"Gain flexibility, strength, endurance, balance and a mind-body connection by adding a Yoga practice to any fitness program."
The ancient practice of Yoga is much more than its physical aspect: a formalized series of stances and stretching poses. Many variations of Yoga are popular in the U.S. today because they help people of all types and ages strengthen bones and muscles, correct posture, improve breathing and balance, and calm the mind.
Moving mindfully through Yoga asanas, or postures, offsets the abrupt and repetitive movements of other types of exercise. Yoga requires concentration and intellect to achieve proper alignment. To advanced practitioners, this becomes a soothing form of moving meditation.
Please enroll in a local Yoga class so you will learn how to move safely into and out of these Yoga poses. Performing individual poses outside a prescribed sequence—or doing them before warming up—may reduce the benefits and actually increase your chances for injury or strain. By receiving instruction from a professional, you will learn how to refine the poses to ensure proper alignment.
Sun Salutations are a repeated sequence of classic Yoga postures. Performing at least five repetitions gets the blood flowing and stimulates the whole body while it engages the mind. Performing a set of Sun Salutations is an excellent way to warm-up for your resistance training or stretching sessions.
Follow the sequence listed below, paying particular attention to your breathing. In general, you inhale on expanding or upward-directed movements and exhale on all contracting or folding-inward movements.
You will start and end in Mountain Pose; notice that the poses begin to repeat in reverse order half way through. The challenge of memorizing this sequence is an important part of the mind/body connection that Yoga is intended to bring you.
- Mountain Pose: (balance, body awareness) Stand as erect and tall as possible with your weight distributed equally on all “four corners” of your feet. While inhaling, raise both arms overhead, palms facing each other.
- Toe Touch: (hamstrings) Exhale and begin folding at the hip joints. Stretch forward with a long spine before reaching for your toes. If you can’t touch them, bend your knees.
- Lunge back: (hip flexors, spine) Place both palms on the floor, raise your head and inhale as you step the right foot way back into a deep lunge.
- Downward Facing Dog: (whole body stretch -- illustration in Advanced workout) Exhale as you step the left foot back next to the right. Lift the hips high and stretch your arms and legs straight, ears aligned with elbows. Hold for four breaths, then set your knees on the floor and sit back on your heels without moving your hands.
- Upward Facing Dog: (spine) Inhale as you lower your chest and bring elbows to the floor. Scoop your chest forward between your forearms. Arch head and shoulders in an upward stretch, with your elbows, thighs and tops of your feet flat on the floor.
- Downward Facing Dog: Exhale, turn your toes under and raise your hips skyward, stretching spine, arms and legs as you did before.
- Lunge forward: Inhale and raise your head as you step the right foot all the way forward and place it on the floor between your hands.
- Toe Touch: Exhale as you raise your hips toward the ceiling. Bent knees are OK.
- Mountain Pose: With bent knees, inhale and swing both arms forward and up, returning to your erect Mountain Pose. Exhale as you return the arms back to your sides.
Repeat the series two to four more times without rushing. Remember to relax and allow-rather than force-your body into each pose. This is good advice for attaining a less stressful lifestyle, too. And learning to do that leads to your first taste of the infamous Yoga mind/body connection!Return to top
Yoga classes are now taught in three quarters of the gyms in the US, a pretty good indication that we are beginning to appreciate its fitness benefits. Practicing the widely varying sequences of poses is challenging and oftentimes strenuous and stimulating, but in a calming way. A consistent Yoga practice can build the kind of endurance and power you see in a martial arts master, and without the need to lift heavy weights. Most people find that the concentration required to balance and align their bodies while focusing on breathing results in a calming, mind-body connection.
Use a four-count breath to measure time and improve your concentration while holding the endurance and balance poses in your Yoga practice. A series of four deep breaths like this should take about 30 seconds to complete, and that is the minimum time to hold each pose.
The following Yoga poses combine stretching with hip and thigh strengthening. You should do these twice per week while stretching after a skate workout. Do each pose once, and do both sides where applicable. While holding the pose, let your mind explore the tightest areas and see if you can breathe away any unnecessary muscular gripping. Learning to let go on the mat helps you learn to let go of unnecessary stressors in your life. Really!
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)
Strengthens thighs and buttocks and stretches spine.
