Yoga Poses After Knee Surgery

Hi Everyone!

In this blog post, I am going to go over a handful of yoga poses that you can safely do (or do with modifications) post-knee surgery. This is more specifically aimed towards those who are recovering from ACL Reconstruction surgery, but can also be applied to anyone looking to get back into yoga after recovering from a knee injury or surgery.

Before I begin, I must preface with – please check with your surgeon and/or physical therapist before getting back into yoga post-surgery! They will have a MUCH better idea of where you are at in your recovery process, and can recommend which movements are safe and effective for you. I am not a physical therapist or a doctor – the yoga postures I am posting about are purely recommendations for those who are in a safe and stable place in their recovery (or on a structured path for their recovery). These are postures I have chosen based on my knowledge of the body (as a yoga teacher and personal trainer), and from my own yoga journey post-ACL surgery. Everyone is different, so please go slowly and at your own risk!

With that being said – the ONLY person who knows how your body feels, is YOU. While my surgeon and PT didn’t know much about yoga while I was going through my recovery process, I listened to their advice and ventured slowly, listening to my body and did not force myself into any poses.

If any of the postures are difficult to get into, please pause and check in with yourself to see if maybe you can hold off on entering that pose at this moment in your recovery. OR, maybe you just need a wall or chair, something to help you balance in case you fall out.  If any of the poses cause any pain, please stop immediately and consult with your surgeon and/or physical therapist.

Ok Great! Let’s Begin.

Depending on where you are at in your recovery, some of these poses may be easier than others. And that’s ok! Recovering from an injury is incredibly humbling, and the best way for the body to heal and strengthen is to GO SLOW and love on your body! Check in with yourself before, during, and after each pose, and see how you physically feel. Stop or modify when needed. If you feel comfortable in these poses and are coming along nicely in your recovery, feel free to hold these postures longer, or begin to piece them together for an actual yoga flow.

The poses in this post are obviously not every yoga pose out there, but these are some postures I explored when starting out post-surgery. If you have any questions on other poses not mentioned, leave a comment below!

If it is helpful for you to have someone instruct you, check out the free ACL recovery yoga videos on my Youtube channel here.

If you need more structure, I  created a 2-month Yoga for Knee Surgery Recovery course that progresses you starting at 3+ months post-surgery. This is for anyone who is committed & looking to improve their ROM, strength, and flexibility.

Seated/On the Ground Postures

Upward Facing Dog

This pose can take a little longer to get back to, as it puts pressure on the knee and can feel a little weird while your body is still recovering. I recommend only doing this posture if you are at least 3-4 months post-knee surgery.

In the meantime, you can stick with low cobra for a heart-opening & back-strengthening alternative.

low cobra

Benefits: Opens up the front body, upper back, and shoulders. Engages the glutes & quads.

Modification: Low Cobra

locust pose

Benefits: Strengthens the upper and lower back, improves shoulder flexibility, engages the glutes and quads

Locust Pose

This can be easily done around 2+ months post-op. If laying on your stomach/knee bothers you, place a blanket or something soft under your knee.

Seated Forward Fold

This is a gentle stretch that can be done 2+ months post-op. Start with bent knees, and allow yourself to fold over the legs without force. By keeping your knees bent, you are releasing any tension in the back, which helps you stretch deep in the belly of the hamstring muscles.

seated forward fold

Benefits: opens up the hamstrings and calves, releases tension in the lower back

Janu Sirsasana with block
Janu Sirsasana

Benefits: Opens up the hip joint, hamstrings, and lower back

Janu Sirsasana

This pose can be done in a few ways 2-3 months post-op. Remember it’s ok to bend the knee in this stretch, as this allows for a safer and deeper stretch in the hamstrings.
1. Full expression is one bent knee, folding over the other leg
2. If there is pain or limited ROM, place a block/pillow/blanket under the knee
3. For a lower back stretch, walk your hands to the outside of the straight leg

Seated Twist

This posture can be done safely 2.5-4 months post-op, depending on where your ROM is. Go slowly, and don’t force. Keep your spine straight, and breathe deeply.

