Tag Archives: mobility

Yoga Challenge Day 23

Since yesterday’s practice, I knew I needed to fit in some recovery and mobility work to “fix” my hips and shoulders before moving on. Luckily, Kelly Starrett had two shoulder mobility WODs in line (this and this) that helped immensely. I didn’t have a bar and had to get creative, but with a little help managed to give my shoulders a really nice stretch. Finished that session off with a few minutes’ worth of Garudasana arms.

I dealt with the hips in the afternoon. I used the following Yin sequence to work mostly on external hip rotation, going progressively deeper:

  • Start out in Easy Square (simple cross-legged position) for 3 minutes, then go into Full Square (aka Firelog) for another 3 minutes. Make sure the calves are stacked, the feet flexed, and use a block and/or blanket to support the knees as needed.
  • Do some Windshield Wipers to loosen up, then repeat on the other side.
  • Switch focus for a bit to the hip flexor by going into Baby Dragon for 2 minutes.
  • “Flap” the bent leg a few times before settling into Winged Dragon for another 2 minutes.
  • Bring the knee back to a Baby Dragon position before sliding the foot of the front leg towards the opposite hip to come into Swan. Keep the foot flexed, get comfortable, and drape the upper body over the bent leg in Sleeping Swan for 3 minutes.
  • I like to come into Crocodile (plank on elbows) as a counterpose. Repeat Dragons and Swan on the other side.
  • To finish up, do some Reclining Twists for a couple of minutes per side, and then relax in Shavasana for 5 minutes or so.

A short sequence (didn’t take more than 40 minutes), but enough to put a smile on my face 🙂


Yoga Challenge Days 17-18

Had Internet trouble yesterday and couldn’t post, so here’s my update on the last two days.
I did a strength training session yesterday morning. This is my fifth workout and somehow it seemed easier, even though I’m steadily progressing to more difficult exercises. No DOMS, except for just a little bit around the wrists – did my very first one-arm let me ins 🙂
In the afternoon, I did Yin Yoga following Erin Fleming’s Yin Yoga: The Essential Practice CD. Overall, it was a balanced sequence putting emphasis on spinal work without overlooking the hips. Counter-poses were subtle to non-existent but that didn’t detract from the practice. Another peculiarity, which I’ve noticed only in a handful of classes before, was the placement of Shavasana after meditation at the end. I can’t say I liked that as I was feeling detached and groggy afterwards, when going through Shavasana first, then sitting in meditation usually leaves me relaxed but centered.
As for today, my monthly started early and put me out of commission for just about everything. I decided to revisit the mWODs I’ve done so far and add a new one to my repertoire.
So, in the morning I worked on squatting, and hip extension, while in the afternoon I worked on the calves and psoas (mWOD day 4). Not as relaxing as a Yoga practice might have been, but I’m not really clear on what poses are appropriate for that time of the month and which ones I should avoid.

Yoga Challenge Week 2 Wrap-Up

I started out the day with various aches and pains – lower back, hamstrings – but I guess that’s to be expected after a strength workout. So, I was on full restorative mode today.

In the morning, I repeated yesterday’s mWOD (the 10-minute squat), which just about took care of my lower back stiffness; I also noticed that my ankles were significantly looser. I followed up with rehab exercises for my shoulder, and finished up with mWOD day 2, a hip opener. It actually was like pulling on the back leg from a low lunge position (exactly the kind of pose I was complaining about yesterday!), except that the back calf is flat up against a wall. I couldn’t stretch the hips because my quads were too tight (possibly due to DOMS). However, it wasn’t until I tried the couch variation that I was able to get deep into the hip flexors.

I did a Yin Yoga session in the afternoon that left me energized and kink-free:

  • Butterfly
  • Straddle (sides and middle)
  • Cat pulling its tail
  • Square
  • Twisted Roots

I stayed 3 minutes in each pose, but unfortunately had to skip Shavasana due to lack of space (I had my niece doing the poses along with me, and my room could barely accommodate us both).

It’s been a rather peculiar week. My stress levels must have been rather high, because sleep quality has been low and the pattern irregular. Yoga has helped me keep my energy at decent levels overall, but I feel my mood is on a downward spiral. Upcoming week’s goal is putting in some much needed nap time and cutting out caffeine completely in addition to going from Primal to strict Paleo for at least the remainder of this challenge.

Yoga Challenge Day 13

I’ve been researching CrossFit lately, looking for elements I could incorporate into my fitness plan. Although I don’t intend to work out with weights any time soon (at least not until I’m injury free and 30kg lighter), I came upon a site with bodyweight Workouts of the Day (WOD) called Gymnastics WOD. It seems like a good resource to spice things up further down the road, but at the moment I simply don’t have the conditioning these workouts demand.

Case in point: I performed a bodyweight workout today that almost did me in. So far, I’ve been doing progressively more difficult exercises to keep the workouts challenging. I know that I’ve been getting stronger, but sometimes I feel that no matter how much strength I build, it’ll never match the size of my body – I’m not sure I really want it to either.

