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Must-do yoga stretches for your workout

Last updated on: May 31, 2012 15:22 IST

Must-do yoga stretches for your workout

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Shameem Akhtar

The importance of stretching out before and after a workout

The debate over whether stretches really help to prepare you for, and wind you down, after any intense workout still continues. There are lobbies for either side. However, speaking from personal experience, Shameem Akthar, yogacharya trained with  the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center advises you to stretch out before and after a workout, so you warm-up and cool-down respectively.
 
Remember, that the stretches before any intense activity should be dynamic -- paced fast and moving fast, instead of being slow. On the other hand, stretches after a workout should be slow and static, meaning you hold the pose instead of moving too fast.
 
The reason for this difference in the texture of movement is that fast movements warm up the muscles, preparing them so they do not shock or strain. Static stretches at the end of a workout help relieve the strained joints, ease off the blood lactate levels, allow the breath to resume to near normal, plus allow the sweat created through these stretches to help the body cool down naturally.

Discuss Yoga

The duration of warm up and cool down stretches should be proportionate to the length of your main practice. Ideally for an hour of practice, five to ten minutes should be allotted to the warm up and cool down respectively. Beginners should do longer start-up and wind-down stretches, since their muscles are even less acclimatised to the intensity of the main workout.
 
You do not need to do too many stretches, but the duration or the repeats decide their intensity. In dynamic stretches you need to do many repeats, fast. In static stretches, you need to hold for long the final pose. In both warm up and cool down you need to cover the entire body, including the neck. Given below are a few poses which can be used dynamically or statically.

For more of Shameem's yoga writings visit http://jaisivananda.blogspot.com. Shameem's second book Yoga in the workplace, with photographs by ace photographer Fawzan Husain, is now available at online shops and bookshops across the country. It is also available as e-book, with Kindle, Amazon.


Photographs: Shameem Akhtar

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Greeva sanchalanasana  (Neck practice)

Stack up hands one on top of the other. Raise the hands before the forehead. Press down the forehead into the back of the hands. The muscular exertion should be from the neck and upper back. Hold for a few seconds, breathing normally throughout. Release.
 
Benefits

Prepares the neck for any intense activity. Most often the neck muscles are not prepared for any sudden twists or intense move and cause the most trouble or sports injuries. The spinal nerves at the neck service the hands, so the hands are also prepared for co-ordination.

Discuss Yoga


Photographs: Shameem Akhtar

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Trikonasana (Triangle)

Stand with legs a meter apart. Feet should be pointed in front.

Inhale, lowering right palm flat on the ground, under the face, bending at the waist. Left arm lifts into the air, aligned to be in one line with the right hand. Look at the left hand. Hold to breathe evenly. Exhale, drop the left palm flat on ground, raising right arm to repeat the exercise for the other side.
 
Benefits

It prepares the mind for the sudden challenges of balance and coordination. Works  out large muscle groups in arms, legs, hips and the back. The spine is also twisted and toned.

Discuss Yoga


Image: Trikonasana (Triangle)
Photographs: Shameem Akhtar

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Tadasana (Palmtree pose)

Stand up straight, feet half a foot apart, pointed ahead. Inhale, going up on your toes. Simultaneously raise hands overhead, interlocking fingers, pointing palms out to the ceiling. Hold for a few seconds, stretching intensely from the toes and the arms, as if being dragged from above.

Release, exhaling to drop hands, to sides and heels back to floor.
 
Benefits

This is a complete body stretch and workout and most powerful, healing practice in yoga. It is used to treat all major ailments and spinal issues.

Discuss Yoga


Image: Tadasana (Palmtree pose)
Photographs: Shameem Akhtar

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Katichakrasana (Waist twist)

Stand with feet about two feet apart. Hold out arms at shoulder level. Inhale. Exhaling twist to the right, with the arms still at shoulder level, to look back. Inhale, return to the centre. Exhale, to twist to the left. Inhale, return to the centre. This is one round. Repeat five to ten times.

Benefits

Prepares the spine, limbs and the rest of the body for any activity. Also challenges balance, preparing the brain for sudden nerve coordination, especially those involving eye/arm movements.

Discuss Yoga


Image: Katichakrasana (Waist twist)
Photographs: Shameem Akhtar

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Janu chakra (Knee circles)

Stand up straight, with feet close. Place palms on top of thighs, to hold them just above either knee, squatting lightly. Breathing normally, move the knees apart, then circle them back together. This should be in a circular motion, first drawing the knees out to draw the circles. Later to draw them inwards. Do five to ten times.
 
Benefits

The legs need to be really involved in all intense workout. The knees take a load of such intensity, as do the ankles. This moves prepares these delicate, overloaded joints for the work ahead. This move also involves hip muscles, lower back and the entire leg, toning them.

Discuss Yoga


Image: Janu chakra (Knee circles)
Photographs: Shameem Akhtar

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