Work It Out: 7 yoga postures for joint mobility
November 24, 2016
Editor's note: Want more? Try yoga for snow shoveling as the snow starts piling up.
Snow has started to fall, finally! If you haven't already, it's time to get your gear ready for winter and find your ski pass.
As you prepare your gear, think about preparing your body as well. Remember that, regardless of the sport, joint health and mobility will reduce injuries and decrease recovery time if you take a rough fall.
More than any other style of yoga, Yin yoga targets connective tissue, creating supple and healthy joints, ligaments and tendons. Yin's effectiveness is largely due to holding the postures for one or more minutes, so choose a posture variation you can relax into and hold without pain.
Try these Yin postures a few times a week to open knees, ankles, hips and low back.
YIN FOR KNEES AND ANKLES
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Saddle (called "Hero's Pose" in non-Yin yoga) is an excellent posture to open knees and ankles.
For those of us who sit a large portion of the day, connective tissue in these joints becomes less pliable. The range of motion also decreases as we age, and full range of motion means that you're less likely to get injured in falls of any kind.
The goal with Saddle is to feel sensation in your joints. It may be intense, but it should be pain-free and allow for a slow steady breath. This pose is not recommended for people with knee injuries.
Stand on your shins, with knees hip-width apart.
Sit back on your calves and let hands rest on thighs. Pull inner edges of feet toward each other, especially the heels.
If the intensity in your feet is too great, place a blanket under ankles. If the intensity in your knees is too great, place a blanket or two under hips.
For more intensity, separate the heels to hip-width and sit between the heels, with knees close together.
For a deeper stretch in knees and quads, lean back onto your forearms. For even more sensation and a low-back stretch, lie on your back and hold your opposite hand to opposite elbow overhead.
Hold for 1 minute and slowly come up.
Extend your legs and massage your knees.
YIN FOR INNER THIGHS
Inner-thigh strength is essential to balance, as inner thighs enable us to keep knees in line with ankles and stabilize the lower body. Rarely do our inner thighs have an opportunity for a deep stretch, so try these postures to release tension and increase range of motion.
Focusing on the groin, Dragon pose promotes a healthy hip joint. Many variations not listed here work deeply into the hip socket, so if you like this posture, try a Yin class or check out other options online.
Be aware that if your hip flexors and quads are tight you might not feel this in the hip joint because thighs and hip flexors will take the majority of the tension. That's OK, but other poses (such as Shoelace) are needed to work the hip joint.
Start on your hands and knees.
Bring your left foot to the outside of the left hand and slide the right knee back until you feel a good stretch through the right thigh and hip flexor.
Sink your hips down and forward.
To intensify the posture and build strength in quads and glutes, curl the right toes under and lift up the right knee. For an additional challenge, bring forearms to the floor.
Breathe slowly and hold for at least one minute.
Relax and repeat on opposite side.
A simple forward fold, Straddle will open inner thighs, hips and hamstrings. Try this posture seated on a folded blanket or cushion to make it more accessible and deepen the inner-thigh stretch.
From a seated position, spread your legs apart until you feel a stretch on the inner thigh and hamstring.
If your navel rolls in and low back rolls out, raise your hips on a blanket or cushion.
For more intensity, fold forward at the waist, resting your weight on your hands or elbows.
Breathe slowly and hold for up to 3 minutes.
A deep groin and inner-thigh opener, move into Frog pose slowly. Some people will find this posture welcoming, and others will find the intensity overwhelming. Move with intelligence and always avoid pain. Along with working the inner thigh, Frog pose also aids in digestion. If the full version of the posture becomes too intense, support your chest and/or hips with a dense pillow.
Option 1: Tadpole
Start in Child's Pose, with big toes touching and knees hip-width apart.
Slide both hands forward.
Separate the knees wider than the hips and remain sitting on heels.
Option 2: Full Frog
Separate your feet as wide as the knees and relax hips down toward the mat.
To decrease intensity, move your hips further forward.
For maximum effect, keep your hips in line with knees.
Breathe slowly and hold for up to 3 minutes.
YIN FOR OUTER HIP
Anytime we push our leg out to the side (think skate-skiing or traversing a long catwalk) we use our outer thighs and glutes to propel us forward. Shoelace pose releases tension in these outer hip muscles and the connective tissue of the hip joint. If it's difficult to relax your hips to the floor, sit on a cushion or a block. This posture is not recommended for people with sciatica.
Start on your hands and knees.
Bring the right knee between and behind your hands.
Lean forward onto your hands and tuck the left knee behind the right.
Sit back and bring your feet to either side of your hips, stacking the knees.
Flex your feet. This is important, as it protects the knee joint from strain.
Sit up straight with hands resting on your thighs or feet.
Breath and hold for up to 3 minutes.
Repeat on opposite side.
YIN FOR LOW BACK
Nearly every sport creates strain on the low back. This is primarily due to a lack of core strength, which is the focus of next month's article. Releasing tension in the low back is challenging because most low-back stretches also impact the hamstrings, which are often tighter than the low back. These postures largely bypass the hamstrings.
Butterfly releases tension in the low back, hips and inner thighs. Try this posture seated on a folded blanket or cushion for support and a deeper stretch.
Sit on the floor and press the soles of your feet together so that your legs make a diamond shape.
Hold onto your feet or shins. If your navel rolls in and low back rolls out, raise your hips on a blanket or cushion. To open the lower back more, fold forward from the hips.
Reach your heart forward and let your knees drop down toward the floor.
Breathe and hold for up to 3 minutes.
A gentle release for the low back, this forward fold allows you to control the intensity by keeping the knees bent. The more your knees straighten, the more this posture moves into the hamstrings, so to keep the release in the low back let your knees become soft. If you have any low-back injuries, bend the knees until the torso can rest on the thighs.
Stand upright with the feet hip-width apart.
Bend your knees and fold forward, and clasp elbows with the opposite hands.
Release the head and neck.
Breathe and hold for 1 minute.
Pinna Gallant is the owner of Peak Yoga, Dillon's only dedicated yoga studio. Designed to challenge both the body and the mind, Peak Yoga classes build muscular strength, physical endurance and emotional resilience. Find out more about Peak Yoga at PeakYogaStudio.com.
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