What I need, ultimately, is to lose weight, and I know that the kilos will drop only if I cut the dairy from my nutrition (I eat mostly Primal at the moment). Considering how writing a blog has helped me keep up my Yoga practice, I think adding a Paleo nutrition component to this challenge and blogging about it will help me stick to it.

Anyway, back to the workout. After finishing with the strength exercises, I adapted a sequence Sage Rountree presented for Runner’s World on YouTube (click here to watch) as follows:

  • Triangle
  • Pyramid
  • Lunge
  • Half-Saddle
  • Pigeon
  • Head-to-Knee
  • Happy Baby

Actually, the only difference compared to the original sequence is the addition of Half-Saddle since I like it better for stretching the quadriceps than pulling on the back leg while in a Lunge. Besides, it adds a nice(?) stretch for the upper side of the foot that I need. I stayed in each pose for one minute; did first one side then the other. Although this is suggested as a post-run routine, it stretches just about everything – thighs, calves, lower and upper back, chest (though only slightly) – so it’s really just the thing after a full-body strength workout. The only part that wasn’t stretched was the front side of the deltoids and the triceps, but Gomukhasana arms took care of that.

In the afternoon, I continued my research into CrossFit, and was delighted to come upon Kelly Starrett’s site, MobilityWOD. I find the idea of doing mobility work on different body parts each day, rather appealing – in essence, it’s not that different from my own Yin Yoga practice. Naturally, I wanted to give it a try (in case you haven’t noticed, I like variety!). The WODs seem to be sequenced in a logical, rather than random, fashion, so I started out with day 1: staying in a low squatting position for a total of 10 minutes. I was tickled funny since this is also a Yin Yoga pose (see here). I broke down the time into 4 segments, although I think I could have managed 3, and maybe even 2, but I didn’t want to risk it since I’d never stayed so long (10 minutes!) in any pose other than Straddle (does Shavasana count?). I felt the stretch in the Achilles tendon, but the weird thing was that I also felt it on the inside of my ankles – I guess that was because the feet were parallel while the knees were pushed outwards. I’ll try to do an mWOD each day and see if it makes any difference.

Warming Up with Yoga

When most people hear “warm-up”, they imagine some sort of cardio exercise for a few minutes before weight-lifting or a little bit of walking or light jogging before their run. However, the idea that a good warm-up routine goes beyond simply raising our body temperature is finally starting to become mainstream. Fitness experts suggest incorporating mobility work and dynamic (not to be confused with ballistic!) stretches to better prepare our bodies for the upcoming workout. One such expert that puts great emphasis on a proper warm-up is Core Performance’s Mark Verstegen. I respect the principles he promotes, but the exercises he uses are not my cup of tea – still, if you’re interested in learning more, click here.

Bearing in mind the elements of a good warm-up, I’d like to offer some suggestions on using Yoga to build a routine that:

  • increases body temperature
  • lubricates the joints
  • activates the muscles, especially the core
  • engages mental focus

Spending a few minutes in either Sukhasana or Tadasana, setting a goal for your workout, and then moving with the breath as you proceed with the warm-up will help focus your mind to the task at hand.

Just about any vinyasa will create internal heat, so all you need to do is pick the poses that will best activate your core, and keep moving to “oil” the joints. A few poses and flows to consider incorporating to your routine are:

  • Cat (on all fours or standing) and Half-Moon to “wake up” the spine
  • Plank or Bridge to statically engage the core
  • Reclined Leg Raises (maybe even as far as Shoulderstand or Plow after a few rounds if you’re up for it) or Warrior III to dynamically engage the core
  • Vinyasa flow (Plank, Chaturanga, Up Dog, Down Dog) mostly for the upper body, but in fact for just about everything, especially if you intersperse with lunges (low, high, Crescent Moon, etc.)
  • Warrior flow (Warrior II to Extended Side Angle, back to Warrior II, then to Exalted Warrior) for the lower body and the spine

If you don’t feel confident in creating your own sequence, you can always do Sun Salutations. If you’re short on time, Sage Rountree talks you through an efficient Balance and Bowing flow for warming up (her other podcasts contain just as excellent short routines, so be sure to check them out).

Those of us who’re saddled with injuries need to spend some time on them during the warm-up – a little TLC goes a long way when it comes to better performance (or just normal function for many people, myself included). One resource that has proven invaluable to me in this is Kimberly Fowler’s No OM Zone. Although the book has received many flaming reviews for its irreverent tone, I still feel it has a lot to offer. The author dedicates a chapter to each body part (e.g. neck, chest, hips) and suggests several poses and a sequence targeting each area. If the slant of the book bothers you, just ignore it and draw from it what can actually be of use to you.

Even if you’re as fit as a fiddle, you have much to gain from adding mobility work to your warm-up. A yogic approach would be to use Pawanmuktasana (series of asanas aimed specifically at lubricating the joints). Bernie Clark has both the upper and the lower body series up on his site – the former in particular is awesome to use when taking breaks from computer/typing work.

If you use Yoga in your warm-up, I’d love to hear about your routine.