Running, biking, lifting and even sitting at a desk all day can lead to tight quadriceps. Counter the effects of your work — whether it’s training or sitting — with these yoga poses that lengthen and stretch your quadriceps.
To fully stretch the quads, you need to open the front of your hips as well. Using a block under your tailbone takes the effort out of the pose and lets you focus on lengthening the front of the legs — the hips and the quadriceps.
The move: Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor with ankles under knees. Your feet should be hip-width apart and parallel so all 10 toes point in the same direction. As you inhale, press into the backs of your arms and feet, tilt your pelvis up and lift your hips up until your thighs are about parallel to the floor. Place a block under your low back for added support. The block can be on the short, medium or tall height. Take your arms out to goalposts to further open the chest. Hold for up to a minute then release on an exhale.
Thunderbolt stretches the quadriceps as well as the muscles around your knees and ankles. Use a blanket or towel under your knees and ankles for extra padding.
The move: Sit in a kneeling position with your butt resting on your heels. Legs are slightly apart but try to have your big toes touching. Sit tall, relax your eyes and rest your hands on your thighs. If the pose is too intense for your knees, slide a blanket or towel between your shins and the backs of your thighs. Hold for up to a minute.
Low lunge stretches the groin and begins to release the hips, which need to open for a full quadricep stretch.
The move: You can come into low lunge from both standing forward fold and down dog. From standing forward fold, bend your knees, take both hands to the floor and step your left foot back so the ball of your foot is on the ground and your heel is lifted. Step far enough back with your left foot that your right knee and ankle are in a straight line. Frame your right foot with both hands and press your left heel back, keeping your left leg strong and solid.
From down dog, step your right foot forward between your hands. It’s a big step, especially in the beginning. If your foot doesn’t make it all the way between your hands, inch it forward or use your right hand to help your foot along. Once your foot is between your hands, check your alignment. Make sure your right knee and ankle are in a straight line. Press your left heel back, keeping your left leg strong and solid.
Take 3–5 breaths here, then add a quad stretch (see below) before repeating both poses on the other side.
LOW LUNGE WITH QUAD STRETCH
This modification to low lunge deepens the release in the hips and stretches the quadriceps.
The move: From low lunge, bend your back leg and reach for your foot with the opposite hand (right hand reaches for left foot). Gently work the bent leg closer to your torso and hold for 3–5 breaths. If you struggle to reach your back foot, loop a strap or a towel around your foot.
Most people have a love-hate relationship with hero. For some, the pose gives a deep stretch to tight leg muscles, soothing aching legs after the initial discomfort. For others, our thighs burn and our ankles feel like they might snap. It’s tempting to avoid the posture, but it’s chock full of good-for-you perks: Hero stretches the thighs, knees and ankles and it improves circulation and digestion.
The move: Kneel on the floor (a folded blanket can help pad the knees and shins) with thighs parallel and butt lifted off the legs. Slide your shins and feet out just wider than your hips. Sit down on the floor between your shins and feet. If your butt doesn’t hit the floor, sit on a block or a book.
Lengthen through your spine and relax your shoulders. Make sure your knees are in line with your shins. Rest your hands in your lap.
If your butt touches the floor, consider deepening the pose by walking your hands behind you, fingers facing into your body. Lower one elbow and then the other so you’re resting on your forearms.
To begin, stay in your variation of hero for 30–60 seconds.
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