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!
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.
2. 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.
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.
4. 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.
5. 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.