seated twise

Benefits: Opens up the spine, shoulders, and side body. This helps to free up any tightness in the muscles attached to the hip, which can restrict movement down to your knees.

reclined knee to chest

Benefits: stretches the lower back, stabilizes and stretches the pelvis, improves digestion (and helps release stuck air! haha)

Reclined Knee to Chest

Try this posture 2+ months post-op. Depending on your ROM, this may be easier or more difficult. Be patient – the goal here isn’t to force. This posture has benefits other than bending the knee 🙂

Downward Facing Dog

This pose is a little bit trickier, as it requires a little more upper body strength and flexibility. If you feel comfortable supporting yourself, go ahead and try this around 2.5+ months post-op. Keep the knees bent and play around with gently straightening out the leg. As you ROM and strength in your leg improves, this pose will get easier.

downward facing dog

Modification: Place hands on an elevated surface, like a couch or chair, and come into a down dog shape

Benefits: Opens up the entire fascial tissue from your heels all the way up to the back of your neck and head, stretches the calves & hamstrings, opens up the shoulders and back

Standing Postures

chair pose

Benefits: Strengthens legs and core, opens up and strengthens shoulders

Chair Pose

This is a pose you can do earlier on around 2 months post-op, as it doesn’t require a lot of strength. However, if you struggle with balance, make sure to have a wall or chair nearby to help out. As you get stronger, you can try lifting your heels and balancing on your toes.

Crescent Lunge

Depending on where you are at post-surgery, I recommend holding off on crescent lunge, as it requires more balance + leg & core strength. If you feel confident, give this a try around 2-2.5 months post-op. If you struggle with balance, have something nearby to hold onto for support. If you need a little more time, wait 3+ months post-op.

crescent lunge

Benefits: Strengthens the legs, improves ROM in the knee, stretches the hip flexors, Strengthens and opens the shoulders

tree pose

Modifications: Keep toes on ground or at ankle

Benefits: Strengthens core, legs, and improves balance

Tree Pose

Tree pose can be done a few different ways at different times in your recovery. Start off modified, with your foot still on the ground or at your ankle, with something nearby to hold onto. I recommend starting out at 2 months post-op, then work your way up to a full expression once you have more ROM in your knee and improved hip mobility. Don’t ever place your foot on the inside of your knee – only above or below.

Pyramid Pose

Pyramid pose can be done with modifications 2.5+ months post-op. Make sure you have blocks or something to support you on both sides of your leg, and keep your knee bent. Don’t fully straighten the leg in this posture so early on in your recovery, as it will put too much pressure on the knee joint. Wait until 4+ months post-op to really work on straightening the leg.

If doing the other way around with your “good” leg, make sure to keep the recovering knee bent, with more of the weight shifted to the front foot.

pyramid pose

Modifications: bend knee, use blocks

Benefits: stretches hamstrings and lower back

warrior 2

Benefits: strengthens the inner thigh, quads, glutes, and core

Warrior 2

This is a trickier pose, as it puts pressure on the knee and puts your new ACL to the test. Because of this, I recommend waiting 3.5-4+ months post-op + have decent strength in your quads.

If you are doing this posture with your “good” leg forward, wait until 3+ months post-op, making sure to keep a slight bend in the back leg + put a little more weight in the front foot.

Side Angle

Side angle is another tricky pose, as it puts pressure on the knee and also tests out your new ACL. I recommend holding off on this posture until 3.5-4+ months post-op, as this posture requires more leg + core strength. If you are lacking in the strength, you can put too much pressure on the knee or fall out of the posture, putting yourself at risk for reinjuring yourself.

If you are doing this posture with your “good” leg forward, wait until 3+ months post-op, making sure to keep a slight bend in the back leg + put a little more weight in the front foot.

side angle

Benefits: Strengthens the core, legs, and opens up the side body & pelvis

triangle

Modification: bent leg + block

Benefits: Stretches & opens up the side body and hip, strengthens the legs and core

Triangle

Triangle pose is a bit more difficult, as it can put a lot of pressure on the knee. Even when bending the leg, you can end up dumping a lot of weight into the knee, especially if you don’t have the upper body & core strength. I recommend waiting until 4+ months post-op to really get back into this pose, and always have a slight bend in the knee w/ a block or something underneath the hand to give you support. NEVER lock your knee out in this pose!

