Summertime is a great time for pushing ourselves to better body performance, as we tend to feel more energised and mentally positive thanks to the longer days and warmer weather. The idea of going on an early morning or evening run or catching a CrossFit® or outdoors Boot camp class is all the more appealing. The extended day light means you won’t need as much sleep, and healthy eating seems easier too.

Calm down for improved body performance

Whilst upping your training regime for a while will lead to greater strength and aerobic capacity for example, both important elements for optimal health, it is important to balance these fitness attributes out with stretching and deep breathing to calm the nervous system again after training to assist recovery and encourage restful sleep.

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I believe that this very important aspect of well-being often gets overlooked, perhaps because it is not as directly calorie burning as other forms of exercise. However, by calming the mind and body in this way, our endocrine system works more efficiently allowing our metabolic system to function at an increasingly optimised level.

Furthermore, if the body is less stressed, it is less likely to hold onto fat which is a common physical response to the over production of the stress hormone cortisol. This can in part be managed by adding an element of calmness to our training with yoga. If we do this we can enjoy quicker recovery from training, improved metabolism, and increased overall health and well-being.

Try this post workout sequence to stretch out the spine and tired joints. For maximum benefits ensure you breathe deeply during each asana (yoga posture) to encourage your muscles to lengthen and relax.

For maximum benefits ensure you breathe deeply during each asana

Tree with Half Lotus – Vrksasana with Ardha Padmasana

Benefits: Stretches the gluteal and piriformis muscle groups of the left hip and creates stabilisation work for the right knee and ankle joint.

From a standing position, (Tadasana) press down into the right foot, raise the left leg and externally rotate outwards from the hip bringing the left leg into a half lotus position so the outer left ankle is resting on the middle of the quadriceps.

Now slowly bend the right knee and flex the left ankle with the toes pointing downwards – this flexion of the left ankle will increase the stretch in the left gluteal muscle and piriformis.

At the same time press the hands firmly together in prayer position, drawing the shoulders down away from the ears to activate the muscles of the upper back.

The pelvis is now tilting forward slightly allowing the spine to extend forward a little. Keep the sternum almost perpendicular to the ground so the length and strength work of the spinal extensors is maintained. Engage the abdominal muscles to support the lower back. Gaze forwards and breathe here for five breaths.

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Extended Triangle Pose – Utthita Trikonasana

Benefits: Stretches the lower back, hamstrings and adductors. Also increases ankle stability and overall balance

From Vrksasana with Ardha Padmasana, slowly start to straighten the right leg whilst releasing the left leg and stepping the left foot towards the back of the yoga mat.

The left foot is turned out forty five degrees and the right toes are still pointing towards the front of the mat. The feet are at approximately 1.5 metres apart, the spine straight and the arms are out parallel to the ground.

Now press firmly into the feet and contract the quadriceps and extend the upper body towards the right. Place the right hand lightly onto the middle of the right shin and extend the left arm upwards. The shoulders are now stacked on top of one another as are the hips. Now exhale deeply and reach

the left arm over the head so it’s in-line with the left ear and you feel a deep stretch through the left intercostals and oblique muscles. Press firmly into the feet and ensure there is even length through either side of the upper body. Either look up to the left hand or forwards. Take five deep breaths.

yoga_Utthita Trikonasana_2

Side Angle Pose – Utthita Parsvakonasana

From Utthita Trikonasana, start to bend the right knee until the thigh is parallel to the ground and rest the right forearm lightly on the right thigh. Step the feet just a little wider so the right knee is directly over the ankle and press firmly through the feet, especially the back foot to create a firm foundation. The left foot is turned in slightly.

Reach the left arm over towards the left ear so the left arm and leg are now creating a straight diagonal line but keep the shoulders drawing down away from the ears. Tuck the right hip under a little and externally rotate the left hip and left side of the rib cage now and think about creating space in the body, especially the pelvis and spine.

Maintain a strong diagonal line through the body including the neck. Look up towards the left hand and take five deep breaths.

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Runners’ Lunge with Rotation

Benefits: Stretches every major joint and muscle group of the body, especially the spine and hips

From Utthita Parsvakonasana return to a standing position and then take a big step back whilst bending the right knee so you are moving into a lunge position with the right knee over the right ankle. Keep the left heel off the ground and strongly engage the left quadriceps by pressing back into the left heel. This action will also stretch the Achilles tendon and soleus muscles.

yoga_Runners Lunge with Rotation_4

Now place the hands either side of the right foot, take a deep breath and reach the right arm upwards and then backwards to open the the chest. The palm of the right hand is facing upwards. Keep the back leg strong, the spine long and extended and engage the abdomen.

Maintain a sense of lightness throughout the body by keeping it strong. Breathe deeply for five breaths. Return to a standing position and repeat all the above on the left side.

Read on for part two.

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