Do these 2 Poses to Boost Your Recovery

What do you do after a hard training session or race to rest your body?

Lie on the couch? Sit in an icy cold bath? Pull on your compression socks and head out to the nearest café for a feed?

Yoga is wonderful toolbox for an athlete because you can always find a pose that will stretch, strengthen, relax or recharge whatever body part needs it. And sometimes that body part is your mind too.

Give yourself 10 minutes to add these 2 simple poses to your post training or race cool down, and you’ll be recharging your physical and mental batteries from the inside out.

Go upside down

Inverting your body by going upside down has several rejuvenating benefits: it takes the strain of gravity off your legs, improves circulation and lymphatic drainage, balances the endocrine glands, reduces fluid retention, brings blood to the brain and soothes the nervous system.

Simple legs up wall

Simple legs up wall restorative pose

Method:

  1. Sit side on to the wall and turn to lie fully on your side. Bend your knees and roll onto your back, simultaneously taking your feet to the wall.  Stretch them up straight. If you cannot straighten your legs, wiggle yourself away from the wall just enough that you can lengthen your legs fully.
  2. Relax your arms by your sides, palms up. Soften your shoulders. Allow the weight of your body to press into the floor beneath you.
  3. Close your eyes and breath from your belly. (See below)
  4. Rest and relax for 5 minutes.
  5. To come out of the pose simply roll to the side. Rest here for 30 seconds before getting up.

Supported variation

Simple legs up restorative pose

If you’re stiffer in your back and hamstrings then the legs up wall position may be too uncomfortable for you to properly rest and relax. Instead you can get a similar restorative effect by lying with your legs supported on a bench or chair.

Get open

Opening the chest counteracts the tendency to accumulate tension in the upper back, shoulders and neck. The back bending movement provides a counterpose for all the hours you’ve spent forward bending – such as when sitting and cycling – which can help to improve the health and function of your spine and its supporting tissues. It also stretches the internal organs, including the lungs and the rib cage, which can help to improve breathing overall.

Simple Supported Backbend

Simple supported backbend restorative pose

For this pose you’ll need several large blankets. Fold them into a stack of rectangles approximately 25cm x 75cm. You can adjust the height by adding, or taking away, a blanket so that you are in a comfortable position.

Method:

  1. There are 2 ways to get into the pose, but first you need to position yourself with your back and butt close to the short end. Then either lie yourself sideways along the length of the blankets, and roll onto your back; or simply lie back along the blankets, using your hands and arms to help lever your body down.
  2. Make sure that your neck is fully supported (you don’t want it hanging off the end!).
  3. Let your arms hang relaxed to the sides, palms facing up.
  4. Loosely cross your legs – or if this is uncomfortable just stretch your legs out straight.
  5. Allow your body to soften around the blankets. If you start to feel any discomfort, roll to the side and reposition the blankets. The length of your torso can affect your comfort in this pose. (For example, if it tweaks your lower back, you may find it more comfortable to lie back with just your mid and upper back supported, as this will reduce the arch in your lower back.)
  6. Close your eyes and breath from your belly. (See below)
  7. Rest and relax for 5 minutes.
  8. To come out of the pose simply roll to the side. Rest here for 30 seconds before getting up.

Simple Supported Backbend with Legs Up

Simple supported backbend with legs up restorative pose

If you’re really pressed for time, you can combine both of the above 2 poses into one, by lying back over blankets with your legs raised onto on a bench/chair.

Breath with your belly

Abdominal breathing stimulates the relaxation response, thereby calming your cardiovascular, muscular and nervous systems which are all active in your daily life, and especially when exercising.

Method:

As you inhale, keep your ribcage still and draw the breath into your belly. Let it fully expand but without forcing the breath.

As you exhale allow your belly to slowly collapse like a deflating balloon.

At the end of the exhale notice the natural pause where there is no breath, just complete still and quiet in your body, before the impulse to breath in returns.

CAUTION: There should be no discomfort in your neck, upper or lower back doing these poses. If you are stiff you will probably have a mild sensation of stretching across the chest. If you feel any pain immediately roll sideways and bring yourself out of the pose.

These poses are gentle and will be suitable for most people. However, if you have significant eye, neck, heart or disc issues then consult your health practitioner first.

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