes easy, increase the reps or move to performing the exercise with resistance bands or the cable system at the gym.
      Shoulder Rolls: Similar to a reverse shoulder shrug, bring the shoulders up towards the ear (contracting the upper trapezius muscle) while keeping your arms down by your side. Next roll the shoulders backwards and down, stretching the same muscles you were just contracting. Also make sure to rotate the shoulder blades together too while you rotate back and down. Complete the circle until you reach the starting point. Repeat 10 times.
      Neck Sit-ups (Extension and Flexion): Lie down on your stomach on a flat and raised surface (such as a bed) with your head hanging off in the position of flexion. Raise the head past the neutral spine position and up into extension. This movement should be slow, taking about five seconds to lift the head completely into extension. Repeat this same exercise for flexion by lying on your back with your head off the bed, bringing your chin towards your chest. Repeat each 10 times (this video does a good job demonstrating an example of this exercise).
      Remember that pain is a good indicator that something is wrong. These exercises are not meant to be an alternative to seeing a doctor, as some conditions can be more serious than simple stretching and strengthening exercises can fix. As always, be smart and listen to your body if in doubt.

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