Calling all weightlifters: You might be rolling your eyes at the words “yoga poses” and thinking “Yeah, um, never.” But I promise you: after working these into your wind-down routine, you’ll be writing us some thank you notes.
As instructor Christina Howard (you can find her teaching everything from yoga to HIIT Barre at City Fitness outposts) says, “After working your body to build strength, these poses are some of the best ways, in my opinion, to show your body some love. I feel it is so important to find opposition to all of the lifting and strengthening we do. All of these poses work to strengthen and stretch while finding length!”
Below, Howard shares her top five yoga poses to get an “Ahhhh”-inducing stretch after a strength-training session, plus her helpful instructions for actually, um, twisting your body into the positions. Bookmark this post, then hit the mat after your next workout. We’ll keep our eyes on the mail for those thank you cards.
5 Yoga Poses That Will Make You Feel Amazing AF After Lifting Weights
Pose 1: Uttana Shishosana (Extended Puppy Pose)
Instructions: This pose takes your usual child’s post to the next level. To get into this pose come to child’s pose, then walk your hands forward, bringing your hips to stack over your knees. This pose is a really great way to start, because it’s a great way to calm the mind. Puppy pose will give you a moment to connect to your breath and ground down into your mat while stretching your shoulders and finding length in your spine.
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Alignment pointers: Line your feet up behind your knees, keep your core engaged, and keep your forehead to your mat to keep length in your neck.
Variations: One variation of puppy pose is to find prayer with your hands, drawing them behind your head for a stretch through your triceps. Another would be to thread your right arm under your left while bringing your right cheek to the mat and then finding the same variation on the opposite side. This will add a deeper stretch to your shoulders and a small twist in the spine.
Pose 2: Ardha Pincha Mayuransana (Dolphin Pose)
Instructions: This pose looks something like a downward dog, but with added benefits—especially after lifting! Moving from extended puppy pose, place your forearms parallel on the mat, tuck your toes under, send your hips up and then slowly start to walk your feet in. While this pose is not one of my personal favorites while in it, it will leave your upper body (shoulders, arms, and chest) feeling super open and lengthened while helping you to stretch out and find length in the backs of your legs.
Alignment pointers: Be sure to keep your forearms parallel and press your palms down into the mat. Your gaze should be towards your feet to find length in the back of your neck. Take a slight bend in your knees if needed to make sure your spine is long! Soften heels toward your mat.
Pose 3: Viparita Virabhadrasana (Reverse Warrior)
Instructions: One of my favorite things about Warrior II is the strength you feel as you fully embody the pose. Although your legs may feel a little shaky after your strength training, the benefits will be worth it! From a low lunge, you’ll spin your back heel down, lining it up behind your front heel (so your front foot is facing the front of your mat, back foot is facing toward the side). Stack your shoulders over your hips, which should both be facing toward the side of your mat. From here, your back arm comes to your back leg and your front arm reaches to high five the back wall. The stretch you will feel through your side body here is going to feel AMAZING AF!
Alignment pointers: Press into the outer edge of your back foot. PROTECT THE KNEES: Keep your front knee pressing towards the outer edge of your front foot to prevent it from rolling in, and try to keep a ninety-degree bend in that same knee. You should be putting little to no weight on your back arm.
Variations: Experienced yogis may want to move into an arm bind which will work to open the chest even more.
Pose 4: Eka Pada Utkatasana (Figure-four Pose)
Instructions: This pose is going to blow your mind. Sometimes as I get really deep into this pose I feel muscles stretching out that I didn’t even know existed! As a bonus, you’ll find your balance here as well. Standing tall with big toes touching, come into chair pose, making sure your weight is shifted back onto your heels. Next, shift your weight to your left foot, lift your right knee, and then take your right ankle to your left thigh. Take your hands to heart center (prayer pose), balance, and breathe! Then do the same on the opposite side. This pose works wonders to open up and find mobility in your hips.
Alignment pointers: Make sure to ground down through your standing foot. Your standing leg knee should align over your standing foot to protect your knee. Keep your core engaged and keep lengthening your spine with energy flowing out of the crown of your head. Find your unmoving point of focus (otherwise known as drishti) to help with balance!
Variations: To find an even deeper stretch, work towards standing figure-four forward fold. You can begin to bend at your hips reaching your hands to the ground, and then starting to work towards straightening your standing leg. This will add a hamstring stretch to your standing leg while continuing to open your opposite hip as you press your knee back!
Pose 5: Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
Instructions: When lifting and strength training, our bodies move on the sagittal plane and find a lot of hip flexion. This pose works in opposition to find length in the front of your hips and whole front body as well. Lying on your back with your hands down by your side, bend your knees with your feet planted into your mat. Make sure your knees are aligned over your ankles, and slowly begin to press your hips up towards the ceiling, feeling each vertebra articulate off the mat. You’ll start to feel the reverse of all those deadlifts here while you stretch your chest spine and hips! Then, as you come out of it, slowly reconnect each vertebra to your mat, repeating this pose a few times!
Alignment pointers: Continue to press both feet into the mat. Keep your knees aligned to protect your knee joint! Your inner thighs should be engaged, as well as your core.
Variations: Adding a shoulder rinse here is the best! Work to walk your shoulders underneath you and then interlace your fingers underneath your hips, pressing your hands down toward your mat.
After your bridge pose, come to Supta Baddha Konasana. Lay flat on your back, bring the bottoms of your feet together and let your knees fall open. Take one hand to your heart, one hand to your stomach, and close your eyes. Thank your body for its hard work!