If you are doing this posture with your “good” leg forward, wait until 3+ months post-op, making sure to keep a slight bend in the back leg + shift a little more weight into the front foot.

And that’s it! I hope this was helpful to anyone going through an ACL surgery, or recovering from any knee injury! It’s so important to check in with your body when embarking on any new exercise routine, so go slow, be kind to yourself, and don’t push yourself to do anything that your body may not be ready for.

ACL Guides

If you enjoyed reading about these yoga postures and are ready to get back into yoga after knee surgery, head over to ACLYoga.com and sign up for my 2-month Yoga for ACL Surgery Recovery course.

You’ll also receive a free copy of The Complete ACL Surgery Recovery Guide, which has a complete timeline of my own recovery, every single physical therapy exercises I did week by week through month 6, how I decided what graft to get, and more!

This course can be done at any time 3-months post-op and out, and includes weekly yoga videos that progresses you along in your recovery (in addition to your physical therapy!). The course will help strengthen the body, improve range of motion, balance, and flexibility, and build overall confidence as you recover.

How to Improve Your Posture

Do you sometimes feel like you are a slumped-over, hunch-back-of-a-human? Are your shoulders rounded, and you don’t know how to sit up straight without consciously putting your attention on your posture?

This is something I’ve struggled with in the past, and I’m here to tell you – there is hope! Having rounded shoulders is normally due to a muscle imbalance, which can be fixed fairly easily when consistently doing specific exercises to strengthen & lengthen specific muscles. 

So why do we have rounded shoulders?? One of the biggest causes is sitting at a computer for a large amount of our day, as well as looking at our phones.

 

I like to explain the anatomy part, as I firmly believe it creates a very strong mind-body connection. It helps you do each exercise with more intention, and allows you to be more present while doing them.

Tight/Contracted Muscles:

The pectoralis minor is located on the front of the chest, and is connected to the front of the shoulder blade. It helps to elevate the ribs, and draws the shoulder blade down & close to your ribs. When tight, our shoulders round forward, and certain back muscles become weak & over-stretched.

The serratus anterior can be weak and/or tight – this muscle protracts the shoulder blade & also keeps it close to the spine. A lot of times, this muscle isn’t activated, which creates instability in the shoulder girdle. When the serratus is properly activated, the shoulder blade moves correctly on the back of the ribs + works in conjunction with the rhomboids for better posture.

Weak & Stretched-Out Muscles:

When you round through the shoulders, the muscles in between your shoulder blades – the rhomboids – often become weak & long. This also creates instability in the shoulder girdle, and can cause other issues like a winged scapula.

The levator scapulae is the muscle that helps prevent your head from jutting forward – AKA text neck. However, since we are constantly pushing our head/neck forward, this muscle get stretched out and tender (find the top-point of your shoulder blade – the muscle attaches here and is tender/sore on basically everyone!).

Pectoral Stretch

Grab a band or towel, and lift up, over your head, and behind your back. Loosen up the grip if you feel pain. You should feel a stretch in the front of your chest.

Repeat 10 times

Pectoral Release

Grab a tennis ball and place just inside your armpit/shoulder (see pic of pectoral muscle above so you can see where the muscle is located). Roll around and hold in tender spots and breathe.
Repeat on other side.

Serratus Release

Grab a tennis ball and place just inside your armpit/shoulder/side rib area (see pic of serratus muscle above so you can see where the muscle is located). Roll around and hold in tender spots and breathe.
Repeat on other side.

Rhomboid & Lower Trap Activation

Grab a band or towel, and lift above your head. Slowly & with control, feel the shoulder blades lower down the back and squeeze them closer together. Slowly lift up. This helps strengthen your rhomboids/lower traps & trains your shoulder blades to move correctly.

Repeat 10x for 2-3 rounds.

