Yoga flow sequences come in many forms. Here I give you one that provides an easy way to flex and extend through the key areas of tightness for many athletes – the upper and lower back, hips and legs. What differentiates yoga from simply stretching is the union of breath, movement and awareness. This synergy is also a powerful tool for athletes to learn and use in both training and competition.
There are four key points to keep in mind when moving through this sequence:
- Allow your breathing to guide you into and out of each pose. Generally, strength or upward movements begin on an inhale, and releasing or downward movements begin on an exhale. Do not move into the next pose until the inhale or exhale is complete. Find the rhythm that suits your flow into and out of each pose.
- Remain in Down Facing Dog pose for at least 5 full breaths as this is an excellent full body stretch. Concentrate on lengthening your arms and spine up towards your hips, straighten your legs and keep your heels lifted if necessary, to maintain the triangle shape of this pose.
- Notice how my hands remain grounded in the same place throughout the sequence – this helps to maintain the integrity of the flow by keeping all movements around a central focal point.
- The first sequence begins with the right leg leading into and out of lunges. The second sequence begins with the left leg leading. Continue to alternate the leading leg from right to left for each successive repeat of the sequence.
- Standing – feet together, spine tall, shoulders broad, breathing relaxed
- Standing back bend – hands on buttocks, gently arch backwards
- Standing forward bend – fold torso into legs, keep knees straight
- Lunge – take right leg back, ensure left knee is at right angle (not over toes of left foot)
- Plank – draw navel into spine and lower your body down with control
- Half Bow – lift chest and legs away from floor, press hands down to assist
- Childs pose – press buttocks back to heels, stretch arms and back, rest head down
- Cobra – gently draw your chest forward and then raise by pressing down through hands – only rise as far as is comfortable (do not attempt to lift too high as this can strain your back!)
- Down facing dog – from Cobra lower your body, then tuck your toes under and press firmly down through toes and hands to raise your hips high while lengthening your spine and legs
- Lunge – take right leg forward, ensure right knee is at right angle
- Standing forward bend
- Standing back arch
- Standing – hands in prayer, spine tall, shoulders broad, breathing relaxed
If you are unfamiliar with any of these individual yoga poses, practice the sequence in a slower flow initially so that you learn how each one feels. I suggest taking at least 5 breaths in each pose until you have the flow sequence memorised and have developed a degree of ease with moving in and out of the poses.