Whether you’re a yoga regular or new to the practice, many of the key moves can be incredibly helpful for alleviating some of the tension caused by athletic pursuits and, subsequently, help prevent injury. With that in mind we asked Kiley Holliday, a hot power and vinyasa instructor at Pure Yoga who frequently works with athletes, to show us seven yoga-inspired stretches that any active male could benefit from incorporating. When doing these moves it’s important to take long, deep inhales through your nose and long, deep exhales out your mouth and to try to hold each pose for at least one minute. Note, however, that the longer you hold each pose, the deeper the stretch.
1. Supported backward bend
Stand with parallel feet at hip width distance. Place hands on lower back with fingers pointing down, almost as if you were about to slip your hands into back pockets. Squeeze the butt, lengthen the tailbone down, inwardly rotate the thighs, and reach the chest up, opening the shoulders, without crunching the lower back.
This is a good way to lengthen the spine and eliminate tension caused by hunching when, for example, running.
2. Crescent lunge
Come into a lunge with the right knee directly in line over the heel and the back knee lifted. Carefully drop the back knee, and un-tuck the toes (place padding under the knee if it’s sensitive). Place the hands on the top of the thigh, and balance the shoulders in line over the hips while trying to get as much of the front of the back thigh to melt onto the ground.
This pose stretches the hip flexors and psoas, while keeping the shoulders from rounding.
3. Seated figure four
Sit with the left knee bent toward the chest and the foot on the floor as close to the butt as possible. Find support with the arms straight back behind you and the finger tips pointing toward the front of your space. Cross the right ankle over the left thigh down by the knee, and flex the right foot. Turn the hands around, and begin to push the chest forward so that it comes as close to the calf muscle as possible. Do not slouch. Attempt to keep the back straight. The knees should never hurt!
This will work to stretch the glutes, outer hip, and hamstring.
4. Half-split with flexed foot
From crescent lunge, slowly begin to straighten out the front leg while keeping the back knee directly in line under the hip (i.e., you should not be sitting your butt down on your back heel). If it is difficult to keep the hands steady on the ground as the front leg straightens, place a block under each hand or keep a gentle bend in the front leg. Then, flex the foot so that the heel kicks forward, and fold as close to the leg as possible while drawing the abdomen in.
This pose stretches the hamstring and calf muscles.
5. Half-split with IT band stretch
From the half split, spin the pinky toe edge of the foot down so the outer arch is in contact with the mat. Walk the hands (or blocks if necessary) onto the outside of the right leg. Draw the right hip back without actually moving the front foot, and gaze over the right shoulder. More flexible people can drop down onto the forearms as long as the right hip doesn’t drop.
This pose stretches the IT band.
From a forward fold, step the left foot back into a lunge so that the right knee is directly in line over the ankle. Drop the back knee, and un-tuck the toes. Place the hands inside the right foot, and then heel-toe the foot to the right edge of the mat. Try to place the forearms down onto the ground. If the ground is too far away, place forearms on a yoga block. Do not let the front knee go beyond the toes.
This pose stretches the hip and often the hamstring and inner thigh if those places are especially tight.
7. Lizard variation with quad stretch
From lizard, come up off the forearms and onto the hands. Turn the front foot out at a forty-five degree angle, and roll onto the outer arch of the foot. Use the right hand to push against the inner right thigh to open up the hip. Hold for a few breaths. Then, bend the left knee and catch the pinky toe edge of the left foot with the right hand. Pull to stretch the quad.
This pose stretches the outer hip, hip flexor, psoas, and quad.