Lower Trap Shrugs

Grab a weight/ball ball and place between your legs (to activate the core). Hang from a bar/pull up machine until your shoulders touch your ears. Start to pull the shoulders down & away from the ears, externally rotating the arms, feeling the shoulder blades lower & slightly wrap away from the spine. Hold for 1 second, then release & bring the shoulders back up. This strengthens the shoulder girdle, lower traps, and helps train your shoulder blades to move correctly. 

Repeat 10x for 2-3 rounds 

Standing Rows

Grab weights & stand with feet hip-distance apart, knees slightly bent. Bend halfway over, back straight, with neck in line with spine. Put your attention between your shoulder blades, using your rhomboid muscles to squeeze your shoulder blades together as you row the weight up by your sides (elbows hugged in close to the ribs). This helps strengthen the rhomboids. If you feel the strain in another muscle, use lighter weights to start out.

Repeat 10-15 times for 3 rounds

If you would like to see these exercises done in a video, click here.

I recommend doing these exercises 3 times a week for 1-2 months. As you progress, you can use heavier weights & stronger bands.

A few final tips

When sitting at a desk or looking at your phone, be mindful of your posture by:
1) Pulling your chin back so that your spine is in one line
2) Pull your keyboard/computer closer to you so that you aren’t having to hunch forward to look at your screen
3) Wear a pair of blueblockers – this helps decrease eye strain from the amount of light coming from your screen, so you are less likely to lean forward/squint/strain your eyes
4) Sit with your back glued to the back of the chair

While these are all great exercises & tips for your posture, there may be other muscular imbalances that are occuring besides what is mentioned in this article. However, this is a great place to start and worth trying – and the information is FREE to try 😉

Give these exercises a try and let me know how you get along!

The Importance of Being a Yoga Teacher

Hey all!

It’s been a hot minute since I posted on the blog – lots of changes (new job, moved across the country, etc) – and most of my attention was directed away from here. I’ve actually been writing a lot, just not on my blog – so, I wanted to share a recent article I wrote for Dallas Yoga Magazine! I recently launched a new book on Amazon for new yoga teachers, and this article goes hand-in-hand with the theme. Take a look and let me know your thoughts!

The Importance of Being a Yoga Teacher

Do you remember the moment you decided you wanted to be a yoga teacher? Was it after your first yoga class, where you had a realization that this was your life path? Or was it after years in the studio, making a decision after progressing in your practice? Or maybe it was working with several amazing teachers, who inspired you to make a difference in other people’s lives?

Whatever the moment was, you decided. You made the decision to be a lightworker, a guide for others, physically and mentally, to connect with themselves on a 24×68 inch mat for 60-90 minutes every day. It was in this decision that you decided to help others, and in a way, yourself.

You see, teaching yoga isn’t just about guiding people in and out of poses. It’s about communicating with others through a voice only you can speak, and connecting with each person by the energy you bring to the class. Of course, a 200 or 500 hour yoga certification can teach you a thing or two -Sanskrit names for each pose, how to piece together classes, the chakras, and even a few muscle groups in the body. It’s completely necessary in order to safely teach a class, and even more necessary to understand the mind-body connection.

But what does this ultimately mean for students, when a teacher has a certification?

Finish reading the article here: http://dallasyogamagazine.com/the-importance-of-being-a-yoga-teacher/

How Gratitude Can Change Your Life

Over the past 15 months, I have dealt with such a wide variety of emotions, all due to some pretty big life changes.

While the start of 2017 was phenomenal, it quickly turned into a downward spiral around the time I no longer had a full-time job and could not find a replacement for the next 11 months. Interview after interview, no matter how well I thought it went, I never received an offer. For jobs I did take part-time, it wasn’t sustainable (too long of a drive, pay too low, etc). I allowed this to affect me, falling into a victim mindset of not being good enough, or there was something wrong with me. Along the way, a series of unfortunate hair color jobs happened, and my hair began falling out in clumps, and nothing I did could make it stop (that is for another blog post). On top of that, I felt like an outsider anywhere I went to practice yoga, and I couldn’t find a good community of people to be around.