- Lie on your back with heels close to hips, palms flat.
- Starting with your tailbone, roll your spine slowly up off the floor, one vertebrae at a time.
- Push your hips and then chest skyward; your neck stretches long on the mat in response.
- Keep knees at hip width and hold steady for 30-60 seconds.
- Roll down one vertebrae at a time, starting from the base of your neck.
Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Similar to the skater's "wall sit," this pose strengthens thighs, torso and buttocks while stretching the spine, calves and shoulders.
- Raise arms overhead with hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing in.
- Bend both knees to sink down into the "chair" and stop just before your heels lift off
- the mat. Distribute your weight equally over the fronts and backs of your feet. Keep your spine straight and hold this pose.
- If your balance wavers, fix your gaze on a stationary point.
Warrior 1 Pose (Virbhadrasana 1)
Strengthens thighs and stretches hips and hip flexors.
- Assume the Chair Pose described above as your starting position.
- Shift your weight to your left foot, as you reach the right foot straight back. Land at a distance behind that allows your heel to stay in contact with your toes angled slightly out.
- Square your hips and shoulders to the front, and try to equalize your weight over both feet. Hold this pose.
- Step back up to Chair Pose briefly, then repeat Warrior 1 on the opposite side.
Warrior 2 Pose (Virbhadrasana 3)
Strengthens shoulders, thighs and buttocks and stretches hips and groins.
- Standing sideways on your mat, raise both arms to the sides, palms down, then separate your feet so they are directly under your wrists.
- Look over the left shoulder and turn left foot to point left.
- Turn the toes of your right foot inward about 45 degrees. Shift your hips left and bend the left knee into a lunge, while keeping your torso perfectly upright.
- Align your left knee directly over your left ankle, not tipped forward and not bent more than 90 degrees.
- Meanwhile, keep weight on your right leg, flex that quad, and make sure the knee faces out, not down. This opposing leg effort should result in a stretch in both groins. Hold this pose.
Yoga appears in every part of these workouts because it offers skaters so much: flexibility, endurance, core strength, optimized breathing, balance and mental focus. But one of the best benefits of a Yoga practice is the body awareness you learn from the minute muscle and joint adjustments you make as coached by a certified, experienced professional. The structural control you will gain benefits all of your athletic endeavors. That is why at this point, I urge you to find and participate in at least one Hatha or Iyengar Yoga class per week (these are the most commonly taught).
Whether or not you attend classes, use the following poses as a cool-down to relax and lengthen your muscles after your skate training workouts. Hold each pose for 10 slow inhalations and exhalations. Meanwhile, look for clenched areas you can let go of without losing the shape of the pose.
- Wide angle forward bend (groins, feet, back) -- With feet very wide apart, stretch your spine tall and then fold forward at the hip joints to place palms on the floor below your shoulders. After a short pause here, move palms back in line with your feet, then round the back and let your head hang heavy. Keep elbows parallel and perpendicular to the floor.
- Downward Facing Dog (hamstrings, feet, calves, back and more!) -- Start by kneeling squarely on all fours, knees and feet at hip width, toes ready to push. Lift hips skyward and straighten the legs. Arch your tailbone up as you push your heels toward the floor. Ears, spine and shoulders align to make a straight line from tail to fingers. Draw your shoulders down, away from your ears.
- Pigeon pose (outer hip and hip flexor) -- Start from the top of a push up position. Bring the right knee forward to rest under your right shoulder. Slide the right foot over below the left thigh by rotating the right hip joint outward. To deepen the stretch, move the left knee further back along the floor and lower to your elbows. If your right knee complains, shift the right heel closer to your midline. Repeat on the other side.
- Dancer's pose (quads, shoulder, hamstrings) -- Standing tall, raise your left arm overhead. Use the right hand to capture your right foot around the ankle. Slowly begin to tip your torso forward while pulling your right knee up behind. Try to keep hips and shoulders parallel to each other and the floor. Repeat on the other side.
- Child pose (recovery, spine, ankles) -- Start from all fours and sit back on your feet. If your front ankles don't touch, support them with a rolled up towel. Keeping hips over heels, touch your forehead to the floor and move your hands back near your feet, palms up. Relax everything and enjoy the spinal traction. If you cannot relax, place a pillow across your thighs before folding forward.