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10 Yoga Poses Every Athlete Should Do Daily
Lengthen your stride and strengthen your core with these total-body moves.
If you’re looking to improve flexibility and increase range of motion, yoga holds the key. But there are other reasons to include yoga in your daily regimen, especially if you’re an athlete. For starters, yoga can help reduce stress, prevent injuries, increase mental focus, enhance strength and more, which is why it seamlessly serves as the perfect companion to any sport.
Whatever your game, these 10 yoga poses will help you take it to the next level. Throw on yourshorts or leggings and sports bra, grab your yoga mat and get started with these moves.
Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana)
When combined, these two yoga poses create a flow of synchronized breathing. Start your session with cat-cow to help warm up the spine and release tension.
To do this pose: Begin on your hands and knees, wrists directly below shoulders and knees below hips. Fingertips should face forward. Keeping your head in a neutral position, set your gaze at the floor. Exhale and round spine up toward the ceiling, dropping your head. Draw abdominals in toward your spine, while keeping hips lifted. Inhale, uncurl your spine and arch your back, lifting your chest and glutes up toward the ceiling. Set gaze forward. Repeat 10 times.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
This foundational pose stretches calves, shoulders and hamstrings while strengthening arms and legs.
To do this pose: Starting on all fours, walk hands out slightly in front of shoulders with fingertips facing forward and hands shoulder-width apart. Curl toes and ground them into the floor. Exhale and push sit bones up toward the ceiling to create an inverted V-shape. Spread fingers wide and shift weight into your hands. Set your gaze at your navel and hold for 30 seconds to one minute.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
This strengthening pose elongates your spine and stretches the muscles surrounding it as well as your glutes, abdominals, shoulders and chest.
To do this pose: Lie on your stomach. Bend elbows close to your body and place hands directly beneath shoulders. Press your quads, hips and tops of feet into your mat. Inhale and lift your head, chest and shoulders off the floor, pushing down through your hands for support. Pull shoulders down and back and set gaze slightly upward. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds; exhale and lower to mat.
Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
This powerful pose strengthens arms, legs and core while opening your chest and shoulders.
To do this pose: Start with a wide stance. Raise arms out to the sides and parallel to the floor, palms down. Slightly turn right foot in and left foot out 90 degrees. Exhale and bend right knee, bringing right thigh parallel to the floor. Press the outside of your left foot firmly into your mat while stretching through your left leg. Turn your head to the right and look out over your fingers. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute; repeat on opposite side.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)
This stimulating pose opens your chest and stretches your spine while strengthening glutes and thighs.
To do this pose: Lie on your back. Bend knees and place heels close to glutes, hands flat by your sides. Exhale and press through your feet, lifting hips toward the ceiling. Keep feet parallel and hip-width apart, knees over heels. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute; exhale and slowly lower spine and hips to the mat.
Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
This powerhouse pose strengthens your spine, arms, legs, chest, hip flexors and quadriceps.
To do this pose: Lie on your stomach, arms by sides, palms facing upward. Place your chin on the floor. Exhale as you bend your knees and lift feet toward glutes (use a strap if needed). Grasp the outside of your ankles with your hands. Inhale and lift chest and thighs off the floor, pulling ankles toward the ceiling with your hands. Only your core should be touching your mat at this point. Keep your head in a neutral position while being mindful that your knees don’t separate more than the width of your hips. Hold for 20-30 seconds; exhale and slowly lower back down.
Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
This graceful pose opens the hips, chest and shoulders, while stretching your thighs, back, groins and glutes.
To do this pose: Begin on all fours. Lift your right leg off the mat and swing your knee forward between your arms, placing right knee near your right wrist while placing right ankle in front of your left hip. Let your right glute sink toward the floor, hips facing forward. Lift your chest, using your fingertips on either side of the body to support you in an upright position. Press down in to the floor with your hips and lift up with your chest. Hold up to one minute and repeat on opposite side.
*For more stability, slide a pillow, bolster or blanket underneath your glutes.
Supine Twist (Jathara Parivartanasana)
This gentle spinal twist stretches hips and thighs and releases spinal tension while working abdominals.
To do this pose: Lie on your back and bend knees, feet flat on the floor. Extend arms straight out to the sides. Inhale and lift feet off the floor, keeping knees bent. Exhale and drop knees to your left, allowing hips and spine to twist left while keeping shoulder blades rooted into your mat. Turn your head to your right. Hold 30 seconds to two minutes; repeat on opposite side.
The plank strengthens your core, arms and wrists while preparing you for more advanced arm-supported poses.
To do this pose: Start on all fours. Stack your shoulders and elbows over your wrists and hips over knees. Press hands down into the mat and stretch legs out behind you, shifting the weight into your toes. Your body should form a straight line from the top of your head to your heels. Keep your neck in line with your spine, broaden your shoulder blades and keep legs straight and engaged, heels pointed upward. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute.
Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe-Pose (Supta Padangusthasana)
This supine stretch is a safe way to stretch the hamstrings without putting stress on the spine or low back and also helps to relieve lower back pain.
To do this pose: Lie on your back, legs extended. Exhale, bend your left knee to your chest and interlace your fingers around the back of your left thigh or hook your fingers around the big toe of your left foot with your left hand. If holding on to the left leg is too intense of a stretch, loop a strap around the ball of your left foot and hold on to the ends of the strap with each hand. Inhale and extend left leg toward the ceiling. Hold up to one minute; repeat on opposite side.