I don’t say all of this for anyone to feel sorry for me – I say this to show you how easily one can fall into a depressed state when you allow outside circumstances to control your life, and all you want to do is sit around and cry because you feel powerless.

depressed dog funny

Basically how I felt every day in 2017

You would think – after all of the self-help seminars and books I’ve read, this would be impossible to happen. Except – I’m human. And while I a let 2017 get to me, I made a decision at the end of the year – no more.

I am writing this because 1) I am afraid of what people will think of me if they knew I was depressed (so I am making myself write this because that fear is dumb), and 2) I hope that what has helped pull me out of a dark hole can maybe help someone else dealing with some darkness in their life.

So here I am, 4 months after I made the declaration that I was no longer going to be a victim, feeling like a completely different person, crying tears of joy some days because I am just so damn happy.

So how did this happen?

3 Things.

Gratitude. Commitment. Friendship.

It began with a decision to change my mind. And while I had tried to change my thoughts many times last year, nothing ever stuck, and I kept ending back in a downward spiral. Insert:

Friendship + Gratitude + Commitment. I texted my 2 best friends in a group text and said, “Let’s start each day with a text to each other about what we are grateful for, and what our goal for the day is. That way, we can start each day off on the right foot and keep each other accountable.” Over time, we all started doing the Tony Robbins 15 minute gratitude priming practice, which forced us to focus on and really feel gratitude. It also had us visualize what we want in the future, which allowed us to look forward to something in the future + change our beliefs about what we think is possible. (There are days we struggle, so a small text or snap to each other saying what we are struggling about brings advice and positivity from each other). Sometimes I switch up and do 20 minutes of Transcendental meditation, but I always, always, end with gratitude and visualization.
At first, I felt really dumb. I didn’t want my boyfriend to see me doing the Tony Robbins priming exercise, because you have to pump your arms up and down and breathe really loudly. Eventually, he started to join me, and it made the meditation that much more powerful!

How I feel I look Like When Priming

It was really difficult to do at first, and I didn’t really start seeing a change in my mindset the first 3-5 times I did it. Then, I started to allow myself to feel things, like love and gratitude for people and situations. And the visualization at the end was the best part, because I could dream about anything I wanted (like a new job!) and really feel like I already had it!

On top of this, I committed to finding a job, even if it meant working as a personal trainer at a gym full time getting paid pennies. I needed something different than what I was currently doing to force me to learn and grow, and I had to set my ego aside and just. do it.

Once I stopped trying to control everything, everything started to fall into place. I met new people that led to new experiences that will forever have an impact on my life/spirituality/consciousness, I started a business with a new friend, my boyfriend and I’s business started taking off, I started taking on new clients for private yoga/personal training sessions, and I had 3 job offers. To say the least, I was dumbfounded.

Did all of these wonderful things happen just from starting a daily gratitude practice?

I say yes. I spent all of last year resisting uncertainty, trying to hold onto things that I no longer had any place for in my life. I needed to grow, but I wasn’t allowing it to happen. I tried to force my life to be and look a certain way, and when it didn’t happen, I was absolutely miserable. It wasn’t until I gave into uncertainty, agreed to say yes to things I felt uncomfortable doing, and became open to a host of experiences that I initially rejected, that life started to turn around.

Practicing gratitude has taught me that consistently focusing your attention on thoughts that serve you and bring you AND others up, there is no way that you can be down. And when I say practice gratitude – I mean really feeling it. If you have a hard time doing it, just start with one thing. There were days when I repeated the same gratitude thought(s) because I couldn’t think of anything or create that internal feeling of gratitude. Now, I have a gratitude journal that I write in every night, thanking the universe for everything I have right now.

So there it is – nothing too fancy, nothing too hard – just a small shift in mindset to commit to practicing gratitude with my friends everyday.

