If your newly-aligned health and fitness goals for 2022 start and end in the weights room, you may want to look slightly further afield to make even greater strides in your wellbeing this year. For many of us training regularly — from the newly-minted weights room novices to the tried-and-tested regulars — dipping your toe into a new discipline such as yoga can have massive carry-over into your primary method of training while also dramatically mitigating your injury risk.
“Often when we think of improving our fitness we think about strength and cardiovascular training, however mobility and flexibility is equally as important. By incorporating yoga into your weekly programme you can counterbalance tension created by resistance training or caused by stress, and also improve joint mobility and active range of motion,” explains Clare Walters, Third Space Mind & Body Master Trainer. “With increased joint mobility and decreased muscular tension you’ll notice improved performance in other areas of your training and reduce your risk of injury.”
There’s mental gains to be found, too. “Not only this but the mindful approach to movement and the focus on breath within a yoga class can also help to regulate the nervous system and mitigate stress,” says Walters. With that in mind, grab your mat, digest Walters’ coaching cues and work your way through these moves ASAP.
Why: “Downward dog stretches the whole backline of the body from the soles of the feet, to the calves and hamstrings, torso and shoulders so it’s a really great check in to see where we’re feeling tension along this line. It’s also a great posture for warming up shoulders in an overhead position – particularly if you flow between a high plank and downward dog.”
- Start on all fours and lift your hips up and back, whilst pressing the chest towards the thighs creating an equilateral triangle shape with the body.
- Feet and hands should be shoulder width apart.
Why: “Typically, many of us tend to be tight in the hip flexors whether that’s from sitting down at a desk all day or quad dominant training. Low lunge allows us to gently stretch the hip flexors by taking the hips into a greater range of extension.”
- From Downward Facing Dog, step your right foot between your hands and drop the back knee.
- Sweep the arms up, clasping the hands together with index fingers pointing forwards.
- Lift the chest and keep the arms in line with the ears.
- Press the hips forwards.
Why: “Another common area of tightness is in the hamstrings. Unlike downward dog, Hanumanasana allows us to focus solely on the hamstrings in the stretch,” says Walters.
- From Lizard, shift the hips back to stack above the back knee, bring the hands to the hips and flex the front foot.
- Place the hands to the floor as you lean the torso over the front leg leading with the chest.
Why: “Pigeon allows for a deep stretch in the glutes and is easily modified to suit any level of mobility. If you don’t feel much of a stretch, simply change the angle of the front leg until you feel a stretch in the glutes.”
- From Downward Facing Dog, shift weight forwards bringing your left knee to the left wrist and left ankle to the right wrist.
- Drop the back knee and untuck the toes. Shift the back leg as far back as feels comfortable.
- Fold over the front thigh, lowering the chest to the floor, arms reaching out in front.
Why: “In contrast to Downward Dog, Cobra stretches the whole front line of the body which can become tight from sitting with poor posture during the work day. It’s also important to work into extension of the spine so a gentle backbend such as this can allow us to work into our existing range of spinal mobility and gives us the opportunity to improve it.”
- Start lying face down on the mat. Place the hands underneath the shoulders and press the tops of the feet into the mat.
- On an inhale press the hands down to lift the head, shoulders and chest off the mat.
Half Lord of the Fishes
Why: “A great deal of our movement patterning in the gym tends to be linear – moving forwards and backwards and side to side with little rotation. As a result, we can hold a lot of tension in our torso and along the length of the spine so a seated twist such as Half Lord of the Fishes can be a great counteracting posture.”
- Start in a seated position with both legs straight. Place the right foot to the outside of the left thigh with the sole of the foot on the floor.
- Bend the left knee and bring your left ankle to your right glute.
- Rotate to the right and take the right hand behind the back, placing it on the floor.
- Place you left elbow on the outside of your right knee.
- Inhale and lengthen up through the crown of the head and exhale twist to the right looking over the back shoulder.