7 Amazing Yoga-Inspired Stretches to Cool Down After Your Workout
You just rocked it in one of your favorite cardio classes, Zumba classes, or maybe you wrapped up a fierce strength training session, but you’re not finished yet! It’s time to fire up that yoga practice. That’s right. A post-workout cool down and stretch are just as important as the workout itself. And what better way to bring down your body temperature than a tried and true tradition that’s been around for millennia? Yoga. Here is a sequence of seven cool down yoga poses that nurture your tired muscles, calm your mind, and if done regularly, these yoga sessions featuring some of the most dynamic stretches around, can help increase flexibility and mobility. So, take a deep breath, roll out that mat or blanket and let’s get our mellow on with some post workout yoga.
This is hands-down one of our favorite post-workout yoga poses. (Not only after cardio or strength training but after yoga classes too.) This restorative posture helps you recover faster and can also quiet the mind. Lie on your back, shimmy your bum close to a wall and rest your legs straight up on the wall.
Another option: Lie on your back and place a yoga strap around the balls of your feet. Hold for up to 15 minutes.
Knee-to-chest stretch is a staple in most yoga classes because it’s a great all-around move to release tension in your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back, and it feels like a dream after one of those super-lungey cardio classes. Lie on your back with your legs straight; bend your right knee up toward your chest. Hug it close to your chest while pushing your back to the floor; hold for 20 seconds, release your right knee, and repeat on the other side.
This juicy stretch, also known as forward fold, not only feels oh-so-good on the hamstrings, it also lengthens the spine. If you’re a regular at sculpt classes or kick-boxing classes, this is for you. Fold your upper body forward, releasing any tension, and dangle your arms toward the floor, bending your legs as much as you need to. You can also use a yoga block on the mat in front of you for back support or as you work toward more flexibility.
Modification: Interlace your hands behind your back; as you bend forward, they’ll rise over your head. You can also place your right hand on a block or your yoga mat, bend your right knee, and extend your left hand up toward the sky, take a deep breath in, and come back down on the exhale, then switch sides.
Runner’s lunge is another excellent stretch for your hamstrings, hip flexors, and quads, and after circuit classes or sprinting exercises, this will go a long way toward keeping you injury free. From a kneeling position, reach your right leg back straight keeping your left leg bent, and place your hands on the mat inside your left foot. Take a deep breath in and exhale as you lean into the lunge, keeping your back straight and core tight. You can place your back knee on the ground for stability or keep it elevated. Hold for one minute, and then repeat on the other side. You can also use a block under one or both hands for this pose, too.
This posture is part of many a yoga practice, and targets your quads, shoulders, and neck. Opening your chest after crouching in spin classes is an excellent way to bring the balance. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor near your butt. Clasp your hands under your pelvis, bringing your shoulder blades close together, and lift your hips off the floor. Hold for 30 seconds. If you’d like help elevating your hips, you can slide a block lengthwise underneath your lower back.
Plow pose is a great back stretch. Performed at the end of most yoga classes but also great after high impact classes that put stress on your spine. Lie on your back and lift your legs toward the ceiling, placing your hands on your lower back for support. Keeping your legs straight, lower them toward your face while resting your arms flat on the floor. Hold for one minute. If you place a block behind your head, reaching your toes toward it, this may help incrementally increase your flexibility… and provide some security because you have a connection point. This pose might feel challenging for some people, so if you’re one of them, leave it out. This portion of the program should be chill, relaxing and help lower your body temperature, so if it’s a stressor, scrap it.
And, on the flip side, sphinx is a great static stretch for your abs. This easy pose is typically performed at the beginning of yoga classes but here, we’ll use it at the end of what we hope will be the first of many cool down yoga sessions. (Although you can do this sequence in any order.) Lie on your stomach with your elbows under your shoulders. Slowly push up, so your forearms are resting on the floor. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
NOW, your workout (and cool down!) is complete. (Although you might want to end things traditionally with corpse pose, and while the term corpse pose may seem morbid, it is meant to signify the end or “death” of your practice). Lie on your back, legs straight, (or keep the soles of your feet together a la butterfly pose) arms loosely at your sides (or place your right hand on your heart and your left hand on your belly) the options are endless, but no matter how you exit your workout, make sure to breathe slowly and naturally as you relax and lower your body temperature.
There are many styles of yoga to explore when you’re considering yoga after workouts. Yoga is chock full of dynamic stretches for people of all fitness levels. But you don’t have to save these postures for when you’re finished with cardio classes, or during yoga retreats. Committed yogis will tell you that quick yoga sessions anytime throughout the day are a great way to reconnect to your body, mind, and spirit, they’re a great way to release tension, and make awesome mini-workouts. You can also use a short yoga practice as a warm up, or each time you get up to grab a snack or hit the restroom, do mountain pose. Mountain pose is an easy pose you do with your entire body. Stand straight and tall, raise your arms above your head, on inhale and bring them back down on the exhale. That’s it! Yoga is so flexible.