If you log quite a bit of time running or cycling, it is a good idea to make time for stretching. The best complement to these activities is yoga. Even if you cannot make it to a yoga class, there are a couple key postures you can do to open those tight muscles. You can even do this while watching TV, which is probably a good way to get off the couch! My two favorites are Pigeon and Crescent Moon Pose.
Pigeon Pose is an excellent posture to open the hips for many reasons:
1) The amount of sitting we do in a day prevents sufficient rotation, extension and flexion of our hips.
2) Common sports such as running and cycling demand hip strength, but not flexibility.
3) The stress of everyday life causes us to hold tension in our body, especially in the hips.
Benefits and Tips:
1) The posture stretches the hip rotators (buttocks area) and hip flexors (the long muscles that run along the front of your thigh and pelvis).
2) Make sure your front thigh is parallel to the sides of the mat, by bringing the knee forward to the front wrist.
3) As your hips open, your front shin and foot should inch toward the midline of your body, until that foot is directly under the opposite hip.
4) The back leg extends back with the top of the foot flat on the mat.
5) Make sure your hips are square and that you do not lean towards the rotated hip.
6) To get deeper in this posture, you can fold forward with the upper body by lowering onto your elbows or resting your forehead.
7) Add a stretch for the quadriceps (pictured) by bending the back leg, pulling the foot towards you as you release the front of the hip.
8) Most importantly – be patient in this posture! Go slowly, lowering your torso and using your body weight to sink into the floor. Use your arms to adjust the pressure and pull back if the stretch becomes too intense.
Crescent Moon pose opens the hips, while stretching the quadriceps and gluteus maximus.
1) Make sure the front knee does not go past the toes. When holding the posture, the weight should shift towards the front foot, as you engage the glute on the back leg to open the hip.
2) The pelvis should be tucked, while engaging the core and keeping the spine straight.
3) For the knee that is in contact with the mat, you can fold the mat over for added cushion, if you have an injury or feel discomfort.