With everything I’ve struggled with and been through, I hope what has helped me can somehow help others. And for anyone out there who has been through this and made it out alive – what are your tips for getting to a happier place? Leave a comment below, you never know how much 5 minutes of your time could positively impact another person’s life 🙂

Yoga Pose Breakdown: Lotus

Lotus (Padmasana)
It’s the pose many people associate with yoga – a calm, wise-looking yogi, meditating with crossed ankles. It seems painful and impossible to get into – and while it can be if flexibility is missing in certain areas of your body – it doesn’t have to be. With consistent stretching of the correct muscles, Lotus is within reach more than you might think!

So let’s break the pose down a little bit:

What muscles need to be stretched?

TFL Outer hipsTensor Fascia Latae:
This muscle connects to your IT band and the top/front of your pelvis. It helps internally rotate the femur at the hip – when tight, it limits external rotation.

Gluteus Medius:
Internally rotates the femur bone in the hip socket – when tight, it limits external rotation.

 

 

adductor muscles


Adductor Muscles:

Since these muscles cross the hip joint + connect to your femur bone, the flexibility of these muscles are necessary for lotus. Tightness can prevent your knees from reaching the floor and creating deeper external rotation in the hip.

 

 

 

 

hamstringsHamstrings:
The hamstrings don’t contribute to the rotation of the hip, but they do affect the tilt of the pelvis. If your hamstrings are tight, you are more likely to have a posterior tilt (pelvis tucked under), as your hamstrings attach to the bottom of your pelvis. This affects posture while in lotus (or any sitting position) – having a slight anterior tilt releases tension in the lower back and improves posture.

 

While stretching the above muscles will help create more space in externally rotating your hip, the hip must be doing the rotation (it is a ball and socket joint!). More rotation in the hip (versus treating your hip socket, pelvis, and surrounding muscles as 1 unit) = less tension/stress on your knee joint.

So what poses can be done to prepare for Lotus?

Low squat (Malasana)
Externally rotates the femur bone, opens up the hip joint, stretches adductor muscles. Use a block to sit on if you are unable to sit your hips low comfortably.

Malasana  Modified Malasana

Butterfly (Baddha Konasana)
Externally rotates the femur bone, opens up the hip joint, stretches adductor muscles
*Do not put a lot of pressure on knees to get them closer to the ground. Instead, perform a PNF stretch, which will bypass your stretch reflex & help release the adductors. Push hands & knees against each other, at 20% effort for 8 seconds. Relax for one breath, then gently press your knees down a little further than before.  **Only perform PNF stretching 1-2 times every few days on a single muscle group.

Baddha Konasana

Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
Stretches the outer hips/glutes. Add a twist to stretch adductors & external rotators. Place a block under your glute for modification.

Pigeon Pose

Pigeon Pose Modification

Reclined Figure 4
Modification for pigeon pose – stretches the outer hips/glutes & inner thigh muscles.

Figure 4

Figure 4 Yoga

Figure 4 Yoga

Forward Fold
Stretches hamstrings, lower back. Place a block between legs & rest head on block as a modification.

Forward Fold Yoga

Forward Fold Modification

Seated Cat’s cradle stretch
Stretches tensor fascia latae & glute medius – make sure to pull knee into chest before externally rotating your leg (creates more space in your hip joint) to cradle it + also flex your foot. Gently rock leg from side to side.

Revolved Triangle
Stretches the hamstrings and the muscles attached to the IT band – Tensor Fascia Latae & Glutes. Use a block under the bottom hand for an extra lift.

Paravrtta Trikonasana

Revolved Triangle Modification

Hero’s Pose (Virasana)
Opens up the hip joint (internal rotation), stretches quads & hip flexors. Place a block between legs as a modification. For a more intense stretch, lean back on elbows or lay on back. **I was able to do this around 6-8 months post-knee surgery, so patience is key with this pose 🙂

Heros Pose

Heros Pose Yoga

Heros Pose

Heros Pose Modification

Once you’ve done a few of the above stretches, you can now try to enter lotus. **If you don’t feel comfortable attempting lotus just yet, do the stretches above 2-4 times a week (or more if you are looking to increase your flexibility faster!), holding for 30-60 seconds.

