Working out is exciting for most of us. In that excitement, we sometimes take it a bit too far and ignore our body’s signals to stop. Exercise, in all its forms, aims to contract muscles for an extended period to strengthen them. Think of swimming – while the body itself may be left loose, the arms, legs, and core move continuously and consistently. Likewise, in strength training, specific muscle groups are held taut for extended stretches.
However, it is essential that you cool down the body after an intense workout to restore the muscles and prime your body for the next workout. To do so, you can opt certain yoga poses. Yoga helps to increase the range of motion of each muscle group. It also helps you to breathe deeply with every asana, thus giving the muscles some much-needed oxygen to recover.
Here are 8 yoga stretches to relax different muscle groups in the body and heal sore muscles.
1. Hand-To-Feet (Hasta Padasana)
If you are in doubt about which muscle group to stretch, just start with the back. The abdominal and back muscles carry most of your weight and bear the brunt of bad posture, thus possibly setting you up for a lifetime of aches and pains. This asana helps you by giving a good stretch to the back muscles.
- As the name suggests, stand straight with feet close together. Bend forward and touch your feet or the floor with your hands.
- It is important to keep the abdominal muscles relaxed and stretch the lower back as much as possible.
- Continue to breathe and bend forward more with each breath.
2. Palm Tree (Tadasana)
The palm tree pose stretches the body in general, healing and relaxing the shoulder muscles. You can practice the tadasana pose either by staying in this position for an extended period of time or by relaxing and doing the asana in cyclical intervals.1
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, ensuring you are firmly rooted.
- Gently release the tension in your tailbone, drawing your stomach in as you do so. Your rib cage too must rise up and out of your pelvis.
- Now, move your shoulders back and away from the ears, relaxing them as you do so.
- Let your head reach up toward the ceiling of the room, stretching and elongating your spine as if you were being pulled upward.
- Your breathing should be slow and deep and your throat and face relaxed. Keep your chin parallel to the floor throughout.
Stay in the pose for 1 minute.
3. Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
This asana is excellent for stretching the lower back, the hamstrings, and the entire pelvic region. There are several variants of this asana. If you are a beginner hold your toes for a better stretch.
- Start by sitting on a mat with your back straight and arms on the side.
- Using your hands, hold your big toe with a firm grip so that it doesn’t slip during the asana.
- You may bend your knees when you begin.
- Gently push the knees outward and straighten the legs while holding on to the toes.
- As you straighten the legs, remember to keep your arms straight and bend the lower back for the maximum impact on the pelvic region.
4. Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
The upward-facing dog pose is great for stretching the thighs and shins as well as the ankles. However, if you’re suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, avoid this stretch as it can aggravate the condition.
- Start by lying face down on your mat.
- Using your arms, bend upward with a gentle push.
- In the final pose, you should be supported only by your arms and toes.
- Ensure your arms and toes are straight.
5. Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
The downward-facing dog pose offers the maximum benefit when done right after the upward dog pose. Together, these stretches loosen the abdominal and back muscles and strengthen the core. Since the head is at a lower level than the rest of the body in this pose, the neck muscles are stretched out by gravity. While doing this asana, bend into an inverted ‘V’ and bring the heels of your feet as close to the mat as possible.
- Get down on the floor on your knees and hands. Place the knees right below the hips and the hands a little in front of your shoulder level, like in the cat pose.
- Spread your fingers and turn your toes under.
- Take a deep breath, exhale, and lift your knees up away from the floor.
- To start with, you can keep the knees slightly bent and the heels a little off the floor.
- Stretch your arms so that you lengthen the spine.
- Press against the floor and open up your chest.
- Push up your sitting bones to tilt forward the upper part of the pelvis. Stay in this position if your body is stiff.
- If not, gently straighten the knees and walk the legs toward your upper body. The lower back shouldn’t be rounded here.
- Keep your heels on the floor to give your body the maximum stretch.
- Hold the pose for about 30 seconds, release, and relax.
6. Butterfly (Baddha Konasana)
The butterfly stretch helps to relieve tension in the pelvic region and the groin. When done correctly, every yoga pose must feel smooth and comfortable, so start with a folded butterfly if you have to.
- Sit on the mat with your feet stretched out and arms by your side.
- Bend your knees laterally, keeping the legs parallel to the floor as much as possible.
- Join both your feet together and bend your knees as far down as you can go.
- Hold the feet together with your hands if need be.
- Straighten your back and breathe.
7. Divine Dancer (Natarajasana)
The divine dancer pose has many variations, including a standing and a supine version. For a good stretch, the supine version is recommended.
- Begin by lying down straight on your mat.
- Stretch out your arms to the sides and ensure that they are straight throughout.
- Bend your knees and maintain a slight distance between the legs.
- Turn both knees to one side and aim to touch the floor.
- Stay in this position for a while and then repeat on the other side. This pose helps to stretch the quadriceps and the spine as well.
8. Full Body Stretch
This stretch is not so much a single asana but an isolated stretch for each muscle group.
- Lie down with your feet together and your arms raised above your head.
- Start by stretching the left side of your body.
- Pay attention to the fingers and toes, ensuring that they get a good stretch.
- Release and repeat on the other side as well.
- Once done, stretch both sides of the body and hold for a few seconds.
Give these yoga poses a try and experience the gradual relief from sore muscles.
|↑1||Grossman, Gail. Yoga Journal Presents Restorative Yoga for Life. F+W Media Inc., 2014.|