A lack of proper stretching can sometimes lead to tight, stiff muscles, and actually, make your workouts less effective in the long run. After all, a muscle is only as strong as it is flexible!
London-based yoga teacher, Fern Ross gives us some simple yoga postures to try. We promise you’ll feel the benefits...
Come onto all fours, hands under shoulders and knees under hips, tops of feet flat on mat. Spread the fingers wide and pour your weight into your hands. Inhale to lift the chest and lift the seat, letting the belly swell like a balloon as you come into cow pose, then exhale to press into the hands, arching the back like a cat as you draw the navel in towards the spine and soften the tailbone. Repeat 5 times, keeping the breath full and long. You should feel a real release in the upper, middle and lower back. You can also add in some simple neck rolls here too.
A wonderful release for the psoas and quads, both of which get very tight from cycling. From all fours, step the right foot next to the right thumb. Keep the left knee down and either tuck or untuck the toes depending on what feels best in your body. Bring both hands to the right thigh, keeping the chest lifted, back tall, shoulders soft. Hold for 5-10 breaths then repeat on the left side.
Begin in a kneeling position, legs hip-width apart. If the knees are sensitive, pad them with a towel or blanket. Toes can be tucked or untucked here, whatever feels best in your body. Bring the hands into the small of the back, forefinger and thumb holding onto the base of the ribs. Roll the shoulders down and away from the ears, squeeze the elbows towards one another and begin to lift the chest towards the sky. You can stay here or, if it’s available, bring both hands to the heels. Make sure you keep pressing the hips forward and the core stays engaged. Come back out slowly, keeping the abdominals switched on.
From kneeling, begin to walk the hands backward until you’re resting on the forearms. Traditional alignment is with the knees together but, in my experience, this aggravates my lower back and my knees, which due to having a lot of external rotation in my hips, naturally want to open to hip-width apart. So listen to your body and adapt as needed. If the knees are tender then you could place a couple of rolled up socks behind the joint for extra padding before reclining. You should experience a deep stretch on the fronts of the thighs. If it feels OK to go deeper and lie all the way back, please do. I find that this pose in particular, due to the deep internal rotation required in the thighs and openness in the hip flexors, is one to take very slowly and proceed with caution. Really do listen to your body and allow it the time it needs to open. I also like to use a bolster here to support my spine (a couple of firm pillows would do the trick). If you can, hold for 1-2 minutes to really release off the quads and psoas.
Come back to all fours, and place the right shin across the body: right knee to the outside of the right wrist, right ankle either close to the left inner groin or towards the left wrist. Left leg extends out behind you. Either come onto the forearms, perhaps place a cushion under the forehead, or release all the way to the floor. If you feel any pain in the knee at all then come out immediately and take figure four pose on your back (right ankle crossed above left knee, thread the hands around the left thigh and draw the leg towards you to open the glute). Hold for 5-10 breaths then repeat on the left side.
A wonderful pose to reset the spine and fire up the posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes etc). Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet on floor, arms alongside you palm side down. Walk the heels as close to the heels as you can, perhaps even brushing them with the fingertips. Make sure the hips, knees, ankles and feet are all tracking in line. Exhale and slowly lift the hips to the sky. You can either keep the arms alongside you and push into the palms, or interlace the fingers behind you and roll one shoulder under at a time for an even deeper chest stretch. Try to lengthen the knees away from the hips to release the psoas. Hold for 5-10 breaths then slowly lower down one vertebra at a time.