Begin in a seated position, both legs straight in front of you. Hug your right (or left) knee to your chest, and allow the knee to fall out to the side, relaxing the muscles around your hip in order for the external rotation to happen. If your knee is not close to the ground, stay here, and repeat the above step with the other leg, staying in butterfly pose.

***Also, if you feel any tension in your knee, that is a signal to STOP. When the external rotation of your hip stops (a ball and socket joint), the rotation is then transferred to your knee (a hinge joint, NOT a joint that can move freely like the hip!). This puts pressure on your cartilage and meniscus, which can cause serious injury to your knee(s).

If you feel no pressure on your knees, begin to move your (flexed) foot up and across your thigh so that it rests on the inner crease of your hip. If you feel pressure at your knee at any point during the movement of your foot, do not continue with the stretch.

If you are able to get into half lotus, repeat with the other leg. Sometimes, we are more open on one side of our bodies, so switching the order of the left/right leg on top might help you get into this pose easier on the other side.

And that’s it! By understanding the muscles involved with getting into lotus pose, you now have an awareness of what to work towards. Give yourself a few weeks or 1-2 months of consistent stretching, and you’ll begin to notice an opening of your outer hips & inner thighs, making lotus a little more accessible.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Yoga for Athletes

Growing up an athlete, I always struggled with flexibility. Basketball, Soccer, Track, and even Gymnastics – my body always felt stiff and limited. For anyone who has ever played sports or exercised, lack of flexibility seems to be a pretty common theme. And while you don’t need to be bendy like a gymnast, there are many, many benefits to stretching, which I have personally found through yoga.

While there are many other ways to stretch on your own, Yoga has been a go-to not just for improving flexibility, but also for core strength, balance, increasing strength, alignment, body awareness, and focus!

Yoga for Athletes

It’s easy to write off stretching before or after a workout, but I am here to tell you… don’t! Before I began consistently stretching, I was always stiff, prone to injuries, and struggled to progress in my workouts. Below are just a few reasons that I became a huge advocate for stretching/yoga:

  • Compliments strength by creating more space and movement surrounding your joints
  • Improvement of endurance by holding yoga poses and using all muscles in your body to move through yoga sequences
  • Improves body awareness by focusing on alignment, muscles, and joints
  • Certain types of yoga (Yin, Deep Stretch) can be relaxing and meditative, and it releases stress
  • Everyone deals with stress differently by holding it in different areas of the body – yoga helps release tension & built up stress through the combination of movement and stretching
  • During the Industrial revolution, there were many more jobs that involved moving and standing, and there were no lower back issues. Now, many of us have lower back issues due to tight hips, psoas, quad muscles, all from sitting at a desk all day. The unique movements of yoga help increasea mobility in the body, leading to less pain & more freedom of movement
  • Stretching the muscles surrounding your joints gives them more flexibility and mobility

So when is the best time to stretch?

Sometimes muscles are so tight that just stretching won’t work. Like a Chinese finger trap – the muscles must be shortened, then stretched to release. So working out the muscle first, then stretching right after is key to releasing tight muscles.

My favorite time to stretch is through Vinyasa yoga, where the technique of Dynamic Stretching is used, or immediately after a long run or workout when my muscles are warmed up and have a lot of blood flowing to them. As long as you are getting a stretch in, it doesn’t matter when – just find what works best for YOU!

So if you are completely new to stretching/yoga, where the heck do you begin?

 

Just 5 minutes a day, 3-5 days a week. I swear by this – I committed to 5 minutes of stretching a day, and noticed results within just 1 month of being consistent. I picked a few poses, then held them while watching TV or reading. Super easy, and it wasn’t something that added much time to my already-busy days. The more you stretch, the more your body gets used to it, and it starts to feel GOOD (I promise!). Trust me, forward folds used to be my least favorite thing to do in the world!

After a month of consistent stretching/yoga, I noticed my workouts were changing – I was running faster, had less pain/tightness in my hips, and my legs didn’t feel like bricks when I went on runs! My body started to feel like it moved with more ease, and my lower back pain started to decrease.

