For athletes or those active this summer, it is important to keep two key areas of the body opened, flexible and balanced:
a. the hamstrings
b. the hip flexors – mainly the psoas
For anyone, but especially cyclists and runners, both are primary causes for low back crankiness as well as reduced efficiency, power and speed in pedal stroke or running gait.
Below are some ‘must do’ yoga movements to target these critical areas. The PRE-RIDE/RUN sequences are designed to be done even with your cleats or running shoes on. Regularity is KEY. Try to do these consistently for *great* results.
 PRE-RIDE/RUN SEQUENCE
Muscle research proves it is important and better to do DYNAMIC stretching pre-training to move the muscles and build some heat and blood flow. Do this sequence – targeting the psoas and hips – up to three times each side prior to your ride or run. And, make sure you follow the breath instructions for optimal results to prep the body and even focus the mind.
[featuring YMX by Yellowman long sleeve peony jersey]
BREATHING DEEPLY, stand tall and confident in mountain pose, INHALE…
EXHALE, lift L leg up, hands stay at side…
INHALE, step L foot back and raise arms overhead, L leg straight and strong, R knee directly over R ankle…
EXHALE, pivot from hips to arrow pose, keep back flat, straight arms stay in line with ears, R knee stays over R ankle…
INHALE, draw hands together at heart center, plugging thumbs gently into sternum, watch that R knee – keep it over the R ankle…
EXHALE, twist to R, L elbow ‘catches’ R knee, L leg strong, and remember – R knee over R ankle, gaze upward…
INHALE, un-twist, weight comes fully into R foot keeping R knee slightly bent, lift L leg and balance, arms straight, gaze down to ground…
EXHALE, drop L foot right next to R, pause in chair pose, tailbone drawn down, arms reaching high…
INHALE, press into feet to stand, arms at side for mountain pose. Switch sides.
 PRE, DURING, POST RIDE/RUN SEQUENCE
A great release for low back, glute, outer hip and IT band. You can do this in shoes and even holding the top tube of your bike mid-ride or standing road side during mid-run.
Standing tall, tailbone dropping, hands at hips, cross R ankle over bent L knee…[for ease in balancing - grab a wall, a chair, a tree, a car, your top tube, your training partner...etc.]
Reach hands forward keeping back flat, shoulders back and down…
Pivot from hips and reach forward, hands stay shoulder height, back flat…
Drop arms to legs (R hand inside R knee, L hand on R foot), keeping back flat. Switch sides.
 POST RIDE SEQUENCE
After riding/training, STATIC stretches where we hold poses for at least one minute, helping to lengthen tight hamstrings and overused hip flexors and spine for injury prevention, balance and recovery. Here are just three great ways to release the psoas, hip flexors and back. More poses can be found here.
a. CROSS LEGGED BRIDGE
A light backbend that strengthens/releases back, legs and hips, massages spine, and opens chest.
- Back flat on ground, knees bent. Elbows bent alongside ribs, fingers point to ceiling.
- Bring R ankle onto L knee and flex R foot. Push L foot and elbows hard into mat to lift hips off floor.
- Do not tuck chin, keep throat open.
- Drop R knee toward floor but don’t let R hip drop – keep both hip points level.
- Breathe deep and steady. Hold for 5 or more steady breaths; switch sides.
b.THREAD THE NEEDLE
Opens and releases outer hip and hamstrings while neutralizing the spine.
- Back flat on ground, knees bent. Bring R ankle onto L knee and flex R foot. Lift bent L leg and bring R knee toward chest.
- Put R hand on inside of R knee and L hand on R foot. Gently push R knee away from body.
- As you exhale, continue to draw L knee closer to chest keeping low back on floor.
- Relax shoulders and back. Hold for minimum of one minute; switch sides.
c. HAMSTRING HAVEN
Stretches all hamstrings while releasing accumulated tension in low back.
- Using a strap or belt, lie on back, legs extended. Place strap around ball of R foot.
- Slowly lengthen R leg so strap slides through hand until leg is fully straightened. Elbows fully extend.
- Relax upper neck and shoulders. Press ball of R foot into strap while pulling strap into ball of foot.
- Keep back of L thigh pressing into ground, L foot flexed.
- Hold 1 to 2 minutes each side breathing deeply, steadily.
- NOTE: KEEP BOTH KNEES BENT IF HAMSTRINGS EXTREMELY TIGHT AND WORK SLOWLY TOWARD STRAIGHTENING LEGS.