You know the routine: warm up with a few shoulder rolls, maybe a jaunt on the foam roller, and then you KICK IT. Like, really get in there with that workout. Music is pumping, your legs are burning, sweat stinging your eyes, and if you can just do one more freaking pull-up, then…aaaaahhhhh. A couple of straight-legged seated reaches, a semi-intense glute stretch, quads, groin…okay whatever, time for a beer.

Raise your hand if this is you! No one’s looking – put it up there.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m the random yoga teacher that wanders in and out of the gym, taking hapless victims into the room you thought you were going to have all to yourself at 6:30am. Seriously, I THRIVE on being around people who are active, have goals, and values their health. People who know me well think it’s kind of funny that I’m a yoga instructor, because I’m actually a pretty avid runner and a regular HIIT junkie. And the yoga? My best kept not-so-secret-secret.

Yoga is and can be many things for people. For me, it isn’t stretching, per se. Yoga is walking into a seminar, and your body is the content of the class. It’s stretching…with intention. It’s alignment…with the breath. It’s the practice of mindfulness that you can inject directly into that workout you just nailed, and take it to a whole new level.

When you practice yogic stretching, you might make shapes with your body, but you will also breathe a calming, fight-or-flight-killing energy into your amped-up state. You will open your eyes to what needs attention in your body. You will observe its limitations, its potential, and its daily edge.

Wanna try? I knew you would! Try the following sequence of poses in the morning, on your rest day, or after a workout. It will take you 10 minutes. The poses aren’t massively difficult, but the real challenge here is to do the deeper work of calming your breath, accepting the stretch, and listening to what your body is telling you. I’d love to hear what you thought, and of course, if you have any questions or would like some more things to try, send me an email or ambush me on my way to that backroom you wanted to snag all for yourself.

Now repeat after me: “Namaste.”

  1. Child’s pose – 2 minutes
    1. On a mat, bring your knees wide enough apart that your belly can comfortably rest between your legs.
    2. Bring your big toes to touch, and rest your forehead on the ground.
    3. Walk your fingers toward the top of the mat and stretch your arms away from your shoulders, lengthening your back.
    4. Rock your head side to side and massage the space between your eyebrows.
    5. Breathe into your mid and low back. See if you can breathe so completely that all sides of your ribs expand.
  2. Cow/Cat – 2 minutes
    1. Come to a table-top position with shoulders stacked over wrists, hips over heels.
    2. Take one inhale of 3-4 counts, and exhale for the exact same duration.
    3. On your next inhale, use those 3-4 counts to slowly lift your chin and your tailbone, dropping your belly toward the floor.
    4. Pause at the top of your breath, and on your exhale, use the next 3-4 counts to slowly tuck your chin, tuck your tailbone, a la Halloween cat.
    5. Continue to move slowly – challenge yourself to extend your breath count to 5 or even 6 counts. (Yoga-nerd hint: it’s all about focusing on the exhale)
  3. Down Dog – 2 minutes (or you can cycle between Down Dog and Child’s pose, if you become fatigued.)
    1. From table-top, tuck your toes under and lift your hips high into the air.
    2. Begin with very-bent knees, to check in with your hamstrings.
    3. Press your index-finger/thumb mounds into the ground and forward to move your chest back toward your legs.
    4. Want more? Lift your tailbone high into the air and let your heels get a little more…melty. No need to force heels to the ground. Many people have anti-heels-on-the-ground ankle anatomy, so this is not necessarily something to strive for.
    5. If your wrists become strained, try holding two dumbbells with knuckles pointing down (like you’re making a fist).
  4. Forward Fold/Mountain Pose Flow – 2 minutes
    1. Walk feet to hands or hands to feet, and re-bend the knees.
    2. Bring hands to opposite elbow-creases and fold forward, slowly shaking your head “yes” and “no.”
    3. Sway side to side like you an elephant trunk. Your legs should talk to you here!
    4. Exhale fully, and then on your inhale, slowly rise up to standing, reaching your arms over your head.
    5. Exhale, fold forward with arms extended out to your sides.
    6. Repeat with the breath, using a rhythmic count, just as in the cow/cat exercises.
  5. Supported Bridge – 2 minutes – 14 hours. (People report having a difficult time leaving this delicious position)
    1. Grab a yoga block (you can totally borrow one of mine – they are on the storage shelves in the classroom), a blanket, a firm pillow, or about 4-6 inches of books.
    2. Come down to lying on your back, place your feet on the ground, knees pointing up, and lift your hips into a bridge pose.
    3. Place the block/blankets/pillow/books under your sacrum (triangle-shaped bone at your low back) and relax your hips down.
    4. You should feel supported – hips aren’t creeping over the edge of the block, nor is your back bowing down.
    5. Option to scootch your shoulder blades closer to one another and open up your chest.

Written by Katy Kristoffersen