Learning to move something from the ground overhead takes practice, dedication and focus. It first starts with understanding how to stabilize the spine and using the larger muscles to initiate the movement. Then, like links on a chain, the energy is transferred to the extremities to finish the movement. On a deeper level, the body produces a quick burst of energy, our fight or flight response, to allow for the power these lifts require. To counterbalance physiological response and to help the body recover, we turn to the yoga practice.
The poses below not only help stretch and relax the muscles responsible in almost all Olympic lifts, but they’re also helpful with movements like wall balls, thrusters, dumbbell snatches or other full-body dynamic movements.
Tips for Stretching Post-WOD
- Let your heart rate slow down and your breathing return to normal. Give your muscles a chance to relax to prevent cramping.
- Find a slow breathing pattern in and out through your nose.
- If something is painful (the kind of pain that feels like you might hurt yourself), back off and move on. Pain does not equal gain when you stretch.
- Take your time. Once you have found the correct alignment, feel yourself settle into the pose as you focus on the breath.
All these stretches plus much more can be found in the WOD Recovery Yoga e-book .
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
The breath is the focus here. Take a minute or two to slowly breathe in and out through your nose in a smooth, easy rhythm before you begin the rest of the poses below.
Start on your shins with your toes untucked and together and your knees wider than your torso. Walk your hands forward and allow your forehead to rest on the mat. (If it doesn’t touch, use a block or plate.) Relax your hips, shoulders, jaw and spine … everything. Modifications are provided below if needed for knee issues or tight shoulders.
When you look at the physical practice of yoga, stretching the ankles in various directions really only happens with advance postures that aren’t accessible to the population at large. But because this particular joint plays a significant role in ground-to-overhead movements, I’ve enlisted the help of Timothy Simansky, known as WodDoc, to show us how we can mobilize the ankles.
“When attempting to improve ankle mobility, it’s easy to get caught only addressing part of the problem.,” says Simansky. Many of us jump straight to the typical calf stretch against the wall.
“Although this may indeed be necessary, it typically isn’t the end-all maneuver. When addressing the ankle, keep these ideas in mind.
1. “There are multiple muscles in the calf. Some muscles cross only the ankle joint while others cross both the ankle and knee joints. These muscles are mobilized differently.
2. “Mobilize joints, too. Often, time is only spent on rolling and stretching muscles. By using jump stretch bands, we can isolate and mobilize joint capsules (the fibrous tissue that hold joints together).
3. “Feet need love, too. We tend to think the ankle only moves up and down, but rotational movements also play an intricate roll in ankle mobility. This is seen best in the feet where reduced forefoot pliability significantly hampers our squatting ability.”
Thread the Needle (Parsva Balasana)
Start in a tabletop position with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Extend your left arm out to the left, and on your exhale, thread your left arm through over to the left. Bring your left shoulder to the ground. Walk your right hand over to the right, and on your exhale, press through your right palm and open your chest toward the ceiling. Lengthen the right side of your torso while you twist your spine. Breathe here for up to two minutes and then switch sides.
Reverse Prayer (Reverse Anjali Mudra)
Start by sitting on your heels. Internally rotate your shoulders by rolling them forward. Bring your palms to touch behind your back, thumbs facing outward. Begin to draw your shoulder blades together and send your elbows wide. Press your palms together so that your thumbs touch. If the mobility is there, move your hands up until they come to about midback. Continue to broaden the front of your chest while you breathe in and out through your nose.
Side Splits (Samakonasana)
Start seated with your legs straight out in front. Extend your legs out wide, only to the point at which you can’t sit up tall, then bring your legs slightly closer together. On your exhale, begin to fold forward, keeping your feet flexed and your knees pointing up. Focus on lengthening your spine as you fold. As you breathe here for up to two minutes, roll the tops of your thighs back to keep your toes pointing up and preventing your upper thighs from collapsing forward. For a more restorative version, lie on your back, close to a wall, and send your legs up the wall and then widen them. Allow gravity to slowly open up your inner groin and adductors.
Extended Butterfly (Extended Baddha Konasana)
Start by sitting evenly on your sit bones and bringing the soles of your feet together. From there, extend your feet out 2 feet in front of you so you make a diamond shape with your legs. Interlace your fingers and wrap them around your outer feet. Keeping your sit bones firmly grounded, start to fold forward rounding your back, reaching your forehead to your heels. Breathe in this posture for 30 seconds while you allow your back to release.
Seated Glute Stretch
From a seated position, place your left foot flat on the floor. Flexing your right foot, place your right foot over and above your left knee. Place your hands behind you and move your butt toward your left ankle. Once you feel a good stretch, hold this position. Keep lifting your chest up and draw your torso toward your right thigh and shin. Every five breaths, scoot your hips closer toward your left foot. Switch sides after about two minutes.
Seated Spinal Twist or (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
Start by sitting on the ground and bending your left knee so it points forward. Draw your ankle in toward your right sit bone. Place your right foot on the outside of your left thigh, close to your left knee. Then sit evenly on both sit bones by pressing more weight into your right side. Inhale as you sit up tall. Place your left triceps over your right knee, and on your exhale, twist to the right. Place your right hand on the floor behind your hips to help rotate your torso to the right. Open up your chest toward your right side, roll your right ribs back and your left ribs toward your inner right thigh. Continue to breathe, twisting deeper on your exhales. Switch sides after about 30 seconds to a minute in this posture.