Build Strength and Stability While Increasing Flexibili

By Nicole Flanagan

FitnessIncorporating yoga positions into your workout can greatly improve your core strength, stability and flexibility. For those of you who have never taken a yoga class, I recommend giving it a try. A yoga class will challenge you in a way that is incomparable to a strength-training workout. Yoga increases flexibility through various positions that act on the joints. It gently stretches the muscles, tendons and ligaments that we usually don’t focus on in a workout. For someone with limited flexibility, yoga will help to improve the range of motion that the joints can handle. Performing yoga moves will also increase blood circulation and help the body move vital fluids throughout.  By gently stretching muscles and joints as well as massaging the body’s organs, yoga ensures that blood is reaching all parts of your body.  This increase in circulation improves your body’s ability to flush out toxins. With so many benefits of yoga there is no reason not to give some of them a try.  Here are some moves to do on your own, or add to your existing workout that will help improve strength, stability and flexibility.

Downward Dog:

  • Start on all fours with hands directly under shoulders and knees directly under hips
  • Walk hands a few inches forward and spread fingers wide, pressing palms into mat.
  • Curl toes under and slowly press hips toward ceiling, bringing your body into an inverted V, pressing shoulders away from ears. Feet should be hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  • Hold for three full breaths
  • Make this move more challenging- once you are in the V position bring one leg straight up toward the ceiling keeping your hips level. Hold each leg for three breaths.

The Crow

  • Starting from the downward dog position walk feet forward until knees touch your arms.
  • Bend your elbows, lift heels off floor, and rest knees against the outside of your upper arms. Keep toes on floor, abs engaged and legs pressed against arms. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths
  • Make this move more challenging- starting from beginner position, squeeze your inner thighs to lift heels off floor.

    * With fingers spread wide, slowly move body forward until your weight is balanced over your hands.

* Draw abs inward (as if pulling belly button to spine) to lift your hips up higher, keeping your face forward. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.

The Lunge

  • Start in downward dog position. Step your right leg forward to the inside of your right hand.
  • Drop your left knee to the floor and lift your chest up. Keeping your right knee in line with your ankle and your back straight, place hands on your knee. Hold for 10 breaths.
  • Return to downward dog; switch legs and repeat
  • Make this move more challenging-From beginner pose, press into the ball of your back foot and lift into a standing lunge.

* Straighten back leg, place heel down on floor, and turn foot out a few inches. Lift arms toward ceiling (Warrior I). Spread your fingers, turn palms in, and open up chest. Hold for 10 breaths.

* Switch legs; repeat

As I have said many times before, adding new things to a workout will make it more fun and help to prevent an injury due to overuse. Increasing flexibility will help improve posture by releasing some of the tension caused by stress.  If yoga is not exactly your style, try taking a look at what your fitness club has to offer.  Give some of these moves or a new class a try. You may just start incorporating a yoga or “Body Flow” class into your regular workout!

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