Over the last few years, yoga has been stretching from its counter-culture, hippie-heavy reputation into new mainstream circles. As enthusiasts know, it’s a serious—and seriously beneficial—way for active types to build strength and flexibility, complement strenuous pursuits, and banish some stress along the way.
“I always say yoga isn’t just woo woo anymore,” says Corey Rubin, a master trainer for the YogaSport program at Anhu, a Richmond-based active footwear company. “People used to walk past a class and say, ‘What are they doing in there?’ Now, people are much more aware of the amazing benefits of yoga, not only physically but mentally, emotionally, and physiologically.”
Rubin, who has trained professional athletes, says it usually takes one class for active types to realize how impactful the practice can be. “They recognize immediately how good it is for them,” she says. “They say, ‘Why I have I been making fun of yoga my whole life?’”
But you don’t have to ohm for hours to see some of the positive effects of the practice: Even just a few minutes of postures can make a difference. And with that, we bring you these five essential yoga moves for adventurous types, tailored to your preferred activity. Work them into a longer yoga session or just knock them out in a few minutes—no mat or chanting necessary.
For sports that requires agility, endurance, and focus, a type of yoga called Power Yoga, which involves flowing through an extended series of poses at a quick pace, can be highly beneficial.
In addition, Rubin, notes, many power-style classes wrap up with stretching and meditative place, “which supports the ability to tune inward and work on focus”, she says—which translates well when the miles start to get really grueling.
Essential Pose: Warrior poses. These poses, which have several variations, increase flexibility and strength in the legs and glutes while engaging core muscles. In addition, in both Warrior I and II poses, the angled position of the back foot also has benefits: As it’s pushing down and outward at an angle, it’s “fantastic for ankle strength and stability”, Rubin says—ideal for navigating rocky trails or rough pavement.
Climbers require core strength, upper and lower body strength, and plenty of flexibility to make their way up rock faces. Rubin recommends long-pose-holding Iyengar yoga classes that focus on precision and strength.
_ Essential Pose: _ Downward Dog. A key posture in which the practitioner’s shape forms an upside-down V, this pose elongates both the upper body and the lower body. As Rubin explains, the posture pushes the weight out of the upper body and into the lower body, and gets a tremendous opening down the length of the torso. “This is great for climbers because it strengthens the arms and shoulders, requires a great core squeeze and hold, engages quadriceps, and really lengthens down the back sides of the legs, from the glutes insertion points all the way down through the hamstrings, backs of the knees, calves, Achilles tendons, and the plantar/bottom surface of the foot,” says Rubin.
Carving out all those turns and ripping through all that pow requires serious lower-body strength, lateral flexibility, and balance, not to mention cardio ability. And with ski season right around the corner, there’s no better time to start incorporating yoga into your fitness routine. It’s also a great way to stretch out those sore muscles after a day on the slopes.
Essential Pose: Chair Pose, a squatting position that involves shifting the weight to the heels—think about the motion of sitting into a chair—while stretching the arms forward is an excellent lower-body strengthener. The lower the squat, the more the thighs, glutes and core will be activated, Rubin notes.
Rubin also points out that Chair Pose can be a narrow pose, with balls of the feet together, which also incorporates balance. Taking this pose to a medium foot width while focusing on knees tracking in line with the toes helps incredibly with knee stability, as well as strengthening through all of the upper leg muscles and glutes. Add an element of cardio to the pose by using deep inhales and exhales to rise up from the pose and then sit back into the squat, Rubin adds.
It takes a lot of strong leg muscles—quads, calves, and hamstrings—to power up hills. In addition, glutes get their fair share of work, too, both for road cyclists and dirt lovers, especially during a long day in the saddle. Agility is paramount, too.
Essential Pose: Crescent Lunge. This lunge pose trains quadriceps, hamstring, and glute strength just as any lunge might. Holding this pose with the front foot pushing into and engaging the mat is great for quad and hamstring strengthening. The back foot balances on the toes and ball of the foot, with the feet shoulder- or hip-width apart, which adds a nice balance component to the pose. Pushing the back hip forward is fantastic on stretching through the hips, hip flexors and psoas areas, all essential for the cyclist, Rubin says.
For an extra burn in the core, Rubin recommends modifying the pose by extending the length of the torso and spine and leaning the upper body forward at about a 45-degree angle.
Not surprisingly, paddlers and rowers rely on lots of upper body strength, endurance, and flexibility: necessary ingredients for enjoying time on the water, whether it’s a leisurely outing or hardcore excursion full of Class III and IV rapids. Developing strong biceps and triceps, along with upper back muscles and the core, is vital.
Essential Pose: Plank into Yoga Push-Up (also called Chaturanga). For a great upper body strengthener, Rubin recommends this two-move sequence: a flow from Plank Pose into Yoga Push-Up. As you push away from your hands and away from the mat, Plank is ideal for strengthening and stabilizing shoulder muscles and it “fires up tons of core, and all of the tiny supporting muscles around the spine,” Rubin says. “The initial lowering into low plank or yoga push is great for tricep strength, and holding the low pose strengthens biceps, engages rhomboids, and is also an incredible core workout.”
Written by Blane Bachelor