**Please note that consistency is key. When you stretch, you are creating a new set-length for your muscles. If you only stretch once a week, your muscles will not stay at that new length. Think of it like working out – if you don’t work out, you’ll lose muscle, endurance, etc. Same with stretching – keep up with it, and you’ll notice results over time. 

So what poses can be done if you just stretch for 5 minutes a day?

 

Below are a handful of yoga stretches that can be done every day, or every other day. I’ve included poses for every area of the body, depending on what you are looking to focus on. Pick a few for each day, and watch the magic of your body opening up after just 1 month!

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana: Down Dog
Stretches:
Hamstrings, Calves, Upper back, Shoulders, Pecs
Strengthens: Shoulders, arms, and engages the core while pushing the hips up
Misc:
Lengthens the spine, releasing compression from poor posture or running
Time: Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Repeat 2-3 times

Paschimottanasana: Standing Forward Fold
Stretches: Hamstrings, Calves, Lower back
Strengthens: Mental strengthener 😉
Misc:
Contract your quads in order to relax your hamstrings
Time: Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times

Toes Pose
Stretches: Shins, arches of feet
Strengthens: N/A
Misc:
Modify if the first option is too intense
Time: Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat 2 times each side

Option 1:

Option 2 (Modification):

Malasana/Garland Pose
Stretches: Ankles, achilles heels, groin, back, and opens up the hips
Strengthens: N/A
Misc:
Use elbows to push knees out for a more intense stretch on the inner thighs
Time: Hold for 1 minute

Option 1:

Option 2 (Modification):

Supta Gomukhasana/ Reclined Cow-Face Pose
Stretches:
Glutes/Outer hips, Piriformis
Strengthens: arms, if you are pulling legs towards you
Misc:
Pull feet towards you for a more intense stretch
Time: Hold for 1 minute. Repeat on other side

To enter: lay on back – cross one leg over the other, bending both. Reach hands to grab outer edges of feet, ankles, shins, or knees. 

Anjaneyasana/Low Lunge
Stretches:
Psoas, Quads/Hip flexors, Groin, Hip joint
Strengthens: Quads and glutes
Misc:
Roll to outer edge of front foot to stretch inner thigh & open hip joint. Slightly squeeze glute to allow your quad muscle to relax.
Time: Hold for 1 minute. Repeat on other side

Low Lunge w/Quad Stretch
Stretches:
Psoas, Quads/Hip flexors, Groin, Hip joint
Strengthens: Quads and glutes
Misc:
Modify – place towel under knee if experiencing pressure/pain
Time: Hold for 1 minute. Repeat on other side

Parsva Balasana/Thread the Needle
Stretches:
Shoulders, Chest, Arms, Upper back, Neck
Strengthens: N/A
Misc:
Modify – place towel under knees if experiencing pressure/pain
Time: Hold for 30 seconds – 1 minute. Repeat on other side

Janu Sirsasana/Head-to-knee Forward Bend
Stretches: Shoulders, Spine, Upper back, Hamstrings, Groin
Strengthens: Back
Misc:
Modify – wrap a towel or strap around your foot if you cannot reach
Time: Hold for 1 minute. Repeat on other side

Reclined Twisted Figure-4
Stretches: Glutes/Outer hips, Piriformis, IT band, TFL, Spine
Strengthens: N/A
Misc:
Pull knee closer towards you for a deeper stretch
Time: Hold for 1 minute. Repeat on other side

To enter: lay on back withbent knees. Place your nakle on the opposite knee, creating a “4” with your legs. Drop your legs to the side so that your foot is flat on the ground.

And that’s it! No need to do every single stretch in one sitting – just choose a few and call it a night 🙂 If you are new to yoga and are interested in taking a class, I recommend going to a yin or deep stretch yoga class – both are slower-paced, perfect for beginners, and offer many variations + props. **If you are in the South Florida area, pop-in to my Deep Stretch class on Wednesday’s at 6:30 pm!

Any other good stretches that you have done to compliment your workout as an athlete? Leave a comment below!

Subscribe

Subscribe

Sign up for the latest updates on workshops, yoga classes, and blog posts!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest