Stretches are an essential part of a well-rounded fitness program.
A good yoga workout can be best understood as having two parts:
- part one consists of standing poses,
- and part two involves floor stretches.
What follows are my favorite yoga floor stretches. I encourage you to watch the video located lower within this article to see how the stretches look in action.
Don’t Skip Your Weekly Stretches
When life gets busy and the available time for exercise is limited, it’s tempting to skip your stretches.
However, in order to reach your fitness goals, make progress, and reduce the risk of injury, you must continue to develop your mobility.
Mobility means having supple joints and flexible muscles.
Your mobility movements form the foundation of your weekly exercise program, and a once-a-week yoga session is a relatively simple, organized, and proven way to meet those mobility needs.
And I’m not the only one who thinks so.
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Historical evidence of yoga’s existence can be seen as far back as 2700 B.C. when Sanskrit was the language of ancient Northern India.
Yoga blossomed and developed even more fully between 500 B.C. and 800 A.D.
And it continues in that tradition even today.
These stretches that benefit the body are identified as postures called “asanas.”
Sometimes the modern names used for asanas are interchangeable with the Sanskrit names. For example, someone might say “corpse pose” or they might say “shavasana.”
The Sequence of Stretches Matters
Stretching comes in two styles: ballistic and static:
- Ballistic stretches are done near the beginning of a workout to help lubricate your joints and prepare your body for what’s to come. They are done gently but somewhat quickly to raise your body temperature (in an earlier article, I revealed yoga’s fundamental, standing ballistic movements).
- Static stretches are done near the end of a workout when you are fully limber and ready to hold stretches for several minutes each (today’s article reveals yoga’s fundamental static floor stretches).
Sequencing in yoga is structured so that earlier postures in the series prepare you for other postures that come later. Often a pose is followed immediately by a counterpose. For example, a backbend is followed by a forward bend. This helps creates muscular balance and helps to reduce the risk of injury.
Sequence of Yoga Stretches
Follow this sequence, holding stretches for a minimum of 3 minutes each (the exception to this would be the vinyasa flow when you move a bit more quickly between upward dog and downward dog):
- Thread the Needle
- Isometric Abdominal Contraction
- Prayer (“child’s pose”)
- Vinyasa Flow (Upward Dog / Downward Dog)
- Camel 1 and Camel 2
- Sleeping Hero (use blocks if needed)
- Prayer Revisited
- Scoop and Vacuum
- (Downward Dog into) Proud Pigeon into Full Pigeon
- Seated Spinal Twist
Precautions for Yoga Stretches
On one hand, a sedentary lifestyle can lead to profoundly poor health. On the other hand, you don’t want to take on too much challenge too quickly.
A bit of exertion and discomfort might be appropriate because the very nature of exercise means to explore the edges of your physical limitations; however, remain mindful about avoiding injury.
Do not stretch to the point of pain. Both forward bends and backward bends should be entered respectfully.
It’s sometimes tempting to hold your breath during a stretch, but I encourage you to continue to breathe deeply and slowly – especially during the most awkward moments of a stretch.
As always, consult with your own medical doctor before making significant changes to your exercise routines or movement patterns.
India’s History of Yoga – https://mea.gov.in/in-focus-article.htm 25096/Yoga+Its+Origin+History+and+Development
The 6 Pillars of Modo Yoga (note from Dane: Modo Yoga is my favorite style of yoga; I encourage you to visit a Modo Yoga studio if you’re lucky enough to have one near you) – https://modoyoga.com/how-is-modo-yoga-different-than-other-styles-of-yoga-the-6-pillars-of-modo-yoga/
Established Research on Medical Yoga Therapy – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5332914/
Effects of Different Types of Stretching – https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/fulltext/2016/11000/acute_effects_of_static_vs__ballistic_stretching.31.aspx