There is something peaceful about stretching after a workout or indeed if you are feeling a little stressy or etchy after a rather harsh day.
A gentle flow is important for quietening of the mind and eases us back to a subtle grounded state with our great inner selves, inviting balance and harmony with mind body and spirit perhaps after a big burn out on some other activity.
Yoga embraces the education and practice of flow so very well and it is here as a gentle visual reminder I set you a series of poses that can be webbed into a workout cooldown for those that favour a living room cool down after a pavement stomp in the running gear.
The key to any stretch sequence is awareness of not only your alignment but with it too the amount of pressure you exert at any given point in time. Be utterly gentle with yourself and watch in amazement as you release the body to go deeper and deeper into your poses with the use of breath.
1) Start in Extended Child’s Pose: From your shins sit back on your heels and stretch your arms forward, relaxing your forehead to the floor. Feel your lower back, hips, waist stretching out as you tap in to your deep breathing. Stay here 8-10 breaths until you feel calm and connected.
2) Come on to your hands and knees and take a few Cat/Cow stretches. Arching and rounding your back. Link your breath to the movement and open up your spine.
3) Move forward on to your belly coming in to a Cobra Pose. Make sure the arch is in your upper back, feel your tailbone lengthening back towards your legs and engage between your shoulder blades to keep the tops of the shoulders down away from your ears. If your lower back is tight stay lower in a baby cobra. I love this stretch to open my lungs, relieve my lower back and shoulders and to stretch out my neck. Stay here 3 to 5 breaths, lower down then lift back up 1 or 2 more times. If you want to drop your head forward, take slow neck rolls or drop your head to each side, feel free to do so.
4) From Cobra lower down on to your forearms to Sphinx. Make sure your elbows are directly below your shoulders. Keep tugging your shoulder blades together and down your back. Lift your tummy in and up and slide your tailbone back towards your heels. Hold here 5 breaths or so then lower down keeping your forearms on the floor.
5) Tuck under your toes and press in to your forearm as you bend your knees and press back in to a Forearm Downward-Facing Dog. When I’m low on energy, I love doing this variation of Downward Dog. Forearm Dog is a great way to stretch open the shoulders and upper back as well as the hamstrings, hips and lower back. You can always move to a full Downward Dog as well if you feel it will restore you or stay in Forearm Dog for a good 5 to 8 breaths.
6) Next, bring your right knee forward towards the right side or your right hand and your right foot towards the left hand. Lower you back leg straight down to the floor, lower your forearms down and hold Pigeon for 8 to 10 breaths. Make sure your not sicking in to either hip (you can prop the right buttocks up if your very tight), you can also lower your forehead down to the floor or a pillow. Switch sides.
7)From Pigeon on the left side, float your right leg around and stack the right ankle above the left knee for Double Pigeon. This is one of my all time favorite stretches! We hold so much junk in our trunk which leads to excess tension in our backs, hips, and jaw even. Double Pigeon (also known as ankle to knee pose) is one of the best hip openers there is. If you can hold 8 to 10 breaths (or more) stay here and allow your hips to fully relax and release. Make sure your shins are stacked exactly one on top of each other and don’t let the top ankle collapse (look for wrinkles on the inner ankle and iron them out by flexing the foot). Repeat on the left side.
8) Bring both soles of feet together and bend your knees in to a kite shape. Tarasana, Star Pose, is more restorative then Baddha Konasana (Cobbler’s pose) because your inner thighs aren’t getting as deep of a stretch; and you can round your torso forward resting the head neck and shoulders as you breathe in to the lower back, outer thighs and groins. Stay here 8-10 breaths. You can also place a block under your forehead if you want it to be more restful.
9)Lie down on your back keeping your feet together knees apart and come in to Goddess. You may knee to slide your heels a bit closer to your groins or see what is most comfortable for you. You can prop your outer upper thighs with pillows or blocks if you wish. Lie in Goddess for as long as you wish and watch your breath. If you like, place your hands on your belly you can watch the rise and fall of the abdomen as you breath.
10)Finally lengthen your legs forward and let them drop out to the sides. Turn your palms up and rest your shoulders down away from your ears. Let the entire body melt in to the floor in Savasana. Let your breath relax, close your eyes, imagine yourself melting in to a deep state of rest. Release in to your own natural state of beauty and bliss.