WARNING: DO NOT ENGAGE IN PHYSICAL ACTIVITY WITHOUT FIRST CONSULTING WITH YOUR PERSONAL PHYSICIAN.
One of the most frequent questions I hear regarding fitness is What can be done to recover from an injury or give the muscles a break without compromising fitness levels?
I was a figure skater as a young girl who had no concept of safety. Consequently I tried everything and fell often and hard. I’ve dangled from 400 foot cliffs after struggling up the face of a rock, shoving my Popeye-pumped arms into any crack or crevice I could frantically squeeze into. I’ve hung on for dear life as the blood pumped through my heart and my veins, feeling as though falling back on the rope into the hands of my belayer would mean certain doom, despite how able he/she was. I’ve hiked up ragged, non-trails, on the edge, looking thousands of feet down, carrying a sixty or seventy pound pack.
So I had to try a variety of things to give my muscles the break they needed, because I have worked my muscles hard, and quite frankly, not everything I tried worked all that well.
I’ve tried hot tubs, heating pads, hot and cold rubbing ointments, voodoo dances, snake charming… you name it. But when all is said and done I simply repair and rejuvenate with Yoga. Yep. It’s YOGA baby. And any time my muscles are over fatigued or I start to feel tweaks or injuries, it’s almost always because I’ve not been as diligent to alternate my hard-core fitness days with yoga days. It’s that simple.
Before you run from the computer, screaming “No Shanti Shanti! Please!” (not that there’s anything wrong with that) know this: The yoga I speak of is an at-your-own pace, at-your-own-level restorative and rejuvenating, stretching of the muscles. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of a Thai massage, the yoga I practice is sort of like that, without the massage. It’s the yin to your hard-core exercise’s yang. Yoga loves your body, and your muscles. It will deliver results you’ve never thought of (both physiologically, and psychologically) and refresh you. With regular yogic stretches, your muscles will begin to feel better than ever. They’ll feel stronger and be more useful to you.
(Note: If you have certain injuries, the stretches below may not be right for you and could in fact, cause harm if executed incorrectly. Consult your doctor, physical therapist or chiropracter to determine if these are a fit for you).
Below are a three simple yogic stretches I do regularly to repair and rejuvenate just a few of the key muscles that seem to get fatigued the most (photos are taken from my eBook – a yoga routine called “Ahhhhhh…Haaaaaa Moments with Ms. Cheevious”). One important thing to note before diving in is to get your breathing in order. Inhale deeply through the nose when things are easy, and exhale through the mouth when they’re strenuous. Then lengthen the breaths as you go. Do that as you try these:
TRIANGLE POSE –TRICONASANA
- Stand with your arms extended, feet wide apart. Hips and shoulders squared to the front (where you are facing)
- Turn your left foot sideways (parallel to where you are facing), and the right foot stays facing forward. Make sure the heels are aligned.
- Slowly take your arms toward the left foot, as your right hip extends back toward the right foot (as if your arm and hip are being pulled in opposite directions).
- As soon as you’ve gone as far as you can with the fingers and the hip, take the left arm down to the knee, shin, ankle, foot or floor (I’ve gone to the foot here, below), keeping the legs straight. Only go as far down as you can, while keeping the legs straight. Open your chest up toward the sky with a slight twist. Extend the right arm up energetically to the sky (and slightly toward the back – keep opening the chest up to the sky).
- You may look up toward the sky, but if you do, keep your chin in toward your shoulder.
- Hold for about a minute.
- Slowly come back up and back to center. Shake the legs out and do the other side.
Triangle is known for bringing balance or evenness to your body.
This next exercise will stretch, rejuvenate and send love to the axilla (armpit) muscle, the left inner thigh and hamstring, the right external abdominal obliques and internal abdominal obliques (back side). It will also strengthen your legs, while balancing the effort between your legs, arms and torso.
SITTING – TWISTING STRETCH
- Sit on the floor with your left leg extended, and bring the right foot in, flat up against the left inner thigh.
- Take the right arm all the way behind your back, and try to get it to reach and grab your left thigh (as pictured below). The left hand should reach to grab your toes, but it’s okay if you can only reach your knee, calve or ankle.
- Take the crown of the head toward the left foot.
- Breathe into this stretch for about a minute.
- Take the right arm and extend it to the sky (and slightly to the back as you did in Triangle Pose – opening up the chest to the sky).
- After a minute, close the hand, fingers together and take the right arm directly over the right ear, fingers reaching slightly upward and past the toes (as pictured).
- Bring the legs together, shake the legs out, show some love to your tush and hips by rolling on them for a bit, and move to the other side!
This exercise refreshes and rejuvenates multiple muscles, but you’ll feel it in your right axilla (armpit), right front deltoid (shoulder), right lats, left hamstring and inner thigh… oh it just keeps going. This exercise is the love your body has been craving.
This last one is just for pure love to your back, hamstrings, neck… basically your whole back side. It’s really great one for when you first wake up in the morning.
This one is self-explanatory.
- With feet about hip distance apart, full forward, one vertebrae at a time, bending as you grab the outsides of your elbows.
- Allow the head to hang between your arms.
- Breathe into the stretch.
- When you’ve stretched your spine, trapezoid and lat muscles as well as your hamstrings a bit, dangle the arms down to the floor.
- Feel free to circle the arms in both directions.
- After a few deep breaths, try to get the hands to eventually go flat to the floor without bending your legs.
Now you’re ready! These little stretches will show love to your body and your muscles, and they’ll help you get started on a regular routine of doing so.
Remember: Exercise should be fun and challenging. It’s fine if it’s rigorous on a regular basis too, as long as it’s enhancing your overall health and wellness. But if you’re in it for the long haul, you should treat yourself to some tender loving care now and then too.
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Blog content copyright 2014, LISA JEY DAVIS.